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The Ultimate Guide to Hiring an Illustrator

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You want to hire an illustrator.

In fact, you desperately need one.

You’ve heard that the process of commissioning is tough and you just don’t know where to start.

In short – you need help.

That’s why we’ve decided to provide you with some, both epic and mind-blowing, guidelines to finally hiring an illustrator.

Obviously, you might have to vary or add some steps at times, since we do not claim to having created a universal, forever-and-for-always-valid document – but you may take this list as an aid whilst navigating through the business world.


So here we go.


Getting in Touch

  • What’s the hustle and bustle?
    First, you need to find out how busy the illustrator is and whether or not they can take on another job. If your job is interesting enough, they might even squeeze you in or re-arrange their schedules. If your job is interesting enough. They certainly won’t do that for every project.


  • Brace yourself…
    … to give enough details about the project and the job in question. Remember, this is your time to shine and to awake interest. Use it wisely. Also, don’t forget to say where and when you stumbled upon each particular illustrator – it might be helpful for them.


The Devil is in the Details

  • What do you want?
    Give the illustrator the details of your project. What’s its size? Do you want colors or black and white? Would you like to include typography? You might want to show your artist an example of something similar to what you want, to avoid misinterpretation and frustration, just in case the result isn’t conform to what you had in mind.


  • Be straightforward concerning the budget.
    Either you fix a budget your artist should stick to in advance OR you leave it open to their interpretation. Everything is possible, of course. Just keep in mind, rejection or modification of the proposed artwork might add to your costs. So make sure you provide enough details and, if necessary, also restrictions.


  • Be organized.
    We know, this is sometimes quite hard. But it’s efficient. In this case it is important to state the deadline both for delivery of drafts and for the project to be finished. Also, make sure you don’t make your artists wait for too long when it comes to judging their proposal – we all hate waiting, especially when connected to our work and to approval. If you walk a mile in a freelance artist’s shoes, you’d know not to make them unnecessarily wait. So just don’t.


Physical Portfolios – Yes or No?

  • Yes, yes, yes, YES!

The Internet may be a limitless source that can provides you with online portfolios of particular artists which might be all you need.

However, in case you want to present the results of your search to your boss or your company, it might come in handy to ask your artist for a “real”, i.e. a physical portfolio.

Keep in mind that you have to be particularly specific concerning the project and its purpose so your artist can arrange the structure of the portfolio to suit your offer best.

Once you don’t need the portfolio anymore, you should return it.

It’s just a common courtesy.



Meeting Your Artist – a Necessity?

  • Technically there’s nothing wrong with meeting the artist of your choice. Just make sure you include these meetings in your schedule because they will obviously take a day of work away from your illustrator – which extends the time needed to fulfill your project.


  • Be aware of the fact that you might have to charge artists for a meeting, especially if there are more than one.


  • Now’s the time for a superfluous remark: should you have to cancel a meeting then do so in advance and not last minute. It’s called being polite.


Is your mind blown yet? Try to stay calm ‘cause more epic guidelines still lie ahead!


How to Obtain Reliable Quotes

  • Be as precise as possible.
    As we pointed out earlier it is really important to include a brief statement on how, where, and for how long the illustration will be used because this will obviously affect the price. Be specific about geographic areas as well.


  • Be reasonable when it comes to calculating your budget.
    You don’t want to exploit your artists (at least we hope you don’t). Also, a higher budget will grant you art of higher quality, since the artist is less limited in their options. So think about who you want to reach out to and how you can do so.


  • Give your artist time to give a quote.
    This is how you can make sure that different aspects have been carefully considered and that you (most likely) won’t be in for an unpleasant surprise later on.


  • Don’t underestimate the power of negotiation.
    If you’re really into an artist, but their offer simply exceeds your budget – don’t give up right away. Life is about negotiating and making compromises and this accounts for the business world as well. Have no fear – everything will be fine in the end.


Don’t Lose Sight of the Legal Aspects

  • Read and understand the contract your illustrator will have you sign. Make sure they sign your contract too. And you should also make sure your professional relation and everything that goes on between you and your employees is well-documented.


  • Ask your artist about licensing and the copyright-aspect.
    Both aspects are huge these days, so avoid the trap. But again, don’t exploit illustrators by keeping all of their work for yourself. Usually a licence is just fine. This means that the illustrator keeps the copyright and grants the client a licence appropriate to the commission. The licence states the use, territory, and time period to be exclusive to the client for the specified time period stated in the contract.
    See, everyone’s happy.


Rejection or Cancellation May Not be the Solution

  • We are all human.
    We’ve got this marvelous concept called “communication”. If you’re not satisfied with the work your illustrator is doing, at any point during the project, just say so. Things can always be changed.
    We are sure your artist will happily listen to your suggestions and consider them, but you have to let them know. They’re not psychic (most of the time, at least).


  • Should you still want to cancel the project, bear in mind that even though the quality of the artwork does not match what was presented in the portfolio, you will still have to pay a part of the price.
    Usually the amount of money you will have to pay ranges between 25% of the agreed fee (when rejected at a rough stage) and 50% (when rejected on delivery).


  • If you decide to reject the artwork although the illustrator did everything right, you will have to pay 25% of the price you agreed on before the delivery of any rough at all.


The illustrator will get 33% – or even up to 50%, if the preparation, if the project is time-consuming (because the artwork you want requires lots of details for example), should you decide to cancel the job at a rough stage.

Should you reject the illustration on delivery, you need to pay the full amount.

These percentages may vary, but we want you to get an idea of the consequences that a potential cancellation can have. The point is – think twice before rejecting.


What You Need to Know About the Finished Artwork

  • How do you want it to be delivered?
    Obviously there’s more than one way of delivering the finished artwork. State how you would like that to happen and confirm reception of the piece of art via phone call or email.


  • If the artists needs to further modify their work, you might have to pay an additional fee.


  • Usually the original artwork belongs to the artist – and that’s where it should get back to. So make sure you return it safely.


If you keep all these things in mind when hiring an illustrator, you should be fine.

Of course, sometimes unexpected things can happen and interfere with the proper course of the project.

Be prepared for bumps in the road.

Share these epic guidelines in order to help the needy newbies in the business, they’ll appreciate – and so will we.


Let us know how it goes out there – leave a comment.

Nitzy x


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