Digesting Ben The Illustrator’s Survey- AOI’s view


There is lots of good news in Ben The Illustrator’s survey.  Overall as illustrators we are proud, feel supported and are motivated to be better.  Our industry offers a multitude of business opportunities, from arts and prints to advertising and animation. But, as you would expect, there are also areas that we need to work on.

At the AOI we are looking forward to doing just that.  Like everyone, we will take time to digest what this survey says about our industry, and what we can do to meaningfully, helpfully respond.  We will be talking to Ben and his brilliant committee about this, but welcome input from our members and the wider community too.

We have pulled out some headlines that we are focusing on to start with, and will share some of the questions that we are asking ourselves;

Self Promotion. Generally illustrators are spending time, not money, on self promotion. How can we ensure that non-paid promotion is as impactful and efficient as possible?  We are working to get some training on social media available to illustrators, and with Instagram in particular.  What else can we do?

Estimates and Negotiation. There is a lack of confidence in giving estimates and negotiating.  We MUST overcome this.  Knowledge and experience support confidence. How can we super charge this across the industry?  Webinars, resources, case studies, events – we are thinking of all these areas.

Earnings. 60% of illustrators are not earning a minimum of £20,000 a year.  This is galvanising. What can we do to make this career more viable?  What does this mean for diversity?  How can we best support members to thrive financially as well as creatively?

Diversity. There is a huge amount of work to be done in the diversity field.  We take this seriously at the AOI and work within our means to address it.  We have some partnerships in place – for example the brilliant FAB award – and keep diversity and equality at the forefront of our minds in programming, commissioning, staffing.  We have invested in what we call the ‘pipeline’- working with young people who are choosing their next steps to consider illustration.  We must do more – and particularly welcome input in our work here.

Kill Fees and Contracts. Why are people not using contracts or discussing kill/cancellation fees?  Is this a lack of awareness, a nervousness of clarifying terms, or push back from commissioners?  Our hunch is that it will be a mix of all of these, and we will need to support illustrators in various ways to address it.  Should we lead a campaign to address this?

Commissioners. This links with the overwhelming suggestion that many commissioners don’t understand pricing and licensing.  We can only tackle this together.  Resources like our ‘How to Licence Illustration’ are the start of that.  We are speaking with our colleagues in parallel industries (Photography, for example) about other approaches.

Mental Health. 66% of illustrators have mental health or confidence issues that affect their career. Like Ben the Illustrator, we are very proud of our community for being so open and honest about these challenges. The AOI are currently working in partnership with the Society of Authors on an extensive mental health resource for freelance creatives. What else can we do to offer support, ease pressures and build confidence in our community?

Socials. And finally – illustrators want to meet up more regularly.  Our volunteer led meet ups are a brilliant way to do this.  We are always looking for illustrators interested in running one in their area.  We will offer support, guidance and a free membership.  Please get in touch if you are interested in starting one in your area!

This survey is invaluable in the view of the industry that it offers.  But what is also invaluable is the discussion it generates.  Where is there the most appetite for change?  What can we invest in, to work in partnership with the industry to achieve change for the better?

You can read the full results of the Illustrator’s Survey here. We look forward to passionate conversation over the coming weeks, and empowering, inspiring hard work in the coming months.

If you’d like to feed in to these, or other areas brought up by Ben the Illustrator’s survey please email [email protected]




17th February 2020

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