Do you really need an agent?

At the Association of Illustrators (opens in new tab) (AOI), many members are represented by agencies. But there are also many who aren't, as well as agent members, who abide by its ethical code of conduct and work hard to secure a richer industry through a great plethora of talent. 

Many illustrators ask us: is it essential to have an agent to be successful? To answer this question, we sought the insight of two AOI members who are currently thriving in their careers – both with and without agents.

The benefits of having an agent

Casper Franken of multi-award-winning studio Shotopop (opens in new tab) (represented by Bernstein & Andriulli (opens in new tab), Valérie Oualid (opens in new tab) and Jacky Winter (opens in new tab)) talks about the benefits of having an agent, and tells us how working with an agent is all about communication…

Shotopop: "Although we are represented by three agencies, they each cover very different regions of the world, so luckily there's no overlap or difficulty. We're always very transparent in what we do and who we work with; for us it's all about being open and honest."

"Our agents are like part of our studio. If we didn't have them, we'd need to employ people in their place. They complement and strengthen us, and we can't fault them. Pros include getting awesome projects to work on and not having to worry about contracts and red tape."

Shotopop creates visuals and animation for clients including Netflix, Google and Smirnoff

Shotopop creates visuals and animation for clients including Netflix, Google and Smirnoff

"An agent isn't someone who tells us what to do, they represent our interests. If you end up with an agent that starts giving you feedback, or comes between you and the client, you should reconsider the relationship."

The benefits of representing yourself

Meanwhile, London-based artist and illustrator Luisa Rivera (opens in new tab) shares how being unrepresented can allow you to be more self-sufficient…

Luisa Rivera is a London-based illustrator originally from Chile

Luisa Rivera is a London-based illustrator originally from Chile

Luisa Rivera: "Not having an agent has allowed me freedom because I am more in control of my own practice. I have learned a lot in the process: how to negotiate, manage a project, and create a more personal relationship with my clients. The cons are practical because you end up doing more work (that is, more admin)."

"I try to network and showcase myself as much as I can, either via email, finding blogs to feature my work or on social media. I show finished illustrations but also my process, because that helps others to understand my method. When I manage my commissions, I prioritise projects or clients that are meaningful to me." 

Luisa's clients include Penguin Random House, Reservoir Books and Air Canada

Luisa's clients include Penguin Random House, Reservoir Books and Air Canada

"Communications have shifted in the last five years, allowing illustrators to engage more directly with art directors, so having an agent nowadays isn't mandatory. It will help if you want to focus on the creative side, and especially if you decide to work within certain industries like advertising. However, like in any relationship, you should find a good fit: someone you trust and who understands your work."

This article was originally published in issue 275 of Computer Arts (opens in new tab), the world's best-selling design magazine. Buy issue 275 here (opens in new tab) or subscribe to Computer Arts here (opens in new tab).

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The Association of Illustrators is the professional body for illustration in the UK.