Making Money as an illustrator in Africa.

Let's dispel the myth of the financially hopeless creative. Here are four ways to generate income as a creative. You can trade time for money, you can trade information for money, You can exchange a product for money and you can put something to work for money. This article will give a very high-level explanation of the pros and cons of each method.

The article is primarily targeted at final-year creative students & early career illustrators and designers with an affinity for creative entrepreneurship. My aim is to inspire further inquiry. I’m not an expert on creative entrepreneurship and I have no intention of portraying myself as one, so I encourage you to challenge anything that doesn't align with your personal experience.

1. Trading Time For Money

This is the most common and accessible way to make money as a creative. You build a portfolio; Illustration, Logo design, Motion design, etc, and send it to advertising agencies, design agencies, or whoever requires your services. They will usually ask you for a rate card. You can charge hourly, Daily, or Monthly. This includes full-time employment.

It’s easily accessible. If you’re a student starting from scratch this is a great place to start. Getting a job allows you to gain valuable experience and insight. This is a great opportunity to develop structure by formalising your creative process.

You only have 24 hours in a day. Time is a limited asset so trading your personal time for money isn’t scalable, there’s only so much you can do in a day. You’re a human being, you have to make time for family & friends, you have to cook, and you have to clean your apartment. Long story short you have other things to do.

Example: Freelancer, In-house designer Design Agency.

2. Sharing Information for Money

Everyone knows something useful that someone else doesn't know. This method is sharing your knowledge to make cash. Maybe you’ve been working as a freelance graphic designer and you’d like to share your knowledge with
students. You can host online coaching sessions with young designers record them and use the content to market yourself online.

It's not linked to time. We live in an age where information is easily accessible, if you can leverage what you know the possibilities are vast. Let's say you record your coaching session and post it online. In theory, you only have to create it once(let us assume you’re marketing it). It has the potential to keep working for you. The biggest benefit is the investment you’re making in yourself; you can establish yourself as an expert in your field.

This requires some experience. You have to have something valuable to share. Yes, everyone knows something that someone else doesn’t know, but is it useful knowledge? The space is oversaturated so if you don't have anything new to add it's easy to get lost in a sea of online gurus. If your knowledge is limited it will be hard to make valuable content.

Example: Online courses, How-to manuals, Podcasts

3. Creating a Product /Rendering a Service for Money

If you’re an illustrator you can sell stock illustrations for money that's a product. If you’re a design agency your can render service for money; create brand identities for brands. The main idea here is that you create something valuable or provide a valuable service that you exchange for money.

The success of your product is not linked to time. You only have to make the stock illustrations once. Every time they sell you’re making money even though you’ve stopped working. It’s a little different if you're a design agency creating brand identities, yes you’re offering a product but when you stop working you stop making money.

Everything is already being sold, there’s usually someone who can produce the product or render the service for cheaper with better quality output. If you’re rendering a service time is limited & this may require some managerial skills.

Example: Design Agency, Selling Prints, Stock illustration, NFTs

4. Making your Money Work For You

This is where I have the least experience, in theory, you’re a Design/Advertising agency and you make millions in profit a year. You can take some of your earnings and put them into an investment and your money grows over time.

The income is completely passive.

You need to have a lot of money and access to solid financial advice. Sometimes stock fall and you lose money

Example: Investing your money, Bitcoin

Conclusion

There are four main ways to approach making money as a creative professional in Africa. The first and most accessible involves trading your time. The second involves an exchange of information. The third is what most businesses do, providing a product or service for money and the last one involves using your money to make money. These are all possibilities and there are no guarantees that any of them will work for you but that doesn't mean it’s not worth a try.

  • Disclaimer
    This isn't meant to be a quick fix. My aim was to just get you thinking.
    I encourage you to do your own research. Focus on what's practical and ignore the rest. I’m no expert on entrepreneurship. I just enjoy learning. Please leave a comment if anything is unclear and I'm happy to chat.

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Musonda Kabwe

I’m an Illustrator from Johannesburg South Africa. I’m passionate about personal development & creative business education.