Upwork is ****** up

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @NessIllustration Fair enough. I'd simply be surprised if a soft cover book was stitched. If they sent you illustrator copies should be easy enough to check.

  • Pro

    @davidhohn I haven't yet received my author copies for that one (doesn't come out until the Spring), but I went to check my older 24 page books and they do actually look perfect bound! It's just sheets folded once and glued into the spine, right?

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @NessIllustration Probably, yeah. I know that you can perfect bind single pages together into a book but they are really delicate.

    I was just looking at some the paperback/softcover picture books in my library. These are all paperback versions of books that started out as trade picture books so they are 32 pages + endpapers long. To me they look like two signatures (each signature probably stitched together) that have been glued (perfect bound) to the thicker paper that makes up the cover.

    So I bet there are a variety of different ways each publisher, and their preferred printer, put the books together.

  • Pro

    @davidhohn Still, you are right that 22 pages is very unlikely. Unless he meant 22 illustrated pages and he plans to add additional blank pages, or credit pages, or something.

  • @NessIllustration yeah I have no clue about that, they didn't elaborate any further than that.

    Also what are other things I should watch out for when it comes to newcoming authors? Like CMYK printing?

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @Michael-Angelo-Go All printing is CMYK printing. No need to worry about that.

    Things to watch out for (not deal-breakers exactly, but definite warning signs):

    • If the author is both the editor and art director
    • Requests to do sample pieces without payment.
    • Situations in which the author says any variation on the following phrase: "This character is based on my mom/dad/grandmother/dog/highschoolboyfriend, soooooo can you make it look like them?"

  • @davidhohn Ooh this was for a book about a dog character based on their own actual dog.

  • Pro

    @Michael-Angelo-Go Oh goodie. Will Terry explained very well on his Youtube channel why this is terrible. He says that it's not something that improves the book for the readers (who don't even know the dog/daughter/grandma) so it's purely for the author's personal pleasure, they are not thinking objectively about what a book needs to be successful and they are not prioritizing the right things. And then because they intimately know that dog/daughter/grandma in real life, they are usually extremely picky and a pain in the ass about it and it leads to countless tweaks (My grandma has slightly bigger eyebrows. She looks a tad too cheerful, in real life she didn't smile that wide. She wouldn't wear this daffodil pattern shirt, she didn't like daffodils.) This adds a lot of work to the project, without adding any value for the readers who don't give a damn about this stuff.

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    Ooh this was for a book about a dog character based on their own actual dog.

    @Michael-Angelo-Go ^OF COURSE it was . . .^
    Pretty sure you dodged a bullet there.

    But starting out there's no way to know this stuff -- unless you go through it yourself (never fun) -- or ask people who have already made the mistake (sooo much better for you, and the mistake-er gets to feel like they are being helpful. A win-win!)

  • @davidhohn Now that I think about it, isn't it true that every self-publishing author is "both the editor and art director"? Because if so I already my mistake with that one with my previous client on Upwork, they were a hassle. I do not want to say anything bad about them, but let's just say they asked for so many revisions due to a lack of clarity, to a point that they asked for even more revisions after I was rated, i.e. the contract is over. And they had the audacity to give me an attitude about it and call me rude when I kindly explained to them that I would willingly still help them, but have them know that in mind.

  • @NessIllustration Ooh which video is that?

  • @Michael-Angelo-Go Not sure which video, but the podcast had a great early episode about it: "10 Reasons I Won't Illustrate Your Children's Book"


    They talk about a lot of this in that episode!

  • Pro

  • I learned a lot reading this thread. Thank you guys

  • Hi, @davidhohn, @Michael-Angelo-Go & @NessIllustration -- just thought I'd add a little clarification since I did (unfortunately) start out my freelancing art career on Elance (now Upwork -- NOT something I'd recommend, but that's a different story and at the time I needed a paycheck).

    YES, Upwork is a nonnegotiable work-for-hire situation -- lousy terms. However, all the clients that I worked with on Upwork were more than happy to give me permission to show the artwork in my portfolio. (And honestly, that's all I would've used that artwork for anyway.)

    Yes, the client probably did say 22-page book, and yes, they probably didn't know what they were doing. This is VERY common to see with newbie self-publishing authors.

    And yes, self-publishing clients are the "boss", the editor, and the art director. Most of my clients had very little knowledge about the illustration process or the process of publishing a book, and most had no art experience. It does make the process a little challenging, to say the least.

    A note about 24-page books. Most self-published authors choose to publish their books using print-on-demand services like KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Ingram Spark, which have a minimum page count of 24. PODs have different printing specs since they print books using inkjet printers rather than offset printers. They print in multiples of 4: 24, 28, 32 pages, etc. Both KDP & Ingram Spark require the last page of a book to be left blank for their use. So if you're hired to illustrate a 24-page PB that will be POD, you actually deliver 23 pages of content, as page 24 needs to be kept blank.

    Hope this helps clear things up -- or muddy the waters???

