Some of the links on this page are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me run this website and provide you more quality content so feel free to click away! Read full disclosure.

In today’s digital world, a lot of artists have gone from traditional to digital illustration. Most often, they work as a self-employed freelancer on online platforms and multimedia marketplaces or they get employed by graphic design and advertising firms.

However, as the years pass by, things change. Programs get updated, consumer tastes are changing, and so many new tools are coming out. Just like these things, you should also upgrade your skills as an illustrator to meet the challenges of today’s ever-changing market. If you miss out on the changes, you’ll probably find yourself getting left behind.

Despite popular belief, however, an illustrator doesn’t just need art skills. It also takes advertising, business, and social skills to be successful.

Here are a few ways to upgrade your illustrator skills and start making money in no time.

Software Skills

Take some time to learn and master Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and FreeHand. Most clients prefer people who are familiar with these programs. Improve your skills by watching and reading tutorials,  and keeping yourself updated with some great sites.

It’s not enough to play around with the programs. When you watch other illustrator’s tutorials, you can pick up a few tips and tricks that can help you improve your craft. It will also provide you with a lot of insight into your freelance illustrator career.

The key to upgrading your illustrator skills when it comes to software and programs is to keep practicing. Not to mention you should also invest in a high-quality interactive pen and digital drawing tablet that will improve your touch in working with the previously mentioned software.

Generation of Ideas

Just like any other job, an illustrator needs to have an innovative approach concerning their work to be successful. The most essential skill for an illustrator’s career growth is the ability to think of creative ideas and a solid plan to turn those ideas into reality.

To develop this skill, you have to keep your mind full of ideas by reading. Keep feeding your brain, and in no time you’ll be teeming with ideas. Also, be open for collaborations with other creative thinkers. This will provide you with ways on how to easily think of ideas.

Typography Skills

As a graphic illustrator, typography is one essential skill that you should know as it involves the technique and art of arranging types. It is not as easy as it looks, you have to understand its fundamental concepts and apply it in a way that it will synchronize with the overall design and color scheme of your illustration.

Any good illustrator can turn into a great illustrator once he or she has mastered the different typography techniques. Surf the internet and look for great typography tutorials so you can get a hold of the basics then use it to practice and improve your creative intuition.

Networking Skills

To have a sustainable career as a freelance illustrator, it is crucial that you build a solid social network and have a set of interpersonal skills. Regularly update your social media accounts and engage in several illustrator communities. Join online groups and share quality content. Doing all of these will help you get noticed by the right people who might offer you a job.

Establish positive relationships with your fellow creatives and always keep in touch. Having a good social network will provide you with the feedback and support you need to keep doing your job. Set aside some time to also attend networking events and seminars where you can meet a lot of people. Make sure to carry your business cards with you so you can easily provide your contact information when needed.

In addition to these, you can virtually attend conferences such as hack.summit. Try to also join in on forums in your specific industry. Check out:

Marketing Skills

In order to build up a successful business and career as a freelance illustrator, you should learn the basics of doing business and arm yourselves with some guides. Have adequate knowledge on finance, management, and marketing.

You can start to market yourself by creating your very own website which you can use as a portfolio to showcase your best creations. Make it user-friendly so your potential clients can easily browse through your creations and understand your strengths. Also, place some of your case studies.

In some cases, clients who stumble upon your blog via the various search engines can directly contact you. As such, it is important that you place your contact details and a contact me form so people can get in touch with you easily.

Market yourself with the help of testimonials from your previous clients. Don’t forget to include this on your site. It will help you gain the trust of your potential clients.

However, having a website doesn’t guarantee that people will find you. You can utilize searchable portfolio files such as graphic artists guild, coroflot, sortfolio or hire an illustrator.

Always keep your LinkedIn up to date

In some cases, hiring managers search LinkedIn for people to hire. They even use a tool to do just that. Make sure you stand out from your competition by including a summary that will address your relevant skills and important achievements. 

Also, update your experience and skills. Add some relevant work in the ‘work samples’ area. Don’t just place any photo. Make sure it’s professional. Lastly, add recommendations from your former employers.

Always keep in mind that you are aiming to create a memorable first impression to potential hiring managers.

Update your other social media profiles

In most cases, if you’re applying through online platforms, it is of utmost importance that you update your social media account. Sometimes potential clients tend to Google your name and see what comes up. If they find that you have a considerable amount of great profiles, then chances are they will hire you.

Nowadays, various social media sites cater to specific industries. Here are some platforms that a freelance illustrator like you can use:

  • Photographers: Flickr and Photo Critique
  • Designers: Behance and Dribbble
  • Developers: GitHub
  • Vimeo: Videographers

Just like LinkedIn, you also have to maintain and update your profiles on these social media platforms. What’s great with these sites is that you can network with other people and gain new connections and insights.

Publish blogs

Also, take advantage of your website and publish a few blogs to help boost your website’s search engine rank. Be it as simple as writing a how to start illustrating or some tips and tricks, when people see your content, there’s a high chance that they will also check the other contents of your website.

But before everything else, you have to know who your target audience is.  Who is your market? Once you have a full grasp of who your readers are, create topics that are relevant to the field that you want to work in. This gives you the chance to demonstrate your expertise.

In addition, write blog posts that appeal to the people you’re aiming to work for and articles that will most likely lead to a sale. Create something that will catch people’s attention and more likely provide you with a new gig.

Write for other people

Creating content for other people exposes you to more readers and potential clients. If you don’t want to write, you could also do infographics, illustrations, images, and videos. Don’t forget to put your name in the credits, so people will know that you made that awesome content.

The more people you reach, the better but you also have to keep in mind that quality is better than quantity. Create content for an audience that’s composed of people who need your expertise.

Developing your own style

Lastly, your style is what will capture your clients’ attention. After all, it is what sets you apart and what makes your art unique. Most people will look for consistency in an illustrator’s style because they want to predict the work that you will offer them. A portfolio that has inconsistent attitude and composition will not be enough to make potential clients remember you.

The style of an illustrator can be the most challenging aspect of an artist so keep on studying the art that you like, incorporate various elements from several sources and in due time, your unique artistic style will come out. However, it is also important to take into consideration your target market when choosing a style. There are  illustration styles that are not appropriate for some markets.


In the end, upgrading your skills and getting work as a freelance illustrator lies in your capability in building relationships, and establishing your expertise and value. Keep your portfolios updated, market yourself, and keep practicing. In due time, your inbox will be filled with more emails.

You might also like…

Don’t forget to save this post to Pinterest for later!

Despite popular belief, however, an illustrator doesn’t just need art skills. It also takes advertising, business, and social skills to be successful. Here are a few ways to upgrade your illustrator skills and start making money in no time. Click to read more make money online, making money tips, make money online from home, freelancing, advice for your 20s, lifestyle tips, making money tips #illustratorskills #workfromhome #makingmoneyonline #illustrator