Five tips to consider when hiring an illustrator

Are you thinking of hiring an illustrator for the first time? If so, here are some tips to consider. I mainly work with charities, museums, heritage sites and universities, consequently this blog post was inspired by their needs. But I hope you will find it useful whether you are a small business or private individual.

When it comes to hiring an illustrator for your organization, whether you are a charity, museum, or university, it is important to make informed decisions that align with your goals and values. This article provides five valuable tips to consider before hiring an illustrator, particularly if you are new to this process. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you find the right illustrator who can bring your creative vision to life.

1. Define Your Project’s Goals and Scope

Before doing any extensive research into who your illustrator should be, you need to get clear on why you want the illustrations. Illustration will add cost to your project and by having a clear idea about what your would you like to achieve with adding illustrations to your campaign, you will save lots of time and possibly money later down the line. Not only will this give a clear idea to the illustrator when you ask them to quote for you but it will also enable them (the good ones at least) to advise you to how to achieve your goals and stay within budget.
I often receive enquiries about illustration projects where the goals and not clear and I’m just presented with a huge list of image requirements, which then they can’t afford. If the project goals are included, I can advise on how to effectively communicate the topic in question without it costing an arm and a leg.

2. Review the Illustrator’s Portfolio

Once you are clear on your goals and have an idea of the scope of the project, you will need to think of words to describe the vibe and style of the image you had envisaged. This may take some time but it’s definitely time well spent. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • you could start with your industry and see if the words ‘heritage illustrator’ or ‘illustrator for charities’ bring up the kind of aethetic you are after.
  • you could try to describe the medium searching for ‘watercolour illustrator’ or ‘digital illustrator’
  • you could search by the type of job you need an illustrator for such as ‘map illustrator’ or ‘exhibition poster illustration’

All of these search terms are quite niche so it may take some time to find someone whose style of illustration fits with your project. When you review the illustration portfolios you have found, it’s a good idea to look for versatility, creativity, the quality of their work, the ability to convey ideas effectively as well as their experience in relevant industries or subjects. A strong portfolio should reflect the illustrator’s ability to capture the essence of a project and evoke the desired emotions.

3. Check References and Client Testimonials

Most illustrators display testimonials on their portfolio websites, however, you could google the illustrator’s name and append that with the word review. This should bring up their Google reviews and other testimonials they may have. Look out for comments about professionalism, communication skills, creative input and ability to meet deadlines. Even a small number of positive comments may give you a insight into the illustrator’s competence and dedication to producing high-quality work.

4. Communicate and Establish Clear Expectations

When it comes to asking for a quote or proposal, effective communication is essential. By now you will have had a clear idea of your goals and project scope, which is exactly what you need to pass on to the illustrator in as much detail as possible. For an illustrator to quote on a job, they usually need to know the following :

  • the project in one sentence- what is it you need the illustrations for
  • how many images do you anticipate and all the relevant details for each one – the scope
  • any specifics or special requests
  • timeline if you have one
  • what are you planning to use the illustrations for – social media, website, printed publications, site-specific imagery
  • how long do you envisage having to use the illustrations for – this is to do with licencing
  • your budget if you are able to share that
    Articulating your expectations clearly right from the beginning, help avoid potential misunderstandings later on and ensure that both parties are aligned throughout the creative process.

5. Discuss Pricing

Illustration is a licence-based industry (just like music). This means that typically, the illustrator retains the copyright of the image and give the agreed rights to the commissioner in exchange of payment. This is why it’s so important to be clear on your purposes, needs and usage. Licencing is a big topic that requires its own post but let me just say that it wouldn’t be fair if someone who only wants to use an image for a small seasonal project such as a children’s show created by a small theatre production would be charged the same amount as a large organisation that requires brand illustration throughout their global network. If your budget is limited, then the best rule of thumb is to start small and if it works, ask the illustrator later on to add new images to your project or request to extend the licence.


Hiring an illustrator may feel daunting at first but if you are reading this blog post, you are doing the right thing by carrying out research in preparation of your project. I hope that my five tips will help you find the right illustrator who can bring your creative project to life. Effective collaboration with a skilled illustrator can greatly enhance your organization’s visual storytelling and communication and it should have an impact on the way your project is perceived by your audience. If you are a charity, university, local government or heritage organisation, feel free to get in touch to discuss your project.

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