Finding Work as an Illustrator in New Jersey

by Staff

Routes one can take to network and land a commission

Breaking into the illustration business has become both easier and more competitive in the past few years.   With the advent of the internet, there is both an increase in demand for new content as well as venues to find work.  However, piracy in the form of intellectual property theft is rampant while collecting royalties for one’s work is also difficult. A common challenge that illustrators also face is the lack of stability when searching for a job as platforms such as Upwork have allowed them to outsource many of their tasks. Thus, it is essential to constantly update and increase your design expertise and found the right searching platform to seek for a job. In the new jersey area , using Lensa to find an illustrator job is the most effective way to possibly get daily job opportunities.

While some find work easily, for many of us, we need to implement one or more strategies to create opportunities.  By strategy, it might be using one’s contacts and networking, knocking on doors, or reading bulletin boards.  As with other aspects of life, the trick is to be in the right place at the right time.

One could hope to model the success of a hero.  Scott Adams, for example, illustrated as a past-time while working for Pacific Bell. Peter Max studied at the Art Students League and found mentors.  Quentin Blake who illustrated for Roald Dahl was discovered while at secondary school by his art teacher.

What strategies are there for breaking into the world of illustrators?

Not all of us though, are discovered or find our way to a prestigious art school.

In such cases, one needs to find other ways to become known and employed.  To do such, one should take stock of the opportunities and network connections that do exist.  Opportunities might not immediately spring to mind.  For example, a local pizzeria uses the same box as most other pizzerias in town: why not propose a new design that would make that vendor stand out?

Looking around the environment can yield dozens of opportunities.  As a rule, many logos and illustrations become old.  Sure, there are some that are iconic, but even name brands like Pepsi have revisited their look to reinvigorate their market awareness.

An alternative route could be submitting works for competitions.  This gets one known to the larger community and builds one’s network.  In a comical expose, John Oliver introduced many to the Federal Duck Stamp program, an annual design competition organized by the US Postal Service and Fish and Wildlife Services.  These are usually publicized by both national and local organizations.

Locally, there are many organizations that are constantly looking for work.  The local town council.  A quick google search found, for example, that Malmesbury ran a competition in 2021. Aside from the government, utilities, event sponsors, charities, social services, schools, and more, require art and illustrations perennially.

Art fairs and cottage industry also offer avenues to become better known.  While requiring some capital, one can offer designs printed on mugs or t-shirts.  While the market is smaller, reaching mainly those who pass by, alternatively, platforms like Etsy offer arts and crafts and is patronized by thousands of people daily, looking for something provocative or inspiring.

Aside from public forums, companies also need imagery for presentations, brochures, announcements and training.  One might find opportunities here by pitching to management, marketing, or HR.  Alternatively, some companies offer internships in departments where illustrating is advantageous, for example, in marketing.

Over the internet, other opportunities might arise from designing fonts and supplying examples of work to image forums such as Unsplash and Pixabay.  On these sites one can post a collection of work, making one’s style visible to people specifically searching for artwork.  Posting both royalty and free images also can help network and improve one’s reputation as articles that cite work improves future recommendations by search engines.

While on the subject of the internet, another avenue is to develop a mix of art and IT skills.  Being a dab-hand with Illustrator or knowing css can make you an indispensable member of the team.

Implementing a strategy

As mentioned earlier, success in no small part comes from being in the right place.  Focusing on a single avenue by definition casts the net over a limited amount of water.

Instead of banking everything on a single route, identify those strategies that are best suited to the individual, local conditions, and style and then rank which have the greatest chances for success.  Add to that, how lucrative and/or fulfilling getting a commission or job should the strategy pan out might be.

Set milestones for what to post or do, and be methodical by periodically revisiting whatever it is that has been invested.  If, for example, it’s posting images on a picture forum, then add more work and look at what has been downloaded.  If it’s monitoring for local art competitions, then revisit the bulletin board where such is usually posted.

Deciding on an opportunity

When fortune does bite, one is confronted with how to price one’s self and the work.  Knowing the going rate is critical, but also, one does not want to lose work by over-pricing.  David Choe, for example, took stock options in Facebook.  When the company went public, his options made him a multi-millionaire.

However, do not assume that every opportunity is real.  In a related area, doing data entry, there are plenty of scams intended to steal from you.  Being able to identify a scam is not always easy.

Sometimes taking a commission or a job is tactical.  Perhaps it will help keep the lights on, as it did for Adams, or help you reach a larger audience the way it did for Blake.  Hence having a few strategies running in parallel remains important, even if one of them has delivered.

Some companies currently hiring illustrators in the New Jersey area are Rockstar games and Aquent.

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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