top of page

Tips for Aspiring Illustrators: How to Break into the Industry

Hi there, today I want to share some tips for aspiring illustrators who are looking to break into the industry. I'm Anna Lena Feunekes, and I've been writing and drawing for as long as I can remember, so it’s no surprise that I ended up working as an author and illustrator. My journey took a unique path, including studying Industrial Design, and I'm excited to share what I've learned along the way. Whether you're just starting out or looking to refine your craft, I hope my story and these tips will inspire and guide you.

Hone your craft with patience & joy, most of all!

One of the most important aspects of becoming a successful illustrator is developing a unique style. Your style is what sets you apart from others and makes your work recognizable. My illustration work is infused with a mix of collage, paint, and digital tools, creating a distinctive look that adds depth and life to my projects. I draw inspiration from all things nostalgic—old buildings, books, gardening, cooking, and reading. This blend of influences helps me create illustrations that are rich and engaging. I find that the art I had the most fun creating, gets the most response in terms of potential projects and clients. Sappy but true.

To find your style, experiment with different mediums and techniques. Don’t be afraid to mix traditional and digital tools, and let your interests and passions guide your creative process. The more you practice and explore, the more your unique style will emerge. It also helps a ton to know your classics and find influences in other artists, discovering who makes your taste buds tingle. It's like a lightning rod for discovering what you love. Give it some reflection if you find it and don't copy: try to distill the element there that's at the core of the feeling that drew you to it in the first place.

A portfolio is the window display to your career.

Your portfolio is your calling card in the illustration industry. It showcases your best work and demonstrates your range and skills. When I was starting out, I learned to make sure to include a variety of pieces that highlighted my ability to work with different subjects and techniques - but only in the areas I wanted to find work in. For example, my portfolio includes illustrations from children's non-fiction books, which combine my love for storytelling and visual art.

Make sure your portfolio is well-organized and easy to navigate. Include high-quality images of your work and provide some context for each piece—brief descriptions or the story behind the illustration can add depth and interest. Keep your portfolio updated with your latest and best work, and tailor it to the type of jobs you’re seeking.

Take the time to make connections - and be a person in a world of random online profiles.

Networking is crucial in any creative industry. Building relationships with other illustrators, authors, and industry professionals can open doors to new opportunities. Attend industry events, join online communities, and participate in art and illustration forums. Social media platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn are also great for connecting with other creatives and showcasing your work.

My representation by literary agent Christabel McKinley at David Higham Associates has been a significant milestone in my career. Having an agent can help you navigate contracts, negotiate better deals, and connect with potential clients. If you’re looking for representation, research agents who specialize in your area of illustration and submit your portfolio according to their guidelines. When doing acquisition, whether it be for an agent or a client, always keep in mind the person on the receiving end and what they want to receive. Nobody likes to be at the receiving end of a mass-email that the creator clearly didn't enjoy putting together just for them. See it as an artistic friendly note rather than a desperate attempt at finding work. Much better no?

Always keep learning - especially if you're not getting any work

The illustration industry is always evolving, and staying current with new trends and techniques is essential. Invest time in learning new skills and improving your craft. Take online courses, attend workshops, and study the work of other illustrators. Keeping your skills sharp and staying inspired will help you remain competitive and innovative.

I continue to learn and grow by exploring different aspects of my interests, like gardening and cooking, which often find their way into my illustrations. By staying curious and passionate, you’ll keep your work fresh and exciting. One of the ways I do this is on my Patreon, which is basically an excuse to document my inspirations and art projects. There is a video of me creating boeuf bourgignon in 2023 that I shared with my Patrons, before painting the recipe for the community project I was doing back then!

Share your work everywhere - and don't be shy.

Promotion is key to getting your work noticed. Create a professional website where potential clients can view your portfolio, read your blog, and contact you. I use my website to share my projects and connect with clients who want to hire me for illustration projects.

Utilize social media to share your work and engage with your audience. Posting regularly, using 'relevant' hashtags (whatever that means honestly, I still haven't a clue) and interacting with followers can increase your visibility and attract clients. Don’t be shy about promoting your work—if you believe in your art, others will too. I like to make playful videos of my art projects, because they just speak louder visually often times.

Try breaking into the industry in a way that suits you

One of the most effective ways to market yourself as an illustrator is by sending out personalized art postcards and writing personal emails. Instead of treating potential clients as mere leads, approach them as individuals. Share a bit about yourself and your passion for illustration in your correspondence, but don't write entire chapters and bother others with your longggggg stories. When I started out, I found that taking the time to write thoughtful, personal emails and sending unique postcards featuring my artwork made a significant impact. It showed that I genuinely cared about building a relationship rather than just seeking a job. This human touch not only helps you stand out but also fosters genuine connections within the industry. Remember, people appreciate sincerity and are more likely to respond positively when they feel valued and understood.


Breaking into the illustration industry takes time, dedication, and persistence. By developing a unique style, building a strong portfolio, networking, continuously learning, and promoting your work, you can carve out a successful career as an illustrator. If you have an illustration project you want to hire me for, feel free to message me through my contact page or email me at

Got excited about seeing my illustration process? Consider joining my patreon at :)

Remember, every illustrator's journey is unique. Embrace your path, stay true to your passions, and keep creating. Good luck!

9 views0 comments


bottom of page