My first year as an illustrator

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I finished university and took part in the New Designers exhibition in London. I’ve learned a lot in the last year so I thought I’d write a blog post about it to share my experiences. Here are the main things I’ve learned since leaving uni and starting my career:

1. Getting a 1st class honours degree doesn’t guarantee you will get work


newdesigners1My work at New Designers 2014


I was really exited to be going to New Designers in July last year. I had worked hard to gain my First Class Honours degree and I was selected as one of ten students from my university to take part in the exhibition, so I must have been doing something right! My dream was that agencies and publishers would love my work after seeing it at the exhibition and it would be the start of my amazing illustration career. I knew that this was a completely unrealistic idea but I thought that I would at least get a bit of work after uni, because if I wasn’t good enough then why did I get such a good degree? Turns out that your degree classification doesn’t equate to successfully gaining employment when you graduate.


2. You need to be prepared for a lot of rejections

DailyDoodleLudoHow I felt about rejection emails


This kind of links into the first point because getting work as a freelance illustrator isn’t easy. I spent a lot of time and energy doing research about agencies and publishers that might be interested in my work, I updated my website and professional social media profiles and created a digital portfolio before emailing lots of illustration agencies and children’s book publishers about working with them. I felt like I had done all the right things so it was very disappointing to receive rejections from nearly every one, or not get a reply at all. I’m getting used to this now but it still doesn’t get any easier.


3. Have other things to do apart from illustration work



You have to go outside sometimes!


After a few months of sitting at the desk in my spare room all day every day I started to go a bit mad. Not having social interaction on a daily basis was really affecting me because I had been used to working in a studio with other people, so I found it quite lonely and boring working on my own all day. Luckily, my university has a really helpful careers service called Zone and they hold an enterprise club once a fortnight for graduates and local people who are starting up their own businesses. I started going to these meetings and got lots of useful information, like how to use social media successfully and other helpful stuff for starting a business. It got me out of the house regularly and I also made some friends.


4. Don’t limit your opportunities


Who says bears can’t do ballet?


During my illustration degree I specialised in children’s publishing because I wanted to create children’s books. However, after a few months of not getting freelance illustration work I started to apply for design jobs because I needed money and I thought that the best way to do this was to find a stable, full time job. Unfortunately I found myself getting a lot of rejections from graphic design jobs I’d applied for, probably because I was an illustrator and didn’t have any graphic design experience to prove my skills. I decided to spend some time creating work for a graphic design portfolio to help me get a job, which paid off when I applied for a position as a graphic designer at my old college. They loved my portfolio, which was a mix of graphic design and illustration work, and offered me the job. I think it helped that my illustration style is quite simple and graphic as this enables me to apply my skills to more design based work. I would never have imagined that I’d be working as a graphic designer but I really love my job and I’d be happy to continue on this career path and just do illustration part time without having to worry about making money from it.


5. Don’t compare yourself to others


Don’t worry about what others are doing, just do your own thing

This is a really difficult one for me and I regularly have to remind myself not to compare myself to other people. When I first started to look for freelance illustration work after uni I followed a lot of successful illustrators on Twitter as I thought it would be helpful to see what they were doing to get work, and it was nice to interact with people who were doing the type of work that I wanted to do. However, some days I would see lots of tweets about their successes, and while I was happy for them I also felt annoyed that I was still struggling to find work. I often felt like my work wasn’t good enough and thought about giving up many times, but then I reminded myself that we are all on our own paths and I shouldn’t compare myself to the success of others. I try not to let all the rejections and failed job applications bother me because now I have a job that I love, and who knows what I will be doing in another year?