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Whether or Not to Take on an Assignment

Getting an email from a prospective client about a new gig is always exciting. However, before accepting any assignment, it’s important to take a step back to consider some things—there may be budget issues, rights issues, or a whole host of other matters that need to be addressed. The following checklist will help you determine whether an illustration job is worth taking on or should be politely declined.

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Promotion 101

Promoting your artwork is one of the most crucial aspects of the business of illustration yet can be daunting for those who are just starting out. Luckily, though, there are some proven ways to get your work seen. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, these are the most common strategies for driving art directors to your site:

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Content and Your Illustration Portfolio

No matter how much work you put up on your website, it won’t be effective unless it’s been properly scrutinized and edited. There are a variety of factors you’ll want to consider when weeding through your portfolio to see what makes the cut and what gets left in the pixel graveyard. Here are some simple rules for putting together a portfolio that will dazzle art directors:

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Website Options

One of the first things you’ll need to do to get your illustration business off the ground is put your work online. While there are many options available for portfolio websites, I’ve narrowed down the best choices worth discussing.

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Startup Costs

While it may seem like simply creating art in your bedroom, when you begin your career as an illustrator, you’re actually starting your own business. One of the things you’ll need to be aware of are the startup costs for getting yourself up and running. The good news, though, is an illustration career has a very low overhead. You don’t need employees, transportation, or retail space like a lot of other businesses. All you need is a website, some materials to work with, and a few hundred promotional mailers. (OK, you might need a little bit more than that, but not much more.) Here’s a basic list of what the average illustrator needs to start their business and the associated costs:

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Welcome

Ten years ago, I started teaching a Professional Practices class for illustrators at Parsons the New School for Design. Since then, I’ve had many graduates come up to me, wishing they could repeat my course now that they’re out of school and actually living what I was talking about. I decided to build this website as a repository of all things related to the business of illustration—not just for them, but for anyone interested in learning more about this creative field. This site is intended for new or aspiring illustrators to learn the best practices towards starting a successful career.

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