10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming An Illustrator - Stray Curls

Today, I was asked in an Illustrator’s interview, “What words of advice do you have for artists/illustrators who are just beginning?” And that’s when it hit me! I thought I’d answer that in this blog post!

Heck, I’ve been an Illustrator and Comic artist for almost a whole year. No doubt, I’ve done several things before this. Like graphic designing, building websites and blogging. But my learning process with illustrating could have been a little faster if I had known these 10 things before hand.


READ MORE: THE STORY BEHIND STRAY CURLS

So if you’re an Illustrator already or you’re planning on becoming one, you’re going to find these 10 points of wisdom extremely useful.

1. Discovering your art style takes time.

Since I didn’t go to school for Illustrating or Art, I had to start from scratch. Taking a course can really be helpful. Because, it gets you further, faster. But since I started from the beginning, it took me a lot of time to find an art style that I was comfortable calling my own.

Joining Skillshare, really helped me become a better artist because I was able to take unlimited classes for free in the first two months. As my reader, you can get 60 Days of Skillshare free. I’ve even compiled a small but detailed list on Skillshare classes that you can take if you love drawing.

And this can take months/years to develop. The key is to keep drawing till you are happy with how your illustrations look. It took me 6 months to develop my style of characters.

 

art-style-illustrator


READ MORE: HOW TO BE A CONFIDENT ARTIST AND KEEP DRAWING NO MATTER WHAT

2. Learn how to organize your finances.

Before you start off as an Illustrator, it’s always best you keep aside some money. Because, you’re not going to land jobs right away and it is imperative that you’re able to focus on illustrating without having to worry about paying your rent and other bills.

That being said, learning how to spend money is crucial if you’re planning on becoming a Freelance Illustrator. With time, you will learn how much you need to earn in a month in order pay your bills, buy food and art materials like stationery and notebooks.

Always remember to save money. Because, some months won’t be as good as the others. Especially when the financial year is ending. For these times, you’ll have to use what you’ve stored away.

 3. Create, every single day.

If you’re not working on a project for a client, use the time to experiment with a new style, or create an illustration to add to your portfolio. Draw and illustrate every single day. Practising daily develops your art style and you become better and better.

Working on personal projects can be loads of fun. (This was how this blog was born) And that way, your work will never get boring. Always mix things up. Keep aside some time every day to work on something you want to.become_an_illustrator

You can also keep a journal that’s fun and creative but at the same time records all your life events!


RELATED: 10 BEAUTIFULLY ILLUSTRATED BOOKS THAT TEACH YOU HOW TO JOURNAL

4. Never work for free and never work without an initial deposit.

Working for free is NOT a good idea. If you have a client and he/she cannot afford to pay you but will give you great exposure, do not fall for it. It’s never worth the time and effort you put in. Work for free only and only if it’s for a good cause, for egs: a charitable event.

Whenever you work with a client, make sure you get at least a 50% deposit or the full amount if it’s a small illustration. Serious clients will never hesitate to pay you up front, remember that.

So, never work without the initial deposit and never transfer the final files to your client before the whole amount is cleared.

5. Social Media is your best friend.

What is the point of creating digital art, if no one can see it? Uploading your illustrations on social media like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram is a wonderful way of getting your work in front of a lot of eyes. Uploading my comics onto Instagram was probably the best thing that happened to me. I was able to land loads of client work and build a strong and fun community!


READ MORE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GAINING 100K FOLLOWERS ON INSTAGRAM AS AN ARTIST

You will also attract influencers and companies that may want to work with you. Not only will you remind people that you’re constantly creating, your reach will increase with every creation. Hence, it is important you create a Behance Profile and upload your projects onto it. This is the best way to attract companies who are looking for illustrators to work with.

6. You cannot be a successful illustrator if you don’t know how to market yourself.

Learn to market yourself. Learn to write well. Use your words to your full advantage because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will have reason to. It was very difficult for me to put myself out there because I’m shy and I never want to come across as ‘sale-sy.’

You’re not just an Illustrator when you decide to become an Illustrator. I wish I could say that your illustrating skills were enough. But sadly, it’s not.

You have to become a Salesperson.

You have to become a Business Person.

You have to become a Marketing Genius.

Because you have to promote your services, so you have to keep writing emails and pitching yourself to brands you want to work with. And you cannot let one “No.” ruin your day.


