Passion and a willingness to give up a regular job are essential for people who dream of becoming an illustrator...


Photo: Jonathan Wong
Requirements: To be an illustrator, you need to be passionate about art and drawing. It is also important to be devoted to creative arts and design. It's not easy to get a job at first, so you need perseverance and a firm belief in yourself if you are going to make it.

It is not so vital to be technically skilful in using different artistic mediums at first, but you really need to have your own style. A good eye for proportion and colour is also important. You also need to work well with people so you understand what they want you to draw.

Qualifications: There are no strict educational requirements to be an illustrator, but they can always help. You'll be judged solely on your work. You will need to have your own way of presenting a clear message with your artwork. Some illustrators choose to work manually, using watercolour and acrylic paints. Others prefer to use computers. If you choose to work on computer, you should have training in popular illustration software, like Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator.

Many top illustrators have done fine arts or design degrees.

Average pay: Most illustrators work on a freelance, part-time or project basis. There are few permanent employment opportunities in the profession at the moment. You will be paid by the artwork you design, ranging from HK$500 to HK$2,000 per piece, depending on how difficult it is and how good you are.

If you are more popular and famous, you will get product design work for which you can earn commissions or bonuses through the sales of products.

As you work you build a reputation and a portfolio which serves as reference for prospective employers.

Work prospects: Hay Wong Shan-hi is a freelance illustrator, but he has a full-time job as a shoe salesman. Wong says his permanent job has absolutely no relation to his illustrating career, but it gives him time and energy to make his freelance work successful.

He says there is little demand for illustrators at the moment, so most companies are not hiring permanent staff. But he says there has been more demand for and recognition of local illustrators recently. He says most illustrators work on book covers and magazine articles. But now, there are more who work on their own art exhibitions or go into card designing.

Long-term prospects: Wong says successful illustrators can make enough money just by working on projects, and then they would not need a primary job. They can also start their own company and outsource any extra work to other freelance illustrators.

Where to apply: The best way to start is to present your work on the internet through platforms like your own blog or social networks like Facebook to gain exposure and build connections.

Wong says it is important to have a strong portfolio and to build a good network of people in the business.

A day at work

Working as a freelance illustrator means you can arrange your own working days and hours. Wong says an artwork usually take up to a week to complete. When he gets an order from his clients, he will meet them to get an understanding of their needs and make a preliminary draft. He meets the client a second time to confirm the design. There could be more changes before the final version is completed.



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