Honest Illustrator: Ask for Help

how to be an illustrator_learnwithsfc.jpg

Tell me if this feels familiar to you.

Over a decade ago, when I started my art business, I refused to ask for help. It felt like to be successful, I had to figure everything out on my own and that if I asked for help in anyway, it would tarnish my success. Like, this business is mine and mine alone. If I ask for help, it’s not mine any longer.

Because of that mindset, I spent several years fumbling before I finally built a thriving creative business.

Around six years ago, I started asking for help.

At first that meant investing in some big-to-me (read pricey) courses that helped me figure out what markets I wanted to make art for.

And then it meant booking some coaching with a children’s book illustrator. That was pivotal for me. I’m not sure I would have found success in children’s books without her guidance in shifting my marketing and building a solid portfolio.

As a children’s book illustrator, I’ve had help from my agents over the years too. First at finding where my art fit into this industry and then during the process of rethinking my style/voice.

Mostly recently, in business I’ve benefitted from asking for help in the form of investing in more in-depth, upper-level courses and coaching too. Taking a class in copywriting helped me improve these weekly writings. Learning about FB ads and email lists and Pinterest marketing all helped me grow my creative business. Joining a mastermind group last year helped me feel confident in hiring my first team member, a virtual assistant.

Taking classes, working with coaches, investing in my business, and hiring help are all things that have fostered a sense of ease in my business. That ease has opened more space for creativity, room for new ideas to grow. That alone has been worth the investment.

Being on the other side, seeing the difference that asking for help has made in my illustration business, leaves me open to asking for help when I’m ready to level up my business again.

I know the benefits and I’m not shying away from asking for help when I need it.

It’s a pretty good feeling, knowing that I don’t have to figure out every single thing on my own. And that my success isn’t tarnished because I said, ‘hey I need to learn this thing and it’s ok to ask someone else to explain it to me.’

If I hadn’t open up to those things — taking classes, working with coaches, investing my business and my craft, and hiring help – I doubt I would be earning six figure revenues with goals to go even higher.

If you’re feeling that resistance to asking for help with your craft or business, for whatever reason, let that resistance go.

Invest in your craft and your business in whatever way you can right now.

What I don’t recommend is creating a mountain of debt for yourself. Do what is attainable now and as your business thrives, you can make bigger investments.

Six years ago, spending $200-$300 on a class was a big deal for me!

Over the years as my earnings have increased, I’ve been able to invest more into classes and coaching.

Start where you’re at and don’t feel like you need to spend $10K on a mastermind group right now in order to succeed.

Start small with a class to level up your craft or your business skills. Invest in a 1:1 coaching session with a mentor whose business path you admire.

Start taking small steps to move forward with your craft or your business.

If you’re at the beginning of your illustration career, asking for help might look like:

  • a portfolio review

  • a coaching session with someone who is successful in market you want to work in

  • a class on an art skill you want to work on

  • a class that focuses on business basics

  • a class or workshop on building an Instagram following

If you’ve already been working as an illustrator a few years, asking for help might look like:

  • a mastermind group or group coaching program

  • a longer term commitment with a coach, like 3 or 6 months

  • business-specific classes on ads, marketing, copywriting, sales pages, etc.

  • classes or coaching to help you develop other scalable sources of income

No matter where you’re at in your business, start by:

  • making a list of things you need help with

  • searching for help in the form of classes, coaches, member groups, etc

  • determining what is a feasible investment for your business

  • jumping right in and doing the thing!

Know this: it’s ok to want a thriving illustration business. It’s ok to want financial growth. And it’s ok to ask for help when you don’t know what you’re doing.

Let yourself be vulnerable, ask for help, act on what you learn, and then watch your illustration business blossom.

Comment below and share what you need help with in your illustration business!


  1. Janet Betz says:

    I am at the beginning and I’m not confident in my art skills so I have been taking free workshops, watching YouTube tutorials, and investing in quality art supplies. I have also been keeping a journal(ish) of story ideas. My background is writing and being an English teacher so the words are the easy part for me. I think my next step will be coaching or mentoring from an experienced author illustrator to show me the ropes of the industry.

  2. Marianne THIDLING says:

    After some time out to recharge my batteries and taking a step back to see where I’m at, I’ve gone back to the fundamentals of drawing. I’d hit a wall with my illustrations and couldn’t get any further. On Domestika and Skillshare I’ve found some solid, affordable courses in portrait-, animal- and plant drawing & painting, perspective drawing and so on that I’ll do one by one this year. As I also want to write my own books I’m picking up a writing course where I had to leave it last summer.

  3. Sophie says:

    After being a very part-time illustrator for 10+ years, I’m now really starting to get serious about it being my ‘real job’, but I think I’m trying to do it all at once and therefore struggling with most things! I’m mainly struggling to decide where I fit in the illustration world and the area that I want to work for. I’ve also had an Etsy shop for years too and that barely grazes the surface because I struggle with the technical aspects and the money side; having to buy prints to put on Etsy.
    I’m watching a lot of Skillshare videos at the moment, getting back to basics, similar to Marianne, with painting, drawing and figuring out what I LOVE to illustrate, plus tutorials on how to be successful on Etsy!
    Thank you for this blog and all the support you offer!

  4. Marina says:

    Hello, I think that my problem is first not knowing how to communicate well to the world and basically I would need, as you say, a coach who helps me.
    I thought about agents, many illustrators are followed by an agent, right?
    Even for the English language in which it is not really my strong field.

    But before looking for an agent I should make a portfolio and here open a lot of doubts about what to do and what if I wasted time to drawing 10 illustrations for the portfolio that no one consider.
    Even the themes disorient me, fairy, school….
    I guess my problem is I don’t know how to choose, I’d like to make everything I can do, but then I don’t start one.

    Thanks as always, you are an inspiration

  5. Julien Chung says:

    Hi, I agree with your approach. I have over the years used coaches, consultants, agents, workshops as resources and I learned a lot about, in my case, art licensing and picture books. I paid when I could afford it – training is a legitimate business expense. I also joined several associations – my local professional illustrator’s group (Illustration Quebec) and SCBWI. IQ offers a mentorship program (almost free) which pairs up a new illustrator with an experienced one for 10 weeks. Plus lots of reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Get the Free Course

This free mini course delivers simple exercises to help you find (or evolve) your art style. In under an hour, you'll uncover the tools to guide your art making with focus and intention. You'll be on your way to finding your art style. 

Free Mini Course: 
Find Your Style

Free Mini Course!

Need some help finding your art style? 

This quick (and free) mini course delivers exercises and ideas to help you uncover (or evolve) your art style.