READ MORE: 17 WAYS TO EASILY GAIN CLIENTS ONLINE + FREE WORKBOOK!

Which brings me to my next point.

7. You cannot take criticism personally.

When you post your work online, you’re going to have both; good and bad comments. You cannot let the bad ones bring you down. Some are going to criticize your work, some are going to make personal comments.

You have to learn how to handle unpleasant things in a fluid manner. If your work is criticized, see if there is some truth in the comment and adjust accordingly. Always reply to comments in a positive and bright manner. This will show how professional and polite you are.

It can be very hard to read negative comments that are attacking you and stay calm. Hell, there were times when my whole day was ruined if I read a nasty comment. But remember this very important point…

If you’re going to be on the internet, you have to be ready for both: the good and the bad.

You’re going to receive praises and insults. But it is upto you to hold your ground and constantly keep creating. People post negative comments for several reasons. They could be angry about something or are just having a rough day. They may not know how to word their feelings or they might be genuinely trying to bring you down. You never know…

Either way, you have to stay positive and develop a skin as thick as a bull’s.


READ MORE: HOW TO DEAL WITH NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND TROLLS AS AN ARTIST

It’s very easy for some people to type hate words anonymously when they are hiding behind a screen. They don’t realize the damage it does to artists/creators who take hours out of their day to create art. ⠀ ⠀ There is a person behind every account and it’s not easy to keep a happy face all the time. We need encouragement. We need all the support we can get. ⠀ ⠀ Personally this has not happened to me, but it pains me to see such comments on my close friends’ (who are artists/illustrators) posts. ⠀👭👭👭 ⠀ Let’s try and spread some kindness and love instead of unnecessary negativity. ⠀💕❤ ⠀ Have you ever gotten a hate comment for no reason? Leave a comment below. ⠀ #sorelatable #spreadkindness #bekindtooneanother

A post shared by Angela Mary Vaz (@straycurls) on

8. Keep a good balance of work and fun.

It’s very easy to lose yourself in your work. I’m of course talking from experience. You can work for 14 hours on a piece and totally forget that you’ve skipped both lunch and dinner.

Therefore, it’s very crucial to keep a record of the time you put in your work. Have a dedicated time to check and reply to your emails, for research, and for work.

Make time for your family and friends. And work in at least 30 minutes to an hour of exercise. It’s very easy to gain weight as an Illustrator because our jobs have us on our bottoms from morning to evening.

 9. Keep mini-goals and long-term goals.

Unless you’re actually moving toward something, you’re not really getting anywhere. Mini-goals are more like weekly or monthly goals. For egs: I must get 5 clients this month.

Long-term goals are goals that you can have on a yearly basis. For egs: I must do one Children’s Book by the end of 2 years.

So, I keep a planner with all my goals in them. And I like to tick them as I complete them. This helps me feel very satisfied and I know where I’m headed.

10. Be patient.

It’s very easy to get lost in the comparison train.

  • Will I ever be as successful as her?
  • Will I ever have as many illustration jobs as he does?
  • Will I ever become a successful illustrator?

These are questions that will undeniably fill your mind at some point of time. But, the key is to focus on your journey. So, instead of comparing your work with other people’s, compare your work with your own from last year or a few months prior.


RELATED POST: 23 SURPRISING WAYS TO OVERCOME CREATIVE BLOCKS THAT ACTUALLY WORK!

Seeing your progress will motivate you to work harder and better.

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And that’s all for today’s post. If you have any questions you’d like to be answered, feel free to leave a comment below. Because, I make it a point to reply to each and every single comment. And if your question requires a long answer, I will turn it into a blog post!


Angela Vaz
Angela Vaz
Angela is a 25 year old Illustrator and Comic Artist living in Bangalore, India with her husband and 2 cute little labrador retrievers who resemble a cream-bun and a chocolate kiss.

26 Comments

  1. Marissa says:

    Angela your journey in the past year has been so amazing, it’s evident with your amazing skills and love from your fans! I don’t even have a smidgen of drawing talent but this post makes so much sense… especially it coming from your own experience! Kudos!!

