There are loads of different factors to being a self-employed illustrator. You need to create your own art, develop your portfolio, market yourself and run your business. 

Using other people’s knowledge is a great way to find ideas and make your life easier. That’s why we’ve collected the best art books for you. 

The books below should all help with certain aspects of your business, and we have some more guides at the bottom too.

  • Becoming a Successful Illustrator
  • The Sketchbook of Loish
  • Show Your Work!
  • Illustrating Children’s Books

Best art books for self-employed illustrators

Whether you need help perfecting your art style, getting exposure, or running your business, we’ve found the best books to help you. 

Becoming a Successful Illustrator

Derek Brazell and Jo Davies

When you’re turning illustration into your career, you have to know how the industry works. Becoming a Successful Illustrator teaches you exactly that. 

Throughout the book, you’ll find loads of little tips and tricks from professional illustrators. You won’t just hear from illustrators though, but you’ll also find advice from clients and patrons.

You can expect Becoming a Successful Illustrator to run through:

  • How to find work
  • How to market yourself
  • Running your own illustration business

The information is well put together, and gives you a solid foundation to start building your illustration business successfully. 

You don’t have to worry about it being out of date either. The second edition was only published in 2017, so it’s quite recent. 

If you’re only just starting out, we thoroughly recommend you pick this up.

The Sketchbook of Loish: Art in Progress


Loish is a popular and renowned artist and illustrator. Her sketchbook walks you through an in-depth look into her process. 

The Sketchbook of Loish shows her work at different stages, and reveals how she turns sketches into incredible pieces of art. 

It’s got a couple of tutorials in it too. So you’re not just looking at someone else’s process, but also figuring out your own. 

Loish’s Sketchbook focuses on the art itself, which means it’s really useful at improving your artistic ability and finding your own style

On the other hand, it doesn’t touch on business management. So if you need help with the business side of things, you may want to look elsewhere.

Show Your Work!

Austin Kleon

For artists who just need to get their name out there, there’s Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. 

In his book, Kleon centres entirely on self-promotion and making a name for yourself. His fun little book Show Your Work! shares some excellent info for becoming ‘findable’

To get an idea of what’s inside, here are some of his chapter titles:

  • You don’t have to be a genius
  • Share something small every day
  • Tell good stories
  • Don’t turn into human spam

As you can probably tell, Show Your Work! doesn’t take itself too seriously — a refreshing change of pace. This fun style of writing makes it really easy to read again and again, perfect when you need to refer back.

If you’ve got the art side down, but you’re struggling with other people finding your work, then this is all you need

Illustrating Children’s Books

Martin Salisbury

The UK children’s books industry is worth about £400 million a year. Considering each book is jam-packed full of illustrations, it could be an excellent route for your business to follow

That’s exactly why you should check out Martin Salisbury’s Illustrating Children’s Books. This wonderful guide teaches you everything you need to know about illustrating a kids book. 

It includes step-by-step instructions, along with sketches and techniques, to create a range of childrens books. Some of the themes covered inside are:

  • Nature
  • Fairy tales
  • Fantasy
  • Realism

It even advises you on how to target your work to different age groups. 

Granted, illustrating a children’s book isn’t for everyone. But if the idea appeals to you, then it’s definitely something you should pick up

Where to next? 

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to make your own website. Your website should give your potential customers (and anyone interested) two things. A portfolio of your work, and how to contact you.

That way, you can use your website as a type of ‘calling card’ when you meet people. 

When you’re ready, check out our guide on how to make your own website. Once you’ve got that in place, your self-promotion can really begin. 

When you work for yourself, it’s very easy to get your work-life balance wrong. You can end up working far too much and burn out, or you can end up not working enough and struggle financially.

Finding the right balance is hard, especially if you have family around you or other commitments. If you feel like you’re in an unhealthy cycle, then give our guide ‘what is work-life balance?’ a look

We won’t promise it’ll solve everything, but it can give you some idea for how to take back control

Juggling your art, business, and finances can be pretty stressful — especially if you feel like you have no free time. So why not make things easy for yourself?

The Countingup app is the two-in-one business current account and accounting software that makes money management a cinch. Don’t believe us?

It’s got tons of cool features, all designed to make your life easier. 

Want to send a fully customised invoice with your logo, straight from your phone? You can.

How about automatically categorising your purchases into HMRC-compliant sections? It’s got that too. 

Best of all, the first three months are completely free
So what are you waiting for? Download the app now!