Funding my PhD

Creating Illustrated Manuals If You Can’t Draw

I’ve been wondering for some time if I should write some illustrated manuals for product photography in order to help fund my PhD. I’ve been asked to produce a guide many times over the last few years by several creative business owners. It makes sense really, I did spend a year working in a top fashion catalogue photography studio and I learned many skills during that time.

It’s been rewarding to put that photography knowledge into practice in my own costume making business, and I’m entirely sure it has helped my sales. I know personally that I hesitate to buy anything online that doesn’t have great pictures. I’m sure others must be the same.

So what’s stopping me? I guess it’s because I can’t draw.

To be honest, I’ve got the writing bit down. I’ve been writing for magazines and other outlets as a freelancer for years now. The problem is that visual manuals are best. And if you can’t draw, then how do you create the illustrations that you need in order to demonstrate what you’re trying to teach your reader?

My illustration of the Glass Tank Gallery at Oxford Brookes University.

I taught myself a little bit of Google Sketchup in my second year at University in order to create some visuals for a project, but illustrating a whole book? It seems a little out of my league! I got kicked off my A Level Art course just five weeks in while I was at school, so confidence in my drawing skills has never been particularly high!

How do you produce illustrated manuals if you can’t draw?

Thankfully there are technical illustrators out there who will help you put together illustrated manuals, which is great for people like myself. Who can’t draw. At all. (Well maybe they can draw a little bit, but not enough for a job like this).  And of course they’ll be able to create a style that works with your brand too, making everything feel coherent when you go on to write more books and manuals.

Sometimes the right option really is to speculatively pay someone to do the bits of the job that you’re not very good at in order to produce a more marketable product overall. You’ve got to take that gamble sometimes, right?

Being well illustrated can make the difference between a how-to book selling or not, especially in the fast-moving world of e-books and online business. If your manual or book doesn’t get good reviews right from the start, then you’ve already lost a large portion of your sales. Every small business owner will know that a product needs to make an impact the moment you launch it, otherwise you’ll have wasted a considerable amount of time and potentially money too. First impressions stay with people. And once someone has a first impression that is negative of your brand it can be very hard to change that.

If you’re considering, as I am, producing an illustrated manual on your specialist subject then sometimes it’s better to reach out to people who can help you to create your vision successfully. Occasionally even the solo entrepreneur has to admit that they can’t quite manage to do everything themselves.