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May 21st

The Illustrator’s Guide book

"An essential read for new illustrators"

“An essential read for new illustrators”

Introduction to The Illustrator’s Guide

The Illustrator’s Guide is the most in-depth book for new illustrators starting their freelance illustration career.

The Illustrator’s Guide gives you the essential steps to go from enthusiastic beginner to confident professional in the shortest time possible.

If you want to learn how to create a portfolio that will get you hired, form great creative habits and find your first clients, The Illustrator’s Guide walks you through the whole process and offers tips, exercises and industry insights from an experienced illustration agent. 

The book has been shortlisted for the UK Business Book Awards 2024

Illustrated by Michael Parkin

Why i wrote a book for illustrators

I know from experience just how difficult it is to start a career in illustration.

When i graduated from my illustration degree, i was ready to jump into the industry and be just like my illustration heroes, but there was something missing. I’d learned the software, and experimented with styles and techniques, but i didn’t know how to turn what i’d learned into a career. I tried, i made mistakes, and ultimately, i quit. 

Information on the the business of illustration was hard to find then, so after changing course and learning about the industry as an illustration agent, i knew i had a duty to share what i’d discovered and help new illustrators find their feet, avoid making the same mistakes i had, and start their illustration careers the right way. 

I’ve helped hundreds of new illustrators build their freelance careers through The Illustrator’s Guide YouTube channel, portfolio reviews, Illustration coaching and random questions i receive by email. The Illustrator’s Guide book brings it all together into a clear and simple handbook. 

Starting your freelance illustration career won’t be easy – It takes hard work – but with this handbook you have a clear roadmap to get to where you want to go. 

Who should read The Illustrator’s Guide?

The Illustrator’s Guide is primarily for freelance illustrators who are new to the industry and are hoping to establish themselves as commercial artists. Whether you’re a student or you’re switching careers from something else, The Illustrator’s Guide offers practical steps and insights to help you go from beginner to professional.

The book tackles specific questions that beginners in illustration are likely to face: 

  • How can i improve my portfolio?
  • How can i find clients?
  • Where can i get feedback on my work?
  • How do i get an illustration agent?

The book is easy to understand for beginners, and also offers more experienced illustrators useful tips on how to take their career to the next level. 

Reviews of The Illustrator’s Guide

Here are some of the Amazon reviews for The Illustrator’s Guide

Essential guide for illustrators

As a freelance illustrator, reading “The Illustrator’s Guide” was like finding a treasure trove of tailored wisdom and inspiration geared specifically to me. James Hughes not only brings his vast experience to the table but does so in a way that’s engaging, entertaining, and incredibly informative. I loved how he cuts through the BS and gets straight to the point, focusing on what’s really important for illustrators when starting out, and what’s not.

This book is a must-read for anyone serious about building a successful career in illustration, whether you’re just starting out or looking to refine your skills and business acumen. For illustrators who are really serious about building their career and willing to put in the work, this book could be a roadmap to success. Highly recommended!

The most useful resource ever written

I’ve read a fair few books similar to this, and none of them come even close to the level of detail, thoroughness or insight of this incredible book. I’ve read through half of it and referenced sections later in the book for contacting potential clients: James Hughes is clearly an authority on the industry and his tone is both entertaining and reassuring. Plenty of brutal truths in this book and an equal amount of inspiring insight into the psychology of success. I wish I’d read this years ago!

Excellent advice, for whatever stage you’re at as an Illustrator

The book was packed full with tips on how to get started in the business, which is appropriate whether you’re fresh out of art school or are switching careers mid-life. I particularly liked the way that the book was structured, with an initial focus on how to build a portfolio (and stay motivated when there isn’t someone breathing down your neck or setting deadlines for you), before moving on to some of the nuts and bolts of the business side of being a freelance creative. I’ve just finished reading it through for the first time and am now planning to go back, section-by-section, to do some of the exercises.

Essential Read for New Illustrators

I’ve been in the industry for going on 18 years and have read all the books you can read on the subject and this is up there with some of the best. Full of practical advice that really reflects the real world of illustration. I loved how James covered much deeper aspects of the profession, such as mindset and mentality of working as an illustrator.

Where can i get The Illustrator’s Guide?

The book is available in paperback, hardback, Kindle and audiobook formats.

Chapter summary of The Illustrator’s Guide

The first chapter covers the foundation of becoming a freelance illustrator: Mindset. Everybody starts somewhere, and it can feel overwhelming as a beginner, but you get out what you put in, and if you commit to the craft and improving your skills, you’ll be able to reach your goal much quicker. 

Chapter two is about some common challenges illustrators face: impostor syndrome, lack of confidence, fear of rejection and comparing your work to other, more experienced illustrators

Chapter three is about the essentials of starting your freelance business. There are a lot of things you could do with your time, and plenty of ways to spend your money, but only a few essential tasks will move your career forward, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do them

Chapter four is about developing your illustration portfolio. It’s not about making a perfect portolio – your portfolio will evolve over the entire course of your career – it’s about creating a portfolio that’s good enough to get that first client to hire you. 

Chapter 5 is about goals, motivation, inspiration and more. It’s about making your creative process into a sustainable habit. A little bit of progress, regularly will amount to enormous professional development over these first few years as a freelance illustrator

In Chapter 6 we look at deliberate practice and how we can learn from other illustrator’s work and draw inspiration from it, rather than comparing it to our own work and feeling disappointed

Chapter 7 is about the importance of feedback on your illustration portfolio. How to get it, when to get it and who to ask for feedback. We also look at how to deal with difficult feedback and how to use feedback to improve whatever we make next. 

Chapters 8, 9 & 10 are all about illustration clients – how to find them, how to write an email to a client, and how to get hired. We also look at the process of working with illustration clients, including a walkthrough of a typical illustration project. We also examine what goes into an illustration brief, and what you need to find out to be able to do your best work

Chapter 11 is about managing your money, something i’ve had to learn the hard way! Before you’re making money from your illustrations, we want to keep costs as low as possible. This chapter also covers working a day job while you start your career, working for free and how to make more money as an illustrator.

Chapter 12 covers some freelance business essentials – how to start and what skills you’ll need to develop as you build your career. It also looks at the traits of professional illustrators that we can aspire to. 

Chapters 13 & 14 are about pricing our illustration work, negotiating fees, licensing your creative work, the importance of copyright for illustrators, and some contract basics and things you’ll need to become familiar with as you start working with clients.

Chapters 15 & 16 are about illustration agencies and what they do and how they can help you. We talk about the right time to find an agent, finding a good fit for your work and how to submit your work to an illustration agent, and then more about the process of actually working with an agent so you can get the most out of it and work as a team to develop your career. 

About the Author

James Hughes is the author of The Illustrator’s Guide. He is an illustration agent @folioart and works with many established professional illustrators. He also shares practical tips and guides on the business of illustration through his YouTube channel: The Illustrator’s Guide

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