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My friend and fellow illustrator Bob Ostrom pointed me to this video from illustrator Will Terry, who takes to YouTube with some candid thoughts on the current state of the illustration business. It’s long (49 minutes) but a must-see for anyone interested in trying to make it as self-employed illustrator. (Is there any other kind?)
Terry has been freelancing for twenty years, most of it in publishing and advertising, and has worked on thousands of projects over that time. Over the years he’s seen much of the market erode and he does a good job of explaining several reasons why things are much tougher now than they were when he started in the biz. He is also hopeful, ending the video with some inspiring thoughts on where to go from here. I really appreciate his honesty and candor, and I found many of his closing statements to be inspiring.
In my fifteen-plus years of illustrating I’ve only dabbled in publishing off-and-on so my vantage point is a little different, but by and large I think his observations are spot on. The times they are a-changin’ and many of the traditional methods of making money as an illustrator are paying diminishing returns. Some well-worn paths are getting craggy and overgrown, and new trails will have to be blazed. To stay successful we are going to have to be more saavy, more passionate, and more entrepreneurial.
Give it a listen, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Oh, and after you watch the video be sure to check out Will Terry’s blog. There’s some good stuff there.