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Survey reveals illustrators are still grossly underpaid

The Illustrator's Survey
(Image credit: The Illustrator's Survey)

Ben the Illustrator's annual illustration survey is here, and the results once again show some positive things about the industry, as well as some areas for improvement.

There's some very positive news straight off the bat: the survey shows that 97 per cent of respondents are proud to be illustrators. That same percentage of people also motivated to be better artists, which is good news (especially because we have plenty of how to draw tutorials here on Creative Bloq). However, only 88 per cent are motivated to improve their business. Perhaps the rest are just nailing it already.

The Illustrator's Survey

(Image credit: The Illustrator's Survey)

Money worries

Sadly, it seems that money troubles continue to plague illustrators. The survey reports that only 45 per cent of people were confident giving initial estimates to clients, and 46 per cent were confident negotiating. It'd be interesting to know whether those are the same confident people. 

Ben comments that "nothing has changed in three years, we're still not confident with money, but we need to be. We're asking for deposits and kill-fees more than before, but still not as standard and still not often enough."

In terms of money earned overall, it seems that many are not reaching the AOI's minimum salary of £20,000 a year, with 55 per cent of those working full-time as illustrators not earning this amount. 

There were also concerns around commissioners and their understanding of illustration and areas such as licensing and the importance of a clear brief.

Social media

The Illustrator's Survey

(Image credit: The Illustrator's Survey)

Instagram was cited as being the most beneficial social media platform to illustrators – 84 per cent said it was helpful – with Twitter following close behind on 53 per cent. Interestingly, the image-based Pinterest didn't get much of a look-in, with only nine per cent saying it was useful. 

Forty-six per cent of illustrators also said that Instagram was one of the ways they got most work in 2019, which was beaten only by regular/repeat clients (whether or not those clients were found on Instagram, we don't know). Despite using social media platforms to get so much work, only 20 per cent of respondents said they were confident using the platforms' algorithms to their advantage. (Perhaps they need our Instagram engagement tips.)

When citing their top three sources of inspiration, 66 per cent of people said they looked at other illustrators' work online. Of those 66 per cent, 77 per cent look at others' work on social media. Ben says this is a worrying statistic: "Mimicking illustrators on Instagram is not the foundation of a long-term creative life." We're inclined to agree.


Two-thirds of illustrators don't feel that BAME, LBGTQ+ and female professionals are fairly represented within illustration, nor that the industry is doing enough to be more inclusive. 

Ben has some suggestions as to how we can combat this: "We need to highlight artists who aren’t getting the attention they deserve. We need events to stop filling the stage with successful white men; we need to help people who can't afford to go to university to still find a way into the industry; we need magazines, blogs and books to ensure there is no bias in who they are featuring." There was also a call for more female illustrator podcasts.

For the full survey, which is supported by Adobe, Cass Art, The AOI and Survey Monkey, visit the Illustrator's Survey website.

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Rosie Hilder

Rosie Hilder is operations editor of Creative Bloq. She previously worked on Computer Arts and 3D World magazines.