Last month I paid a visit to my accountant. His genuine fascination with what I do for a living always amuses me. It’s almost like he can’t quite get his head around the fact that you can actually make money from illustrating. Not that I am raking in the money or anything, but the fact that I present spreadsheets that show evidence of turning a profit seem to surprise him each year! Not only that, but my next 12 months is fully booked with projects.
This got me thinking about my measure of success. It’s only just occurred to me that ‘I did it.’ I am an illustrator. I made it! I am exactly where I hoped I would be when I completed my University Degree– complete with gorgeous husband, beautiful children and living on a lovely little farm. Wow! I just wanted to take a moment to breathe it in and acknowledge how lucky I am.
Having said that, my Mum is always reminding me that it’s not ‘luck’ – it’s actually the result of A LOT of hard work! (Next month I will share the story of my journey into illustration, but for now I wanted to talk about some of the traits that I think have helped me on my road to success – and it’s certainly NOT pure talent!) Well, what I mean is – it’s not pure talent ALONE.
Here are three things I do to contribute to my continued success as an illustrator:
I RESPECT DEADLINES:
I know from my days as a Product Designer that my artwork is just another wheel in the cog of the production process. Delays in the early stages of development can result in extended delays throughout the production of a product and this can increase costs and impact sales.
Before I had kids I used to pride myself on NEVER missing a deadline. If I had to go without sleep for three days to meet a deadline, then that’s what I did. These days that’s just not practical. As a full-time, stay at home Mum, I have a responsibility to my family to be well rested, alert and happy. I don’t have the time to sleep for a week to catch up on lost days of slumber! I have HAD to learn to be more organised and to plan, plan, plan!!
The best thing about having a reputation for meeting deadlines is that on those odd occasions when something does crop up and I need a few more days, my clients usually understand because they appreciate that it doesn’t happen very often.
I TAKE THE ‘EGO’ OUT OF IT
I won’t deny that I still get a buzz from seeing my work on products out in stores, or that I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them what I do for a living. (I guess that’s still a boost to my Ego.) But when it comes to creating my artwork, I still see myself as part of a TEAM of people working towards creating a great product.
After 10 years of working as Product Designer and Developer, I understand the role of my art in the production process. We are not creating a product just for the pleasure of promoting me or my artwork. When my Editor or Production Manager requests a change or alteration, then I know that it’s because the team thinks it will improve the final product. I am surprised at how often I hear of Designers or Illustrators refusing to make changes or alterations to artwork. Of course my input and opinion is valued and respected, but at the end of the day I am being employed to follow a brief and take direction, so that’s what I do.
I AM NOT MOTIVATED BY MONEY!
Oh I can feel my accountant cringe at this one! I am at the stage in my career that I have a steady flow of work that keeps my bank balance slowing ticking along, and a few good contracts that put a smile on my face when a royalty cheque turns up unexpectedly in the mail. (Yes, they do still pay royalties by cheque!!) I am happy! This is all I need.
If you talk to other Illustrators they will also tell you that there’s not a great deal of money to be made from this market (unless of course you are one of the big players and award winners I guess!) but for the most part Children’s Book Illustrators will tell you that they do it because the love it! I know I do! My motivation comes from my passion for illustration. For me personally, the money is a bonus.
WHAT ABOUT TALENT?
Well of course that plays a part in it. But if you think about the wonderful pool of talent out there in this country alone, then there are any number of illustrators out there who really could create great work for any given text, book or project. Choosing the right person for the job comes down to more than talent alone. This is where I think the key to getting repeat work in this industry is more to do with offering a ‘complete package’.
I may not be the best illustrator, or the most talented, or even the cheapest, but what I am is reliable. I am consistent and have a proven track record of delivering the best job I can within the budget I have and the time I have to complete it. Sometimes that’s all it comes down to! Not the most romantic vision of life as an Illustrator, but perhaps a bit of a reality check!
I will always remember the buzz of signing that very first book contract, but I feel such a great sense of pride that I have been able to sign so many more since.
Next month, I look forward to sharing my own story of how I ended up as a Children’s Book Illustrator, and YEP – you guessed it – it really does take more than pure talent!
I don’t think I would have made anyone’s list of ‘most likely to make it’ following the completion of my University Degree, but I always knew I would get there in the end! Next month I will tell you WHY!
In the meantime, you can keep up with my current projects over at my blog.
Best wishes for a wonderfully creative first month of Winter and I will see you again next month.
Until then – stay warm!