Myths about being an illustrator

I was at a bonfire with some friends last summer.

A conversation I had there really upset me. As I was talking with a friend of a friend for the first time, the topic of work came up. He asked me what I did for a living.

After telling him I was an artist and illustrator, he quickly stated, “Wow, I didn’t know anyone could make money doing that!”. He then went into some other negative comments about being an artist.

It took all my willpower to not get upset. As the last thing you ever want to find yourself doing is getting caught up in caring about what other people think.

This person didn’t know I had just come back from a 4 month international trip. They didn’t know I maxed out my index funds every year.

Let’s look at some myths about being an illustrator and then talk through what the reality is:

MYTH #1: You can’t make a living as an illustrator.

Just as this non-artistic guy at the bonfire questioned. Not only do a lot of the general public, but also a lot of artists believe you can’t make a living as an illustrator.

Is it easy? No. It takes a lot of work. But it’s no different than starting any other kind of business. It just takes consistent work and sticking to the right processes.

Read more: How to get illustration clients

Yes, it’s super possible to make decent money as an illustrator, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen tomorrow or in the first few weeks of trying.

It’s a marathon to build your illustration business, not a sprint.

MYTH #2: No one hires illustrators anymore, they just use stock illustration and cheap freelancers from abroad.


There are still a lot of brands and publications who need custom illustrations.

Typically, stock illustrations are used by graphic designers who need specific graphics for a project or internal corporate teams making a PowerPoint presentation.

Never worry that stock illustrations are your competitor or diminishing your business as an illustrator. There will always be a market for custom illustrations.

Remember, it’s virtually impossible to find stock illustrations for a children’s book with specific characters, unique editorials in publications, custom illustrations for an advertising campaign, or storyboards and concept art for a new film.

MYTH #3: If my work is great, it’ll sell itself.

If only that were the case.

Sadly, it’s not.

In order to get illustration clients in the beginning, you’ve got to actively reach out to potential clients. This means, making great work, then thoughtfully introducing yourself to potential illustration clients.

Luckily, it’s totally possible to do both. Yes, even if you’re awkward or an introvert (I’m definitely both).

Having a great body of work is only the first part of being an illustrator. You still have to put in the hard work of introducing yourself to potential clients with thoughtful emails.

Don’t let these myths sneak up on you and stop you from your pursuit to being an illustrator. These myths are unfortunately commonplace because there just aren’t that many illustrators out in the world.

To your family and friends, you’re probably one of the only creative people they know. Their perception of illustration as a career is unconventional in their minds.

Stick to your path and keep pursuing your goal of being an illustrator.

I put together a free five day email course walking you through how to start and grow your illustration business. Bypassing things like social media and growing an audience.

Enter your email below to get the first lesson in your inbox in 60 seconds.