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This illustrator surveyed 1261 illustrators about pay, workload, clients, contracts and more


Ben the Illustrator, a well established illustrator based in Somerset with clients ranging from The Guardian to Greenpeace, has conducted an independent survey of his own industry. At the end of 2017 he asked 1261 illustrators a series of questions about their working life, then aggregated and analysed the results in an enlightening report.

Questions start with individuals’ background, and separate the group into type of illustration: 56% using digital/vector, and 29% using traditional/digital for example. 43% studied a subject other than illustration at university level, which Ben says means the majority “could have a whole other creative skill to bring into our work”.

81% of illustrators surveyed said they’re based at home, with only 11% based in a shared studio, which prompts Ben to says that illustrators should “get out of the house and exercise” and “manage social media use” as well as creating virtual studio buddies via Skype and Hangouts.

A whole section is dedicated to analysing the illustration work flow last year. Half the group said they had more work in 2017 than in previous years. The rest were split between having the same, and less work than before. 45% worked full-time in illustration, while 28% had a full-time creative job with an illustration sideline, and 16% worked in a full-time non-creative job with illustration as a sideline.

Most work came from the publishing industry, at 24%, and editorial, at 19%, closely followed by prints and exhibitions representing 18% of work, and 16% from advertising. Then it drops off drastically, the next sector – app creation – representing 5% of work for illustrators.

Illustrators found that the majority (33%) of their work came from self-promotion, and repeat clients (30%), with social media helping significantly (21%) and agents only bringing 9%. Of all channels, Instagram was considered most important to illustrators’ business by a large proportion (53%), followed by Twitter (30%), with Facebook notably less influential at 7%.

When it came to pay and contracts, 49% said hour/day rates varied by project while only 8% had fixed rates; Ben notes that advisors including the Association of Illustrators do not recommend the use of day rates. 21% of illustrators said that more than half of their commissions were paid late in 2017. Importantly, the majority – 69% – felt they could not earn a suitable amount to live sustainably from illustration.

Read the full report here.