International Artist…who me?? The items you need to begin

Every now and then we get questions from our readers and Reem’s seemed like a great one to answer and put in a post for everyone to see.  Thanks Reem!

Hi I’m new to the group and I find a lot of good and useful articles like yours so thanks a lot on that article it was really enlightening for me as it’s quite different in my country “Egypt”, and since you seem to have a good experience can you tell if it’s possible to draw illustrations for a publisher overseas ? as I would like to widen my experience, and if it’s possible how can I sign a contract or deliver my illustrations and all these details.
So if you can help me with your advice and experience I would really appreciate it, and also anyone who had a similar experience are welcome to comment.


Artwork Copyright Wilson Williams, Jr

Hello Reem,

In this day and age distance is no longer a hindrance in whom you work with. Only language barriers may prove a problem and there’s apps for that as well. (though it would be best to find clients that speak languages you easily understand. In no way would I recommend hinging your communication with a client on translation software.) I work with people in other countries and it works perfectly fine.

These are the basic things you’ll need to accomplish what you want in both a minimum and maximum capacity.

At the very least:
Internet,  E-Mail Account, Scanner(if you work traditionally), PayPal

At the most:
Internet, E-Mail Account, Scanner/Printer/Fax, PayPal, Server Space/Online Storage, FTP program, Telephone/Skype, Skype Headset/Camera

One of the primary essential item you need, you have already shown you possess, internet access. With this you’ll research companies that go beyond your geographic boundaries. Very few illustrators think about the fact that their services can be used across the world and not just in their native country. When we say you need to “Spread Your Wings” this is the type of thing we are talking about. Think of not only other markets you can gain work in but also other geographic areas. You are on the right track thinking this way Reem.

Many large publishers even have international divisions located in other countries. Use your favorite search engine to search for international publishers. You can also check their websites and see if they offer the site in varied languages. Multiple languages on a site are usually a good indication that they have divisions in multiple countries.

E-Mail Account:
Essential largely for having an easy and affordable way to contact and correspond with your clients as well as transfer files to them. There are free e-mail services and some will even offer a limited amount of server storage space which can be used to transfer larger files. (More on that later.)

For fund transfer and payments. PayPal is the quickest and most efficient way to exchange funds with international clients. When it comes to royalties and longer term payments you can arrange for those to be handled via mail. You will need to figure in Paypal’s cut to your cost as well as the exchange rates for varying money across the globe. Paypal has these things built into their site.

Most printers in this day and age come with a fax machine built into them, as well as a scanner for that matter.

  • Scanner: If you work traditionally, the quickest way for things to function is if you are able to professionally photograph or scan your work into the computer.  If you work digitally then that step is taken care of.  If you prefer to have your work photographed and scanned by a professional service please know that this can be expensive.
  • Fax:  If your client prefers to have the contract faxed rather than e-mailed or snail mailed this will allow you to do that.
  • Printer:  If and when you receive a contract you’ll need to either sign it digitally using a program like Photoshop or print it out, sign it and scan it back in. Depending on the client you may even be required to have your signature notarized. In which case you’ll most likely have to mail it back to your client. Preferably mailed  certified so that the client has to sign to get it and a receipt is sent back to you as proof they received it.  You should incorporate the cost of these mailings into your price for the work. Also note that many e-mail services offer receipt services so that you have proof an e-mail has been received and opened.

Server Space/Online Storage:
You may need to have an alternative storing and transfer area for large files. This is because large files may not be accepted by all e-mail services.  Many have limits on the sizes attached files can be.

Either use your own server space, most likely where you host your e-mail or website if you have one. Google offers Google Drive with their e-mail accounts which gives you 5 GB of free space.  You can also use a free service like Dropbox that gives you limited free space for storage.

FTP Progam:
Be sure to check with your client at the beginning of your assignment to see if they have a preferred method of transfer. Many of them will have their own server space and will set up accounts for you to transfer files to them. In which case you will need either a web design program with built in FTP (File transfer protocol)capabilities like Dreamweaver or GoLive or you can also use a free one that is available online for download like Filezilla. (This is the one I use.)

If a situation comes up where a client or you feels that you need to actually speak with one another to explain something or whatever the case may be. (Sometimes direction is difficult to communicate solely via e-mail.) You’ll need to have phone access.

If you worry about International rates a way to get around that is to have a Skype account or something  similar. Skype doesn’t charge if you and the person you are speaking to both have Skype accounts. Sp get your client to sign up if they aren’t already or find an alternative means to do so like Google Chat.

Skype headsets/camera:
To access Skype or a similar conferencing program you will need a headset or camera with audio capabilities. Most newer laptops come with these properties built into them. Otherwise you can purchase your own.

In most instances Reem you’ll primarily need the very first two. The others can be accommodated without a large amount of additional cost. Having everything listed puts you in a position to handle any instance that may come up. But in general the first two should handle most of your initial needs in being capable of handling international clients. Not to mention that of the seven optimal items five are potentially free.

Another thing to also remember is time variation depending on where someone is located in the world. Be sure to synchronize your watches in those initial communications as well. You can do this by simply searching, “What time is it in (insert city, state, country)?” in a search engine and the answer will appear.

Good luck!


  1. Pat

    Another good post, Wilson! This issue came up just last night at a meeting of the Bucks County Illustrators Society. I asked one of our members, who does artwork for foreign companies, how does she handle the payment part of the deal, because monetary exchange rates are complicated. She said she has a Paypal account and that is universal, so her clients usually pay into that account.

  2. Mili

    Great post! Must confess, this is the first time I heard of FTP Program. Not quite sure what it is. So far, I managed to get through using Google Documents, and the Hotmail equivalent (can’t recall the name at the moment).

    • WilsonWJr

      Glad you like it Mili! FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It’s a program that allows you access to someone else’s server. They can limit your access by the level they assign you. So I could give you a password to a single folder on my server that you would then use an FTP program to upload your files to. IF you’ve found other means to do this then that’s great! But sometimes companies have a set way that they want files sent to them and that can include using FTP. Luckily the program is free and fairly user friendly. Hope that helps!!

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  4. Steve Feldman

    PayPal is a good option but there are countries that payment cannot be accepted from. Egypt is one of those. It is helpful to specify at the outset which currency payment will be made in. Currency values fluctuate in relation to each other and receiving payment in a foreign currency can be something of a gamble. There are currency table converters online that are very useful in letting you know that days rate. I have held checks or rushed them to the bank depending on USD trends.

    • WilsonWJr

      Thanks Steve! I was fairly positive that you could get PayPal payments from Egypt. Matter of fact I thought I had at least once. I may be wrong though it was a while ago.

      PayPal has a currency converter but if you use something else, what is your go to place online to get current rates?

  5. Steve Feldman

    Maybe PayPal policy changed due to events of the last year? I recently licensed usage of an illustration to a client in Egypt and PayPal was my first choice for receiving payment but not available.
    I like this converter:;to=EUR;amt=1


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