Building a career as an illustrator with Johanna Basford

You might be wondering what are the steps to beginning an illustration career. You admire others who are building their own careers as an illustrator but you have no idea where to start. All you know, is that you want to become an illustrator! I had the privilege of talking to Johanna Basford all about her own successful illustration career.
Johanna Basford

I have been a great admirer of Johanna’s work for years. Her work makes you want to curl up in front of a fire, with a hot cup of coffee and a pack of colourful pens. The world slows down, and you find yourself at peace. It is no mean feat for someone’s work to have that effect on you.

“Consider trading in your yoga mat for a set of markers and peruse the gorgeous gardens of Basford’s imagination”- Huffington Post

Johanna has been carving out her career as an inky illustrator for years. She didn’t start this way though. It was a journey of pivots and changes that we can all learn from.

In this podcast Johanna explains how she became the worldwide known adult colouring book illustrator, and how those pivots helped her to focus on what she loved.

You can listen to it here:


How to build your career

Worrying about having everything right isn’t going to get you started. The worry won’t disappear, but taking action will help you to head in the right direction towards your goals.

  1. Start with what you know. What do you love doing? What makes you excited and you want to share it with the world?
  2. Think about the money (but not too much!). What can you create as a side-hustle? How long will it take you to earn the money to make it your main job?
  3.  Who are your dream clients? Follow them on social media, create examples of your work on their products. You want a job with Nike? Show Nike that you can design shoes, clothing products etc. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
  4. Build up your social media presence. Get your work out there. Make sure that people can see what you are doing. If you want to be a packaging designer but no-one has commissioned you to make designs for their products yet- start making your own versions of brands that you want to work with. Sometimes people need to see what you are capable of before they give you the job.
  5. Knock on doors. If there is one take away from this podcast, it is this. If you want it to happen, you need to help the universe make it happen. Part of that is you going out there and knocking on doors. Yes it can make you want to dig a hole and hide away, and yes you need to make yourself vulnerable. But without taking those risks, no-one is going to know who you are, or the amazing work that you are creating.

Find support

Only one in three entrepreneurs in the UK are women! This is a gender gap that I would like to see closed.

Trying to do everything yourself, can feel like a lonely business rather than an exciting one. Reach out to others that are building their careers and businesses. Support each other and share contacts, tips and resources. There is so much support online and in person. Taking the first steps to know what you want it going to help you find the people who can support you.

If you are looking for a way to buy new equipment, or test out a new idea, Crowdfunding can help you. Back Her Business in association with Crowdfunder are offering up to 50% of your fundraising target (up to £5000). They are also providing mentoring opportunities and opportunities to meet other likeminded women. You can find out more about it here: TELL ME MORE!

To get you started thinking about your business idea, I have created a free workbook for you. You can access it below. Building a career as an illustrator

If you would like to see more of Johanna’s amazing work, and pre-order her new book which teaches you how to create your own Inky Wonderlands
head on over to: