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Tips for hiring illustrators

For individuals and small businesses - these are a few pointers to help you get started.

Quotes and briefs

Don’t expect a quotation based on a brief that is 1-2 sentences long. Quotes for illustration are often quite complex (even though I wish they weren’t) and take into account many factors like: usage, usage duration, exclusivity etc.

An illustrator with experience doing quotes will ask quite a few questions, that’s normal, please don’t be surprised or put off by this.

Fixed budget

If you have a fixed budget please disclose it up front as this saves everyone a lot of time and energy. Preparing a quote can take a lot of thought and consideration from the artist. If your budget happens to be on the lower end, many illustrators will be happy to discuss what they can do within your budget.

There is no upper budget for illustration, its a value based service and depends on how much value it adds to you and your project.

Time based pricing

One artist may take 8hrs, another may take 20hrs. One artist may have been practicing their craft for decades which allows them to complete the job quicker and another is less experienced and slower. There is no “right” price for a job and prices can’t be determined by time.

Literal v conceptual illustration

Literal illustration means illustration exactly what’s asked for, such as painting a 1950’s corvette. Conceptual is less direct, perhaps someone has to illustrate a story or explain something through image. This adds a layer of extra work for the illustrator because they need to spend more time on ideas generation. It’s not uncommon for ideas generation to take longer than final execution.

Style and subject matter

Choose an illustrator whose style fits your project. Don’t ask an illustrator to work in another style. It almost never turns out for the better.

Like style, choose an illustrator who has illustrated similar things to what you need. For example, if you need a landscape look for someone who shows landscapes in their portfolio.

Simple illustration

Just because something looks simple, doesn’t always mean it is. Beautiful line work can be the result of many practice attempts.

Sketch phase

An experienced illustrator will always send you a sketch for approval before moving onto final artwork. The sketch gives you an opportunity to give feedback at an early stage and if there are changes to be made a new sketch will be sent for feedback. Depending on what you and the artist have agreed there will likely be a set limit for how many rounds of feedback are possible within the agreed fee.


Some illustrators will ask for a 50% deposit at the start and 50% at the end of the project. I believe this is the right way and should be universal across the industry. Some will do the work and submit an invoice when it’s completed.

If you would like to discuss a commission with me, please get in touch

Or if you would just like to keep in touch please sign up to my "not-too-frequent" newsletter here

For more information please check out / speak to The Association of Illustrators

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