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Marissa,

      You’re one of my biggest fans and I truly cherish you. <3 Thank you so much. Time seems to fly on my end, but I'm absolutely loving every step I take. Ha ha. Anyone can draw, sweetie. You just need to start. 😉

      Have a lovely day!
      Angela

  2. Nandini says:

    Point 7 speaks to me on a personal level. There have been so many instances where I have been so so so disappointed by negative comments or not achieving what I thought I had. There have been times where I have stopped doing what I love just because someone criticised it and I know to become successful I need to know how to handle it but there’s still a long way…
    Love your illustrations by the way <3

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Nandini,

      I think this is the one thing we do not anticipate when getting into this field. Initially, I used to get bruised very easily and I’d take the comments personally. But later, I realized that it’s kinda silly to let it affect me emotionally. Especially since the people who post the negative comments don’t know me from Adam.

      I can tell you this. It won’t be easy. Developing a thick skin takes time, but with time and experience, it becomes easier to handle. 🙂 Thank you so much. Do you illustrate too?

      Lots of love,
      Angela

  3. Jeff Sequeira says:

    That was a really good read. Thanks Angela.😄

  4. Alisha Annie Maben says:

    Point 10 : Be Patient – “it’s easy to get lost in the comparison train” struck a chord.
    It took me a while in life to realize that I only need to compete with myself to become a better version of me. And watching myself grow not only gives me satisfaction, but it is the actual measure of my success.

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Alisha,

      You said it, spot on. In my early years, I’d often compare myself to others and man, did it drag me down! But I realized, we are all unique and we each have something special to offer to the world. It’s not fair to compare ourselves with others because we’re all in different trains.

      I wish you loads of success!
      Angela

  5. Jeane Hatcher says:

    Thank you so much for this! I often wish that there was a clear way to becoming a illustrator and this post was so insightful.

  6. Gurmeet says:

    The timing of this post can’t be better! I’ve just started with illustrations. I’m somewhere in the phase of finding my style. The blog post has a glimpse of everything that’s bothering me. Thanks for putting it up!

    Angela keep that pen running, you’ve got crazy audience here, waiting!

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Gurmeet,
      Thank you so much. I’m so glad you found it useful. Ah yes, finding your style will take some time but the journey is so beautiful. 😉 I’m writing blog posts because I am finding it hard to sit down and draw, as I have a new pup but I’m really enjoying the writing experience. <3

      Wishing you all the best with your Illustrating journey!
      Angela

  7. Katherine says:

    Wow this is a very helpful post.#Veryrelatable lol I get lost in my art and then I either love it or hate it.After that I kinda give up, and end up drawing 3 to 4 months later ,because I Guess I compare myself to much to many other Artist ,and like You said Its mostly Faliure until you get to the top.Oh and I love Your comic very cute and relatable as well as funny.I believe you will be very rich one day.

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Katherine!
      Love your name by the way. I’m really glad you found it helpful. I used to do that a lot when I was growing up. I’d love my art, then hate it, and quit drawing for months on end. It’s so funny, I thought I was the only one doing that. I never realized that everyone faces it as some point in time.

      Don’t ever give up on your art. Art only becomes amazing, if you keep practicing. Trust me. I wasted way too much time doing the opposite.

      I don’t know about being rich, but I do want to make an impression on the world. And that’s my long term goal. 😀

      Wishing you all the best!
      Angela

  8. Madhu says:

    Hii,
    Can you make a blogpost about bullet journal ideas? Also you’re so kind and I love your comics😘

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Madhu,

      I’ve actually gotten a lot of requests on Bullet Journalling, but I only use bullets or arrows to indicate points or directions. I’m going to do more research on this and implement them in my notebook creating a post.

      Thank you so much! You’re very sweet!

      Lots of love,
      Angela

  9. Zahra Sifat Zaidi says:

    Hello,
    I started @hood.n.cape on instagram this December, and you have been my inspiration for the same. I have been observing your art and approach, and that how sweetly you address any issue through your comics; all pushed me to start my own page. I have a lot of queries, as a novice. A few of them are:
    1) How do you know when to start commercializing your art?
    2) How do you ship overseas? Won’t that cost a lot?
    3) How did you get the courage to charge for your illustration for the first time? I feel so hesitant.
    4) How do you decide on the price of your product?
    5) Do your products involve shipping charges, or exclude them?
    6) Did you wait for building up enough audience ( eg. Followers on Instagram) before selling your art, or sales of your art led to an audience?
    7) You spoke about marketing, how did you learn to do marketing?
    8) I don’t do digital art, rather I do water paint and edit it later on to give it a digital effect, do you think that’s a nice idea?
    9) Is becoming a full-time artist a nice idea?
    10) How do you find the toon star app? Or do you think sticking to comics is better?
    Much love
    Thanks a lot.

