Advice For Building A Career As An Illustrator Or Cartoonist

My friend and fellow illustrator Paul Fricke recently sent me a great link:

Advice for building a career as a freelance artist and/or paid cartoonist by Dave Roman

Dave Roman has been working at Nickelodeon Magazine for the last nine years. He is also a frequent lecturer at the School of Visual Arts. This article summarizes his advice for art students just starting out in illustration, comics, and/or cartooning. I’ve been freelancing for over ten years now, and I agree with what Roman has to say. His article is packed with good advice for the beginner (or even the not-so-beginner).

Along the same lines, here’s another great article I’ve blogged about before:

17 Lessons on Freelancing by Megan Jeffery.

How Much Should I Charge?

As a beginning freelancer I really struggled with this question. When I bid out a project, how much is too much (or too little)? Do I bill per hour or take on the project for a flat rate? I don’t want to under-sell myself, but I also don’t want to lose the job because I’m too expensive. I also want to walk the line between two extremes, either selling myself short or ripping off a client.

If you’ve wrestled with these issues, have no fear. The folks at HOW Magazine are hosting a webinar (an online seminar) to address this very topic. “What Should I Charge” is the third installment in the HOW Webinars series put on by the folks at Marketing Mentor. For $69 ($49 if you’ve signed up for a previous webinar) you can listen live on November 15 and even email in questions during the webinar. Or, during the next 12 months you can log on and listen to a recording of the webinar. You can even download notes and slides from the presentation.

I’ve listened to the first two webinars and I got a lot out of it. Among other things, the second webinar had some great tips for shy introverts on how to network at meetings, parties, seminars, and other events where you have to actually carry on conversations with live people. Being an introvert who works alone, my people skills can sometimes get a bit rusty. I was able to use some of the webinar tips at a recent chapter meeting for the National Cartoonists Society, and I found them to be very helpful. I’m not talking about shallow Tony Robbins baloney. These were practical tips to help take the pressure off of so I could network and have fun at the same time.

As I’ve written earlier, my only gripe about the HOW webinars is that they aren’t really designed for Mac users (you have to use Firefox, not Safari, and even then I can’t get the “pause” button to work, meaning you will have to listen to the webinar straight through). Still, despite the glitches I’ve been very impressed with the content. Even though I’ve been freelancing for over ten years now, there were still quite a few things that I’ve learned.

For more information on “What Should I Charge?”, click here.

HOW Webinar Series


HOW Magazine is a leading publication in the art and graphics community. If you don’t subscribe, you should. There are a ton of great articles on both the creative and business aspects of being a commercial artist.

Recently HOW started offering a series of online “webinars”. (A webinar is a seminar broadcast over the web.) These webinars are designed to help creative types improve their business skills so they can land more jobs and grow more successful. Read More

Stuff I Recommend


I’m a huge collector of reference books. Among the dozens and dozens of books in my studio, there are a select few that I would highly recommend for any professional illustrator/character designer/animator to own. If you make your living drawing, this stuff can inspire you, boost your skills, maybe help advance your career or even increase your income. As part of my goal to make this blog a truly helpful resource for my readers, I’ve created a list on that organizes them under various headings. Categories include:

—Character Design
—Artist’s Reference
—Art Instruction
—Color Guides (for artists like me who struggle with color)

A link to the list will be permanently displayed on the blog sidebar.

In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that if you buy something from my list, will toss a few coins my way. I’m certainly not going to get rich off of it, but maybe it will be enough to buy a few extra cans of Monster Low-Carb.


While we’re on the subject, you may also have noticed the Tip Monkey that showed up on my sidebar a few days ago. I post new content every weekday primarily because I enjoy it. But it does take work. I want my blog to be a fun place, so no pressure. But if you visit regularly and if you’ve truly benefited from it, I certainly wouldn’t mind a small tip now and then. Either way, I’m grateful to have you reading.

Here endeth the sales pitch. Look for new, fun content again on Monday!