Words of Wisdom-Kevin William Cross

“Just had another client tell me on a Friday that they want the world and they want it by Monday morning. Too many illustrators allow themselves to get steamrolled by this I think. Thus making this kind of request standard. Lately I’ve frequently been finding myself saying, “I don’t have office hours over the weekend, but I’ll happily get back to your project on Monday.”


Illustrators aren’t servants. We are professionals and deserve to be treated thusly. If you are an illustrator who lets clients order you around, please remember this. Act accordingly. Don’t get pushed around. Be thankful for the business, but don’t be treated like a second class citizen. They need us just as much as we need them.”

-Kevin William Cross

San Francisco Bay Area native, Kevin Cross, is an illustrator and cartoonist currently living in Portland, Oregon with his rad wife and their beautiful new born daughter. He has done storyboarding, design, and illustration work for many clients including Marvel Entertainment, IDW Publishing, THQ Games, Real Skateboards, and Spitfire Wheels. When not working on professional freelance illustration assignments, he writes and illustrates his own funny books and has been playing guitar for various punk rock outfits since 1985.

See more of his work on his website. Find more of his experiences and wisdom on his blog and facebook pages.



  1. Mary Roche

    I can not thank you enough for writing these words of wisdom. I could not have said it better. I am relatively new in the world of professional illustration and I am overwhelmed by the words ‘needs asap’, and ‘must be comfortable with tight deadlines’ when reviewing prospective job postings. When someone goes into a mechanic’s shop, they usually don’t get to say: “This needs to be done by the end of this weekend”. They would be laughed right out of the shop. Furthermore, someone with the level of training and education I have should not be relegated to pay that amounts to 10.00-15.00/hr as a freelance artist. I was even offered a fulltime animation position that was salaried at 12,000 about a year ago, without any room for negotiation, or salary increase once I proved myself. The excuse was they were a ‘start up company’. How does an owner or director find the temerity to tell a skilled crafts person that they should be comfortable with working long hours with little room for a break or even time to sleep, at wages that amount well bellow poverty level!? All the while assuming proprietary rights to all work that is created by that artist’s hands. And what is wrong with those of us who are so willing to say “Ok! I’m in!” And what I find equally offensive is that some of those same owners and directors that are complicit in practices like this were once artists themselves. I do not mind maintaining a level of productivity that allows for profits to be made. But I should not be expected to generate those profits alone, while someone else assumes rights to just about all those profits. I hope we as professionals are somehow able to band together in more solidarity. We need more legal muscle. Maybe even unionize ourselves. I know some people find those dirty words. But these are basic rights that we are allowing ourselves to be stripped of. Fortunately, I have other avenues I can rely on for income. And I will not allow those rights to be taken from me. So I for one, will not be treated like a servant. And I will not allow my work to be stolen. Thanks again for the words of fortitude.

  2. Chris

    Truer words could not have been spoken. So often I see clients neglect to even factor in professional graphics to their projects. I had a recent client state that they had not including a “graphics” budget into the project which was a graphics-intensive interactive computer-based training application. I had to limit my hours because they were being taken away from the “senior project managers” hours. So often clients take for granted the benefit of a trained graphics professional (with 7 years of college in my case) in the success of their projects. They tend to think Microsoft Publisher is all they need often leaving the visual aspect of their entire project in the hands of an intern or overworked secretary (who often deligates it to an intern or friend they know who can supposedly draw).
    We need to return to the pre-computer times where good artists and illustrators, and graphics professionals were considered rock stars and highly sought after. We all can help by demanding greater credit and visibility on projects and bringing awareness to the training, hard work, and cost of being a design professional today as well as the extreme benefit we bring to each and every project. Many of us have as much college as the “senior project manager” or an engineer for that matter, as well as a rare and gifted natural talent. Its time companies treat us farely and with the respect we have earned, (and much thanks to those successful and growing companies that already do so!)

  3. Mark Tereau

    Very true words. But there are so many artists out there and many settle for what they can get so how can you get clients to wise up? They are short on funds just like everyone, so how can they be made to pay what we are worth? I’m not for unions when they abuse the employers and foster a culture of laziness and the union leaders often don’t listen to the people in the union. I can’t get into illustration. I don’t know how. I’d love to be doing illustration. I need to work up some better stuff and a better website.
    Hey Kevin, how do you like it up here in Portland?

    God bless and do well,

    • WilsonWJr

      Thanks Mark! I’m curious, why can’t you get into illustration? What do you think is holding you back?

    • Lisa Schwaberow

      I am curious as to why you can’t get work either, your work is very, detailed and beautiful! Of course I say that and I can’t get work as an illustrator either, but I just started working hard on my illustration skills so I have only been at it about 6 months. I am trying to make the switch over from web design to illustration (my passion).
      Have you considered writing children’s books and illustrating them?

  4. Chris

    I’m kinda carrying on this conversation both here and on Linkin but I’ll keep it going.

    Its a fine line between keeping a customer or taking a chance. I recall an old story of a firm that was overworked and underpaid with clients that they could never seem to satisfy so they decided to quadruple their prices overnight. They lost a lot of customers but gained better ones. In the end they were working less for much better customers. Its a tough choice but I think clients who understand the value of a designer are more organized and are willing to pay and communicate much better.

  5. Lisa Schwaberow

    I would take a rush job in a heartbeat but it would come with a very hefty price tag….if they really want to use you for the job then they will hopefully plan ahead next time!


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