Illustrators combine a love of art, design skills and an interest in all things creative to develop the concepts and ideas of their clients into original artwork for a range of products and purposes. Most illustrators specialize in a market or style of illustrations, but because the work is typically done independently within a studio or behind a computer screen, it's ideal for someone wishing to remain at home. Hours for work-at-home illustrators vary greatly and are based on factors such as the project, deadline and type of illustration.
Working at Home
A self-employed work-at-home illustrator must be proactive in finding work, and she'll spend a great deal of time -- at least when she first launches her home business -- soliciting clients. A number of job board services are available, both online and locally, that assist with job leads. Job board sites such as Monster or CareerBuilder, freelancing sites such as Elance and Guru or special interest groups on social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn typically offer services that connect hiring clients to freelancing designers. Because potential clients will be interested in viewing your past work when considering you for future projects, it's essential you create an online portfolio to showcase your illustrating experience. A work-at-home illustrator will also be responsible for keeping her own records, invoicing clients and managing financial accounts.
Factors Affecting Workdays
Though in-office illustrators typically work a full-time week of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, most work-at home Illustrators' hours vary greatly depending on a variety of factors such as deadlines, quantity of work and the types of projects and clients. A project that requires the delivery of hundreds of illustrations within a tight deadline might require extremely long workdays, seven days a week. On the other hand, when job offers are scant and you only have a handful of illustration assignments, you might only work for a few hours a week.
Another factor determining working hours is the distance between the client and the illustrator. When working with a domestic client, you might be required to remain available by email, phone or text message during the typical business hours of 8 or 9 a.m. until dinnertime. This does not, however, mean that you're required to actively work on illustration projects during the time frame. Some illustrators might work around the clock then take a few days off to rest. Other illustrators might spend every weekday working for only a few hours while her kids are at school.
Because the global nature of the Internet lends itself naturally to work-at-home employment, freelance illustrators are often hired by international clients. Although this opens up a great deal of work for a work-at-home professional, it also requires flexibility, respect for other cultural and business practices and, most importantly, an understanding of international time zones. For example, you might find yourself taking on a project for a client in China who requires you to be available and work overnight during their business hours -- which are roughly 12 hours ahead of those in the United States.
Though it is great to be your own boss, schedule your own hours and set your own pay rate, there are a number of tasks outside of illustrating that factor into possible hours worked. Marketing your services is an important part of the job, and you'll spend a good deal of time browsing job boards, submitting bids and following up with clients who have expressed interest in hiring you. You will likely experience slow periods with little work followed by weeks of accepting heaps of assignments and working 12 to 15 hours a day to catch up. You'll also spend time invoicing clients and following up on unpaid projects, which takes time -- especially if you're not especially skilled at math or business management.
2016 Salary Information for Graphic Designers
Graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $47,640 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, graphic designers earned a 25th percentile salary of $35,560, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $63,340, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 266,300 people were employed in the U.S. as graphic designers.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Artist
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Graphic Designers
- Creative Pool: Illustrator: Job Description, Salaries, Benefits and Useful Links
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Graphic Designers
- Career Trend: Graphic Designers
Based in Tampa, Fla., Danielle Fernandez been writing, editing and illustrating all things technology, lifestyle and education since 1999. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Tribune, Working Mother magazine, and a variety of technical publications, including BICSI's "Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual." Fernandez holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Florida.