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How to Hire a Freelance Illustrator

How To Hire A Freelance Illustrator

Do you need a fancy illustration for your magazine? Maybe an eye-catching drawing for your blog post?

Illustrations are great for catching the attention of your audience and act as excellent accompaniments to your physical or digital content. But most of us don’t have an illustrator on the payroll, and thus turn to freelancing as a solution.

Finding the right illustrator is crucial for elevating your work. In this article, we’re giving you a step-by-step guide on how to source and hire a freelance illustrator.

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Step 1: Know the Difference Between Illustrator and Graphic Designer

Difference Between an Illustrator and Graphic Designer

While illustrators and graphic designers usually aren’t confused for the other, some of their duties overlap and it can be confusing knowing which one you need.

Illustrations are physical or digital artwork created to either elevate a piece of writing or help bring out a specific idea. Think about the cover art for the New Yorker or the illustrations that accompany a children’s book.

Graphic design is generally more pragmatic in its use, meaning a design usually has a very specific purpose. It’s often used to communicate a brand or company’s overall message. It incorporates things like text, fonts, colors, and overall structure to evoke a certain emotion. For a detailed guide on hiring freelance graphic designers, click here.

Read our full post “Graphic Design vs Custom Illustration” to learn more.

With those things in mind, a freelance illustrator and a graphic designer are built for very different roles. Illustrators are more commonly trained in specific art skills, like drawing or painting.

Do you need a freelance illustrator? Then you must nail down the exact details before you start looking for talent.

Step 2: Determine Exactly What You Want or Need

Determine Exactly What You Need

Illustrators elevate a story or another piece of content. When it comes to accompanying your own work, you need to figure out how to communicate it to the illustrator.

What’s your piece about?

This might be obvious, but it’s the first thing that needs to be communicated to an illustrator when you’re hiring one.  Are you creating an NFT art collection, Twitch graphics, or blog illustrations?  The content of your work will guide the illustrator through the process and give them an idea of what they need to do.

Who are the characters involved?

This goes hand-in-hand with the story. If you need illustrations for a narrative, it’s good to communicate the characters at play so the illustrator has some sort of reference when drawing something. It also provides more context and gives a more accurate read of your story.

What’s your tone or style?

You don’t want your artist to make something that’s completely incongruous to the tone of your story or original content. This is something that can easily be confused if not communicated properly.

Furthermore, you don’t want to be hiring an oil painter for a children’s book cover. Similarly, you might not want a children’s cartoonist creating illustrations for TIME magazine. Avoid any headaches by nailing down your tone and style so that a freelance illustrator won’t have to guess or make any misconceptions.

Do you have a deadline in mind?

While this has little to do with story or tone, deadlines help the illustrator understand how they’re going to get certain things done and in what time frame. Time is always of the essence, and the illustrator will be able to cater their work to your timeframe.

The more details you can present an illustrator, the better. It’s good to have these things written down before any outreach to save time.

Step 3: Find Reliable Places for Talent

Reliable Places to Find and Hire Illustrators

Just as you would with any other job posting, you should start looking for candidates within your own network.

Ask around – do you know of any publishers or artists who know a reliable freelance illustrator? Getting a referral this way is valuable, so long as you trust the person who gave you the referral.

Maybe you belong to different online groups that know other freelance illustrators. Start a thread on those forums to get specific names or recommendations for job boards that have reliable candidates.

Bonus Tip: Don't overpay for custom illustration. Many unlimited graphic design companies provide illustration services. This streamlines the process of hiring an illustrator, while also providing cost savings and additional design output through one predicatable, monthly subscription model.

Of course, you can find plenty of qualified and even excellent freelance illustrators on freelancing websites.  Fiverr is always a reliable source, as you can use their filters to find an artist that matches your needs. Illustrator-specific freelance sites like Minty are also reliable sources.

Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll eventually reach out to each candidate to ask for a proposal and to get a better feel for their talents.

Step 4: Narrow Down Candidates and Make Contact

Narrow Down Candidates & Make Contact

Because artwork is very subjective, you’ll have to take time to look at each of your potential candidates’ body of work to decide whether they’re the right fit for you. Many freelancing sites allow you to view an artist’s portfolio, which provides great insight into what they’re capable of doing.

If you find candidates through job boards or freelancing sites, leverage their search tools and filters to obtain the right talent pool. Keywords like “children’s book” or “magazine covers” can narrow down your search.

If you found a few solid candidates, start reaching out. You can either email them or if you’re on a freelancing site, click a button to contact them or request a bid.

A bid is something similar to a job posting, where you ask an artist to create a sample version of the work you’re hiring for. Not all freelancing sites let you do this, but it’s an effective way to see what an illustrator can do.

Step 5: Figure Out the Details

Figure Out The Details

Once you’ve narrowed down your freelance illustrator choices to one or two, it’s time to figure out the smaller details of the work you need done. This might include things like payments, or more technical details like file formats.


Perhaps the most important detail for your freelance illustrator is how they’re getting paid. Chances are, you’ll pay a flat fee for a single illustration, and how much they charge will depend on the scope of your project.

If it’s a simple cover art or smaller illustration, you’ll likely charge in the low hundreds. More complex work can total to thousands of dollars. This will require a lot of discussion with the artist but is a necessary step for the hiring process.


In some cases, illustrators will give you the rights for their work while retaining the copyright. In this case, the artist gives you control over how you use their artwork and they won’t sell it to any other client. However, they retain the right to show the work they did for you to other clients, for example as a sample.

Copyright might vary depending on which freelance platform you choose, but it’s never a bad idea to discuss these terms to avoid any complications in the future.

File Formats and Image Resolution

Another detail you need to figure out is file format. If you’re requesting scans and photographs, the file format and resolution will be very different than if you request a drawing.

This part gets rather technical so it’s important to discuss it with your candidate to make sure nothing gets mixed up during delivery.

Find and Hire a Freelance Illustrator Today

Hiring a freelance illustrator or any freelance creator is quite different from hiring other freelancers since you’re essentially hiring an artist. Understand that their role is to help you solve a problem or fill a need through their creative process.

Leverage this article to find the right freelance illustrator candidates and elevate the quality of your work.