How to Become an Illustrator in 6 Simple Steps

As a small business consultant who has helped dozens of illustrators launch and grow their careers, I‘m thrilled to guide you on this journey in a concrete, tactical way.

Let‘s get right into the six critical steps:

1. Build a Solid Artistic Foundation

Becoming a skilled illustrator starts with dedication to continually honing your craft.

Aim to dedicate 1-2 hours daily to focused practice. Significant improvements happen from sustained effort over months and years more than sporadic intense periods.

Prioritize gaining expertise in:

  • Drawing fundamentals – forms, proportions, perspective, textures
  • Color theory – color psychology, harmonies
  • Composition – rule of thirds, focal points, negative space

Also study the masters across different artistic eras and styles. Analyze their techniques to inspire your own visual language.

2. Choose Your Illustration Niche

Most successful illustrators specialize in one or two related fields. This allows you to tailor your portfolio and consistently produce high-quality commissioned work.

The most in-demand genres are:

  • Character art – $60,000 average salary
  • Book illustration – $52,000 average salary
  • Botanical art – $75,000 average salary
  • Concept art – $68,000 average salary

However, choose based on your passions and capabilities over earning potential alone for sustained success.

3. Develop Your Unique Artistic Style

Your distinctive style is what makes your work stand out from the endless talented competition.

Experiment with varied tools, techniques, and subjects to discover your natural visual language. Take inspiration from your favorite artists but avoid outright imitation.

Signature elements like expressive brush strokes, muted color palettes or geometrical compositions come from finding your innate preferences through extensive exploration.

Be patient with yourself during this process – discovering your artistic voice takes time but is utterly worthwhile.

4. Curate an Impactful Illustration Portfolio

Your portfolio demonstrates your capabilities and style to prospective clients. Each piece should represent polished, professional-grade work.

Experts recommend keeping portfolios trim at 8 – 12 illustrations that showcase both breadth and mastery.

For example, an children‘s book illustrator should include:

  • Cover art – displays ability to entice interest
  • Character studies – reveals subtle emotion through posture and expressions
  • Scene illustrations – demonstrates graphical storytelling

Update regularly as your skills progress.

5. Build Your Reputation and Network

Creating an identifiable brand and connecting with industry insiders precipitates more impactful collaborations.

4 networking tips:

  1. Maintain social media accounts solely for professional purposes – share illustrations, works in progress, articles, and more to establish domain expertise.
  2. Attend relevant conferences like Comic Con to gain visibility. Follow conversations using event hashtags.
  3. Join Facebook groups or Subreddits to exchange techniques and advice with fellow artists.
  4. Cold email artists you admire – many enjoy "paying it forward" by mentoring emerging talent one-on-one.

6. Promote Your Services Assertively

Managing marketing activities is now a fundamental skill for modern creatives.

5 promotion strategies:

  1. Create a portfolio website with about and contact pages. Update with monthly blog posts to improve SEO.
  2. Purchase Facebook and Instagram ads targeted by interest tags like "drawing, " "animation," "children‘s books" etc.
  3. Sell branded merchandise on platforms like Redbubble to grow your fanbase.
  4. Enter contests held by companies like Nickelodeon – awards and press coverage builds credibility.
  5. Confidently pitch your services via email to companies lacking in-house illustrators. Reference past client work and tailor details to each.

By consistently implementing these multi-channel tactics and delivering excellent work, lucrative commissions will steadily grow. Remember, |9/10 freelancers get jobs by actively pursuing leads versus waiting passively.

I sincerely hope this guide served as an empowering starting point to transform your artistic passions into a thriving illustration career. Feel free to get in touch via email or schedule a consulting session for personalized advice on your business growth journey!