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Top 5 Career Paths in Illustration

Updated: Jan 13

The world of illustration is incredibly diverse, but there are certain areas of the market that aspiring illustrators are always most interested in.

Here we’re going to take a quick overview of 5 of the most popular market sectors for freelance illustration, looking at the defining characteristics and pros and cons of each one. And as disclaimer, it's also worth remembering that a many illustrators work across a range of these sectors throughout their careers rather than specialising in just one, and both paths are equally valid.

Right, let’s get started…

1. Editorial Illustration

An editorial illustrator works in magazines and newspapers, both in print and online. The world of editorial is fast paced, with short deadlines and quick turnaround times, which can range from a couple of days to just a few hours. In terms of freelance illustration, these are ‘smaller’ jobs in both duration and pay.

As a result, this sector is often where those just starting out get their first opportunities, as it’s comparatively low risk for commissioners to take a chance on new talent. As an editorial illustrator, an Art Director will brief you, and your final work will be subject to the approval of the Editor.

Editorial can be a great area to work in as it can allow you to tackle a wide range of subjects, which is great for a varied portfolio. It can provide a steady income if you illustrate a regular column, which can develop into a longer term working partnership.

2. Children’s Book Illustration

The work of a children’s book illustrator covers everything from board books for toddlers, to gritty Young Adult fiction, and everything in between. Children’s book illustrators are often authors too, so if you want to get into this area of the industry, it’s a great idea to start developing your own characters and stories, so you’re ready to pitch your own concepts if the opportunity arises.