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 studios
- advertising agencies
- graphic design studios
- 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 artists they have worked with before. To obtain freelance contracts, illustrators may market their services on the Internet or in source books, mail work samples to potential clients, attend trade shows or employ an agent.
Advancement generally takes the form of building a portfolio and a reputation. With these, a freelance illustrator can attract a larger client group.
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 (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
- occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions)
- size of the occupation
In Alberta, the F141: Graphic Designers and Illustrators occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.6% from 2016 to 2020. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 98 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.