Discover more from Adam Ming
Illustrator Income Streams and Career Goals
This week I signed up to illustrate my 9th book. I’ve signed up for 9 books in a 26-month period. Which means I’m always working on a book. I’m in a rhythm with it connecting how the little daily things amount to the larger thing that is a book.
Overall I know what is expected of me, and I’m confident in my tools and skills, and I enjoy working as part of a team to put together these books. I don’t take it for granted, but my dream job is becoming a bit of a routine.
This means it’s time to think about some next steps, some next-level challenges. And this is something I hope we can talk about.
Streams of income.
Here are my current streams of income, and some ideas of what I might do to add to it.
1st Stream: Children’s Book Illustration
One great thing about working in publishing is the Advances. That’s a sum of money paid that’s an indication of how many copies the publishers think they will be able to sell. This is normally paid in 2 to 5 chunks. Over a Year, sometimes Two. And then, there is a chance of earning royalty but that takes another year to kick in once the advance is earned out.
So you’re not getting paid every month, and there isn’t any real regularity to when you do get paid, I’ve had periods where the process has grinder to a halt for anywhere from 2 months, to 18 months.
2nd Stream: Business & Editorial illustrations
In the beginning, I had a part-time design job, to supply some regular income between books. These days I have a few illustration clients to supply the regular income These are quicker turnaround jobs like posters, spot illustrations for websites, and presentation material.
I’m looking for a couple more clients like these, and the occasional commissions. I think it’s always good to have a few more clients than you can say yes to.
3rd Stream: Substack
This newsletter has also grown to provide a nice stream of income. Which helps me keep showing up here. I think it helped that I was one of the first few illustrators here writing about my journey to becoming an illustrator in real-time.
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So that’s where I am but I’d also love to hear from you about what some potential next steps might be.
Here’s my shortlist of candidate moves, and while the following ideas are well within my ability, they will require some education to pull off.
Write my own stories: This will double the advances and the royalty, potentially doubling my primary income making it a logical next step. I like this idea because there is little business or admin cost because I already have an agent so the only extra I will need to do is write. The downside from what I’ve seen is that it can take years to sell a story! However, maybe the two years I’ve already spent illustrating count towards that.
Another idea is to go vertically across the same age group, meaning looking for work illustrating toys, games, puzzles, apparel, and the like for the same audience. This is less work than writing and pitching a story, but there is the work of reaching out to people, which is generally a good habit anyway.
Workshops or classes are another logical steps. While I may have a few things I could teach aspiring illustrators, there are 6-months to a year of work to package that into any kind of workshop. And maybe half if I decide to do a mini workshop. And maybe some mentoring or coaching might be a nice half-step in that direction. Another way to speed this up is to work with someone experienced or get a coach myself.
Looking forward to hearing your ideas, and how you navigate an illustration career. I’m sure they’re brilliant moves that I can’t see!