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Illustrator Notes for a Happy Collaboration

Every illustrator's working methods and gauge of a happy collaboration are different but here are my reflections covering collaboration in general. As with any professional industry work, I think a happy collaboration boils down to communication and mutual understanding.


1. Listen carefully, recap your understanding and reframe from your unique position that speaks to your strengths/reflection of what you can offer.

2. Its not important unless you make it important.

3. Share your work method.

Be clear how much time you need to work. This sets clear expectations for both parties. Often times the project end date is clearly defined but if the drafts are only confirmed a few days before the deadline that would probably be a challenge. If you work traditionally, perhaps you can break down your creative process from paper to digitization. This in turn can shed light on the time it takes and ease of revisions.

4. Keep everyone updated on your progress.

Putting yourself in your collaborator's shoes - surely its comforting and exciting to know how the project is developing so be proactive to give updates. For more elaborate projects consider a shared spreadsheet or calendar. This will hopefully keep all parties engaged, on track and have an accountable mindset.

5. Working with multi-level management

This can be a tricky area as segmented communication between multi-level management increases the chance of miscommunication. The feedback received from the junior turns out to be different from the senior's preference resulting in increased revisions and perhaps not so ideal perceptions. Don't be afraid to over document all decisions received even if it feels informal in a simple email/message confirmation or in a longer written meeting recap so clients clearly understand your position and can correct you immediately if needed. I think it may also help to CC other decision-makers in your correspondences when reasonable to make sure your work is reaching them instead of leaving it to chance if it gets shown.

6. Delays - followup or shift focus

I have heard the golden rule for illustrators is to meet deadlines and I strongly believe in that too. However, there may be unexpected delays on the other end. Be helpful to offer alternatives and keep the other party informed of your future schedule. Followup as needed. Sometimes, the illustrator might be left in the dark for a long time. If you really have done all that you can, rather than waiting for the unknown, it may be best to shift focus on another project - even a personal project for the time being. Delays can be stressful as they may conflict with an illustrator's availability for other new opportunities. If you have been accountable to the original timeline all the way through and not at fault for the delay, hopefully, your collaborator will understand if your position has changed.

7. Go the extra mile

Even if things are outside the project scope, I think its wonderful to share creative insights on the whole project. You aren't simply executing the artwork in an isolated manner but thinking of the larger project holistically. Be as helpful as you can within reasonable use of your extra time.


The fine print:

  1. Make sure to include a license (rights granted for artwork use)

  2. Be clear who owns the copyright before starting

  3. State how many rounds of revisions you will do upfront

  4. Include deadline date in the contract

  5. Document confirmation of important milestones (ex: approvals)

  6. Send your invoices on time and in a clear organized manner to show that it is important to you

  7. Followup on late payments in a professional manner and be proactive to make other arrangements. Some illustrators choose to add an interest clause in their contracts.


Thank you so much for reading till the end! Do you have any tips you can share with me? I would love to know! Connect with me on instagram: @natalie.illustratio


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