Running an Illustration Career in Covid-19

These are strange and exceptional times, and we want to reassure you there is absolutely no expectation to run your business as normal. We have some tips and practices to improve your situation and continue doing the work that you love – and run a business that can thrive in this exceptional climate!


Firstly, check in with your regular clients. We’re all appreciating positive and thoughtful well wishes and this doesn’t mean any less than with clients. You could consider checking in on them each fortnight, and continue to share your work to new commissioners via email, newsletter, social media – if you have created any personal work relating adjusting to the situation, things you have read, or seen then feel free to share it. It is very much welcomed.

Consider pencilling in time to generate new work that reflects or helps others in this current situation. The fact is we’re all in this together and there is a real appetite for editorial, publishing and educational work that covers our current story. We’re in this for the long-haul so think about making work that feels culturally relevant. Some of the things we may have been interested in at the beginning of the year, now feel far out of our minds but what we’re all seeing is real growth in illustrations around mental & physical health, environment, music, creativity and empowerment.

Julia Allum – Personal work

While public events, in-store point of sale, and much public OOH advertising are on pause, it is reassuring to see editorial, healthcare, music, games and publishing remain very much in demand. Illustration is versatile and you will surprise yourself with many transferrable skills if commissions from a familiar area are on hold. Look to other areas of the industry you can explore to bring more work in. People need digital assets – and as illustrators we are more than equipped create them than lots of other creatives. With on-site photography /film shoots being cancelled this means that budgets will be opened up to commission more illustration!

Use technology to your advantage and book in a video or phone call (via apps like Skype or Zoom) to replace what would have been a face-to-face meeting and treat it the same way – bring coffee and a note pad and work on your human interaction. Many are being generous with their time.

Dedicate more resource into your online portfolio and self-promotion. We’ve seen some inspirational projects such as member Stephanie Unger who has created a virtual public exhibition of her artwork on Animal Crossing, and Children’s Book illustrators like AOI patron Oliver Jeffers perform lunch time readings of books.

Stephanie Unger – Animal Crossing Exhibition

As we have become experts in storytelling – many new businesses are having to turn to online platforms to promote and manage sales of their services or products. Use your online platforms to show your journey and take the time to promote products or other offers you have. Think about pinning your current availability and interests to the top of your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram pages.

Cachetejack – T-shirt product

Reach out to the illustration community for support through online groups, such as The Illustrators Slack set up by AOI friend Ben The Illustrator, and the AOI hotline for members contact.

Finally, follow our Corvid-19 page to stay up to date with the news and finances available to you. Contact our accountants and other member offers here. Remember that if you are being asked to create work to a brief or offer work for any commercial usage should be paid for – our awesome Not a Hobby campaign is more relevant than ever. Always work for a fee, not for free, and make sure you have a contract for all future projects that includes a cancellation fee. Remember to take time to champion yourself and others during this period!

2nd April 2020

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