Most illustrators work on a freelance basis. Many freelancers accept many different types of work. For example, they may work for:
- Publishers (magazine, newspaper, book, web-based resources and other software)
- Film or television studios
- Advertising agencies
- Graphic design studios
- Computer gaming or digital animation developers
- Government departments
- Printing companies
Some illustrators, especially those who specialize, work for companies. For example, medical illustrators may work for:
- Medical schools
- Pharmaceutical companies
Fashion illustrators may work for:
- Department and chain stores
- Textile companies
- Pattern houses
- Garment manufacturers
- Fashion designers
- Advertising agencies
- Newspapers and magazines
Freelance illustrators negotiate contracts for each illustration or series of illustrations. Contracts specify deadlines, fees and who will hold the copyright for the work.
It can be difficult to get started in this field because clients often prefer to work with illustrators they have worked with before. Illustrators may begin as staff at a graphic design house, then progress to freelance work. To obtain freelance contracts, illustrators typically market their services on the internet through posting their portfolios onto their own website or various graphic design sourcing sites. They may also purchase space to showcase their work in graphic design source books, or mail work samples to potential clients, attend trade shows or employ an agent.
Advancement generally results from building a portfolio and a reputation. With these, a freelance illustrator can attract a larger client group over time.
Illustrators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators. In Alberta, 76% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:
The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:
- Technological advances
- Trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
- Location in Alberta
- Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
- Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
- Size of the occupation
In Alberta, the 5241: Graphic designers and illustrators occupational group is expected to have an average annual growth of 1.9% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 116 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.