“Double-jobbing is so common – illustrators are undervalued creatives”

Last week, a survey revealed that over two thirds of illustrators need a second source of income to get by. Now, freelance designers and illustrators share their experiences of working two jobs.

Phil Bowell, freelance graphic and web designer, portfolio here

“I’m a freelance graphic and web designer and also work as a barista in an independent coffee shop. My week is usually split, working three days in the coffee shop and three days at home doing design. I picked up the second job a couple of years ago to provide some stable income after having a period off because of mental health problems. I needed to take away some of the pressure of an inconsistent income, along with the fear of not having enough work, then consequently taking on too much in the first place. In that sense, the second job has been a big help.

But when it comes to my creative work, the second job can be as much a frustration as it is a help. I’m less available for my clients, and I have to battle the fear that the second job makes me appear that I’m not as good a designer as I am. If I’m as good as I say I am, why is the second job there and why are there certain days I’m not as responsive? It’s a tension that doesn’t go away easily.”


Jacky Sheridan, freelance illustrator, portfolio here

“My experience of working two jobs is a bit different as my day job is working as a studio manager in an advertising agency 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. It’s great in a way, as I’ve learnt a lot from being on both sides of the coin. I’ve done this for about two years, with the odd stint lecturing in Illustration. I do it as I want the security of knowing I’m able to pay my rent and bills, without the stress of chasing invoices – something I still have to do far more often than I should, generally when dealing with bigger agencies, which should know better.

Working two regular jobs has a massive effect on my day-to-day life – I often work 12-15 hour weekdays, which has a knock-on effect on my social life, mental health and ability to just get basic life admin done. It’s not a sustainable lifestyle, but while I’m young, have the energy and am desperately seeking stability career-wise, I need to work like this. I think double-jobbing is so prevalent in freelance illustration as we’re undervalued as creatives and are often last on the list to get paid – we are the smallest fishes in the pond for the agencies and clients we secure work from.”

Murray Somerville, freelance illustrator, portfolio here

“I lived in London for seven years moonlighting jobs alongside my freelance illustration career. For the first three years, I worked full time as a barista-barman-waiter in various places. For the next four years, I worked part-time as an art technician in a secondary school. It could have been because I was living in London and had to contend with high rent but the truth is I’ve had to work tedious jobs to facilitate my existence alongside illustration.

Because of my chosen career path, I wanted to keep my identity and focus on my unique, illustrative style, but that comes with caveats. When I get commissioned because of my individual flare, it’s both validating and satisfying, because it means that the client wants me for my style and who I am. However, this also closes up other opportunities where clients are scared to take a risk.

This means I spend a lot of time and energy every week on something that isn’t my main trade or skill; I have to perform mental gymnastics, and tell myself that I am an illustrator and not just doing it as a hobby. It’s a tricky situation – I don’t have any regrets and I’ve managed to make some good money from illustration and be involved in awesome projects, but the bargaining I have to do with my own mind is draining.

Personally, I believe the industry has a problem with its payment culture – the top end clients still pay well but there’s a lot of competition for those jobs, while the mid-to-low end clients are offering unreasonable budgets. I’m now doing an MA in game design in Copenhagen and recently got an agent for my illustration. My end goal is for my main income to come purely from my creativity, which I think – in this current working climate – requires a lot of grit and self-determination.”

Are you a freelance designer, illustrator or artist who has to work two jobs to make ends meet? Share your experiences in the comments below, or email [email protected].

Hide Comments (3)Show Comments (3)
  • Charlie Brown February 2, 2018 at 4:33 am

    Where to start… I’m not convinced your editorial bods have chosen the right people to highlight this particular industry issue. I suspect the real and honest crux of the problem for these three individuals is that they are all single, and trying to pay the bills with mediocre creative talents (judging by their portfolios) to fall back on.

    • Sarah Dawood February 5, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Hi Charlie,

      We asked freelance creatives to come to us through social media. We wanted to hear the stories of people who don’t often get a voice, rather than going to regular contributors.

      Design Week team

  • Simon Dormer February 6, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Charlie
    I agree with you on the first part but calling their talent ‘mediocre’ is pretty harsh. I’m guessing your at http://www.charliebrowndesign.com/. Your work is great but maybe you’ve been at it longer. How about you offer some support rather than being so critical.

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