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how to make money as an illustrator working from home

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator

Many illustrators are used to working from home, but others might find the transition a little daunting. Try these tips for staying focused and creative.

However, working at home doesn’t mean you can’t be as productive and creative as working in a studio or office setting. In fact, it can be a fantastic opportunity to bolster your skillset and establish new streams of income. 

Here you’ll find a complete guide to making money from home as an illustrator. You’ll pick up tried-and-tested tips for ensuring your revenue and creative development continue over both the immediate and long term.

A three-point strategy for making money from home

With many more of us now working from home, it’s clear that businesses might take a little while to adapt. Even if your usual clients aren’t pursuing their projects at the same pace, you can adjust your work practice and creative strategy to ensure that you keep money coming in and keep feeling inspired and creative, too.

This article looks at a trio of strategies that will help you to earn income in the short- and long-term, while simultaneously developing your illustration skills. 

To maximize your income potential over the upcoming weeks and months, try structuring your work process into these three strategies:

  • Prepare: Use some of your time to prepare for the future, by updating your portfolio and investing in your tools and workspace.  
  • Create: Strive to improve the quality and reach of your work, by honing your existing skills and developing new ones.
  • Contact: Investigate new sources of income, from selling illustrated products online to teaching online courses, and reach out to both existing and potential clients.

Below, discover how you can apply this three-point strategy to your work practice in more detail. 

1. Prepare

Update Your Portfolio

When deadlines are back-to-back and time is short, it’s easy to neglect updating and maintaining your portfolio.

Create a polished website portfolio and make sure it’s searchable. Focus on keywording images and enhancing SEO potential with blog posts, for example. Link it across to your social media accounts and promote your site across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Check out these inspiring online portfolios to stimulate some ideas: Natalie Murrow, Shutterstock contributor Tithi Luadthong, and Shantell Martin.  

Check out the tips below for updating your portfolio:

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator — Update Your Portfolio (Example from Shantell Martin)
Shantell Martin‘s creative landing page for her online portfolio.

Invest in Your Tools and Workspace

An artist is only as good as their tools.

Although you might be hesitant to invest financially in your business at this moment in time, it’s actually the best time to do a bit of housekeeping.

Look into new software and hardware options. You might now have the time to try out those trials and finally switch from your outdated software subscription.

Cleaning up your computer and removing unwanted files that are slowing down programs will also help you to be more productive and efficient. So will investing in cloud storage and better equipment, such as drawing tablets and decent pens.

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator — Organize Your Workspace
Do some housecleaning. Image by contributor karnoff.

Most of the time your home office or kitchen table might be a little messy, but now is the perfect opportunity to transform it into a space where you can feel inspired and actively want to work. 

Check out the tips below for giving your workspace a well-deserved spring clean. 

2. Create

Hone Your Craft

Devote more time to refining a key area of your illustration work, and strive to turn a quiet spell on the client front into an opportunity to get better at what you do.

If you studied art or illustration in college, dig out your old assignments and rediscover the creative processes you were taught. Are you a self-taught illustrator? There are plenty of online courses on sites like Skillshare and Udemy to help fill gaps in your skillset.

You can also find a broad range of completely free tutorials and inspirational articles for illustrators on the Shutterstock blog and our YouTube Shutterstock Tutorials.

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator — Expand Your Skillset
Practice makes perfect. Try creating a series of character studies of your pet to improve your observation skills. Illustration by Natalie Murrow.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone 

We often stick to the habits we’ve become accustomed to, and freelance creatives are often some of the worst culprits for not developing themselves professionally.

Explore other styles, media, and concepts you might not usually consider. You might find that collage, vector illustration, or lettering design becomes not only a potential avenue for income, but a whole new area of creative stimulation.

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator — Explore New Creative Outlets
Find inspiration in a new art form. Image by contributor GoodStudio.

Pay Attention to Commercial Trends

There’s always an argument for staying true to your own style and niche in illustration, but having a more commercial mindset can really help to give your income a boost.

Looking ahead to upcoming trends and adapting your work in both subject and style can benefit both stock contributors and editorial illustrators.

Stock contributors should refine their work to ensure a higher volume of searches. Making your work more topical can have immediate benefits, particularly if you aim for themes and trends that online magazines and blogs will likely cover in the coming months.

Bookmark the Shot List and visit it monthly to discover what subjects are in-demand with Shutterstock customers. Trend reports that focus on illustrative style are also helpful for adapting the aesthetic of your work to appeal to larger audiences.

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator — Shutterstock's Shot List
Bookmark the Shot List to discover the most searched-for content by Shutterstock customers.

3. Contact

Share Your Skills

Have an illustrative skill or technique you’re particularly proud of? Whether you excel at drawing faces or creating calligraphy, you can monetize this skill through online teaching.

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator — Share Your Skills
Help others learn new skills. Image by contributor Dmi T.

All you need is a decent microphone, Quicktime for recording screencasts, and video editing software such as Camtasia or Premiere Pro. If you want to teach hand-drawn illustration, you’ll also need a camera, a tripod, and good lighting over your workspace.

You can upload video courses to sites like Udemy, Skillshare, or Udacity, and start marketing to paying students straightaway. 

Branch Out into Products

Sites like Redbubble and Society6 allow illustrators to apply their designs to a range of home and lifestyle products, from prints to shower curtains to iPhone covers. The websites take care of manufacturing and distribution for a commission, so all you need to do is upload your work as digital files and watch the sales roll in.

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator — Branch Out into Product Sales
Sell your artwork as prints, shirts, and home goods.

Alternatively, set up your own Shopify store, or integrate a Shopify or WooCommerce plugin into your existing website. That was you can start selling illustrated prints and products directly through your page.

Contact Existing and Potential Clients

With businesses slowly adjusting to remote working, it can sometimes feel like illustration commissions are at the bottom of clients’ to-do lists.

But, as individuals adapt to remote working, business will return in time. So it pays to let clients know you are just as available and efficient as before. If you haven’t done so already, reach out to clients with a polished email, reassuring them that you are available for work when they are ready. Up the professionalism of your email with a template from Mailchimp

When you’re between deadlines is an excellent opportunity to network (albeit digitally!) and increase your potential pool of clients.

3 Ways to Make Money from Home as an Illustrator — Establish Contact with Clients
Stay connected with your clients—and search for new ones. Image by contributor Visual Generation.

LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for discovering new clients and companies connected to existing clients or operating in a similar field. Have you always wanted to illustrate for a particular magazine or blog? Since your online portfolio now looks awesome, now might be the right time to put out some feelers.

Creating a profile on freelancing marketplaces like Upwork also allows you to compete for work on a global scale by reaching out to thousands of businesses. The ability to verify your profile and add client testimonials also helps you to build trust with clients remotely.

Working from home can present challenges, but it can also produce opportunities!

Prepare for future income by taking the time to improve your portfolio, tools, and workspace. Create more skills and specialisms by honing your craft and commercializing your work. Finally, contact potential new audiences by adapting your work for eCommerce, teaching, or marketing your services to new and existing clients.

Discover more useful tips for making the most of working at home:

Cover image by contributor Grinbox.

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