How to Start a Drawing Business

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An artist drawing in her art studio.
An artist drawing in her art studio. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Starting a drawing business gives you the opportunity to use your creative talents to earn a living. To make a success of the business, you need more than good drawing skills. You must be able to find clients, price your work accurately and deal with the administrative aspects of the business.

Put Together a Portfolio

Prospective clients want to see the types of drawing you create and the standard you achieve. Put together a portfolio of work in a display folder or on a laptop or tablet computer. Showcase your drawings on your own website and on a creative arts site such as Behance. If you are trying to secure specific types of work, such as medical or architectural illustration, include relevant examples in your portfolio. Highlight any examples of work published in books or magazines.

Identify Your Strengths

Positioning yourself as a specialist in certain types of drawing may help convince clients you are the best person to take on a project. You may have a technical or scientific background, for example, enabling you to tackle technical, medical or architectural illustration. If you have good life-drawing skills or a fine arts background, you may focus on portraiture or drawings for sale through galleries. Illustrators with graphic design skills and experience can take on work for publishers or design and advertising agencies.

Set Up a Studio

You can operate your business from home or rent space in commercial premises. Your studio must have a good light source for close, detailed work on your drawings. A desktop or free-standing drawing board is useful if you work on paper. If you create digital illustrations, you need graphics software as well as a computer or tablet with good graphics capability and a high-resolution screen. A quality color printer is essential if you plan to sell copies of your drawings.

Determine Your Pricing

If you sell drawings direct to clients, you must set an hourly rate that covers your costs and provides your business with a profit. Calculate the minimum hourly rate you need to charge by dividing the salary you would like to earn by the number of hours you are likely to work over a year. Deduct time for personal and statutory holidays, sick days and time for meetings and administration. Multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours you will take to do each drawing to calculate the price. If you sell drawings to an advertising agency, negotiate a rate based on the number of times the drawing will be used. Illustrations done for publishers may entitle you to income from other sources, such as digital editions or sales of rights to other publishers.

Market Your Services

To find opportunities, check directories of book and magazine publishers or creative services directories, such as Artist's Market, which list organizations that buy illustrations for publication. Search online image libraries to identify sites that showcase the types of drawings you produce. You can market your services direct to potential clients or appoint an agent to represent your business. An agent will find clients and negotiate fees and terms, taking a percentage of your earnings as remuneration. If you prefer to work directly with clients, email examples of your work or arrange meetings with prospects such as advertising agencies, design firms, book and magazine publishers, architecture and interior design firms, and galleries. Join a professional association such as the American Society of Architectural Illustrators, which gives you the opportunity to list your services in the “Find an Illustrator” section and showcase your work in online members’ galleries.

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