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Early career mistakes to avoid as an illustrator.
Coffee Sunday, weaving threads.
This is the question I asked on all the platforms, if you haven’t already answered it, go ahead and have your say!
#illustrator, what early career mistake will you never make again?
(Or leave a comment)
Early career mistakes to avoid as an illustrator - lessons from the pros.
🐦 Jacob Souva - Made the mistake of not fighting for royalties and a better contract early on in his career.
💌- Thought she needed to act like a corporation in order to look ‘professional’ (via Twitter)
🐦Breanna Carzoo - Was afraid to be difficult to work with so she didn’t speak up for herself early on. She learned that you can honor others’ perspectives AND speak up for your own and that doing so isn’t ‘being difficult’, it’s better for everyone involved.
A Number of people said they would have avoided, working for free, for exposure or without a contract, or wasting time on ‘maybe’ jobs or jobs for friends, or taking small budgets to do a LOT of work!
Other notable responses were:
🐦Jen Gubicza -
“As a designer and toy maker, that was taking on projects I wasn’t really interested in just to get experience. That just built a portfolio of professional work I didn’t want more of. Keeping this in mind as I begin my illustration career.”
🐦 Bruce Mackay -
“Expecting clients to find me instead of reaching out myself” (more in the PS)
🐦 Katherine Thorne -
“1. Putting too many different things in my portfolio in an attempt to appeal to everyone, instead of focusing on what brings me joy.
2. Waiting until I was “good enough.” Good enough is an illusion—either you chase it forever or you decide it’s right here.”
“Not making my portfolio look cohesive in terms of style. Makes it harder for clients to hire you if they can’t figure out what you’re gonna give them”
“Thinking I’d get enough illustration jobs within 6 months of quitting my full-time job, without building up my client list beforehand”
Here’s a cheat sheet, of 11 Mistakes illustrators should avoid early in their careers!
Avoid not fighting for royalties and a better contract early in your career.
Avoid trying to act like a corporation to appear more professional.
Avoid being afraid to speak up for yourself and not honoring your own perspective.
Avoid working for free, for exposure, or without a contract.
Avoid wasting time on low-paying or unfulfilling jobs.
Avoid taking on projects that you're not genuinely interested in.
Avoid expecting clients to find you instead of actively reaching out to them.
Avoid including too many different styles or subjects in your portfolio instead of focusing on what brings you joy.
Avoid waiting until you feel "good enough" to pursue opportunities.
Avoid not maintaining a cohesive style in your portfolio, making it difficult for clients to understand your artistic approach.
Avoid assuming you'll secure enough illustration jobs quickly without building a client list beforehand.
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Let’s use the comments to discuss the answers, did any of them strike you? How many of these mistakes have you successfully avoided? Do you have anything to add to the list?
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