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Zahra,
      I just took a peek at your work, and I think it’s absolutely incredible – your illustrations that is. I find the drawing style absolutely adorable and I hope you make dolls one day. <3

      1) Commercializing takes time. I waited a whole year. When I knew my comics were getting loads of comments and my followers were enough, I tried putting it on my Instagram story. I even created a website and listed my services there. It takes time to get the ball rolling but unless you try, you'll never know.
      2) Work for my clients is always digital, so unless they ask for a print, I don't ship it. Talk to your local post office, and get an idea of the rates. Then you charge the client for the shipping.
      3) You should never work for free. Remember, you are drawing for a living. And you're taking time to complete each drawing. This is definitely worth your client's money.
      4) I did a lot of online research and based the prices weighing the current economy as well as the manufacturing costs.
      5) My products involve the shipping charges. Since I stay in India, I'm really lucky that my shipping charges are the bare minimal. So I don't have to charge much.
      6) I haven't sold any art yet. I only sell merchandise and do commissions for my clients. It's constant advertising. Unless you keep reminding your audience that you're up for commissions, no one will remember. Everyone is busy. You have to constantly be there.
      7) I read a lot of blog posts. I don't think I'm the Queen of Marketing, because there is so much I still have to learn. I spend a lot of time reading about how to market this and that. Google is my best friend.
      8) I think it looks fabulous as I already mentioned. But you shouldn't take my word for it. You're an artist and no one should have to tell you the rules. <3
      9) Of course! It's been my dream!
      10) Toonstar found us. It's an app that wanted to make comics into cartoons. I prefer the comics. 😀 Like I said earlier, I love reading.

      I hope I was able to answer all your questions. Let me know if you have any more, and I'll be glad to answer them for you!

      Lots of love and hugs!
      Angela

  10. Swarnima says:

    I am not much of a writer but I love drawing and illustrating.. trying my best to learn and improve each passing day. This post is sooo helpful and all I have to say is
    I loved it! I loved it! I loved it!! ❤️❤️

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Swarnima,
      Ah, writing and drawing are bliss, I tell you. That’s why I love making comics, they encompass both of my interests. I’m super happy that this post was helpful to you! 😀 Thank you so much!
      Lots of love,
      Angela

  11. Tristan says:

    Love this I’m coiming from an Instagram story post. I do doodles, I think my works cool I agree with all the points here. Thanks so much for this I’m definitely subscribing to the blog now

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hello Tristan,
      Your Twitter Profile is fabulous! I couldn’t find your doodles on there, though. Do you have a separate profile for those? 😀 And thank you so much. I’m so glad you found the post useful!
      Warm regards,
      Angela

  12. Anjana says:

    I am so proud of where you are today Angela. Lots of love,
    Anjana

  13. Pooja says:

    Hi Angela!! I started up a little comic site myself and in getting really depressed because it’s not getting proper attention as it used to at first. Then I learn about Insta algorithm and it really put me down. I love drawing n all and I use medibang. I got a few msgs saying my art is cool and it made me feel good too.. but this sudden lack of growth is really disheartening. 😔Can u give me advice?

    • Angela Vaz says:

      Hey Pooja,

      First of all, I’m really glad you asked me this question. The algorithm has affected quite a few people in Asia (as far as I know) I was getting about 25-40K followers every month from August last year. On 18th January, 2018, the Algorithm changed. I was at 180K. It’s been 3 months, and I’m still at 180K despite creating all the time. It’s a glitch that has affected only a few people. Not everyone.

      You’re not alone in this and it’s totally okay. Instagram has confirmed that they have received tons of complaints and they are changing the algorithm. I know how hard this must be for you and we’re in the same boat.

      Don’t dwell on Social Media. I was very addicted to the numbers too and I realized that this could all go away in seconds. Instagram has shown that it’s not a very stable company and they could cease to exist any day, any second.

      Just focus on your art. If possible, try and post on something else. Just till the Algorithm changes again. Create a Behance Profile or work on your own website. I changed my focus and I’m currently writing blog posts. 😀 It’s taken my mind away from this horrible Instagram Algorithm and I’m happy again.

      I hope this helped. Let me know if you need to talk. 🙂

      Lots of love,
      Angela

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