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @Melissa-Bailey-0 That really clears a bunch of things up nicely! Thanks very much!

    As with all things in being a freelancer there is no one way to conduct your business. What works for one freelance illustrator may not work at all for another and visa versa.

    The thing that I find most important is the sharing of information and experiences so that everyone go in with their eyes open and an understanding of what they are agreeing to.

    With that in mind, my thanks to everyone who has (or will) contribute to this thread!

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 Thank you for clarifying that up.

    I really hope this deal was really worth letting go. I think I was just obsessing about the previous client that I sold my rights to. We were working on a children's book with 18 pages (with lots of revisions) for $500 that was later uped to 40 pages for only $900 (with a lot of revisions still). They were very clear to me that they did not want me to share anything about the book until everything was absolutely published.

    They have yet to publish the book (we finished everything last year in August) and they still haven't uploaded it on Amazon KDP or Ingram Sparks. It was a lot of work and while at first I thought the paycheck was lovely, I did feel a little underpaid by the end. I just didn't want to get into another situation where I would be working for a long time on a project for so little, and by the end, not have any material that might help me jump to the next project.

    Then again... this client did come across as impulsive, so maybe I dodged a potential bad review if I worked hard and still dissapointed the client? In my experience so many self-publishing authors that I have met or worked with have a really bad attitude or are just plain disrespectful. But I know not all of them are or else I would have never proposed or continue using the site.

  • @Michael-Angelo-Go it sounds like it was a good decision to make. When I've had a similar experience in the past, it helped to chalk it up as a chance to learn something and perhaps adjust things that need adjusting.

    Some things that you might find helpful if you continue to look for clients on Upwork:

    • Figure out how much you want to make per hour, how many hours the job will take to complete, and bid accordingly (this formula works for both fixed-price and hourly jobs). It may mean asking clarifying questions. Don't forget to build Upwork fees into that price.

    • Clearly state your terms. Yes, you've agreed to work for hire, meaning that you give away all your rights to the work. But even within Upwork's terms, you still can write your own terms into your bid. For example, specify that you would like permission to show the work in your portfolio. Specify what work the price you're bidding includes, and what it doesn't.

    • (Related to terms) Don't offer unlimited revisions. (Unless you're okay potentially working with a client who abuses that provision.) When I bid for work on Elance/Upwork, I made sure to specify what was included in the price, including 3 rounds of revision -- along with the wording that if more than 3 rounds of revision were needed, I would be happy to continue revising at $25 per round of revision. After I started doing that, I don't think a client ever went over 3 rounds of revision!

    • Communicate! (This really applies to working with all clients...) Communication, especially at the outset, is actually difficult to do on Upwork because they don't allow you to contact the client with questions before you place your bid -- depending on your Upwork membership, they might not even let you see who the client is. What I would do is place a bid, sometimes even specifying that this is a generalized bid because of a vague job description, and ask to chat (there is a built-in chat feature) or communicate further with the client before accepting the job.

    Implementing these 4 things really helped make the Upwork experience better for me and my clients. While there were some frustrating clients, I never really had a BAD client experience on Upwork. My last few years on Elance/Upwork, I didn't really search for work; mainly it came through job invites. And if the client didn't give enough information in the job description (very common) and balked at providing more information, or if they told me I didn't need to read the story before accepting the job (one of my nonnegotiables is reading the MS beforehand), or if they told me how long it would take me to do the work and so they wouldn't need to pay me more than $X ... I politely declined. So maybe that steered me clear of "disrespectful, bad-attitude" clients?

    Hope you find my experience helpful in some way. All the best!

  • @davidhohn you're very welcome, and thanks for being the voice of reason and pointing out that freelancing comes in all forms.

    Reading over my previous reply, it came across more negative than I intended (but, yeah, I'm not really a fan of Upwork, so that bias came through loud and clear!).

    In the interests of sharing information so anyone reading this can come to their own informed decision, the following are some pros and cons of working on Upwork. (Disclaimer: this is based on my own personal experiences. Other freelancers have had other experiences and may have different opinions.)


    • Jobs are posted in a way so you can easily find and bid on them.
    • Upwork's escrow and payment protection services ensure that you'll get paid.
    • You get to choose what jobs you apply for and work with clients from all over the world.
    • You get to work from home and do what you love.


    • The freelancer does not retain copyright. Upwork is a work-for-hire site and their general contract overrides an individual client/freelancer agreement. If a freelancer works on Upwork, they're agreeing to give away all rights to their work. If they want to show the work in a portfolio or on social, they need their client's written permission to do so.
    • Upwork fees. For the first $500 (USD) you make with a client, Upwork takes 20% (i.e. you make $400); from $501 to $10,000 earnings, Upwork takes out 10%; from $10K up, there is a 5% Upwork fee.
    • It takes a LONG time to get paid. Most of my jobs were fixed-price jobs where the milestone was funded in advance and the funds held in escrow. Once the client released those funds, it takes 5 business days for Upwork to release them to the freelancer, then it has to be transferred to your external bank account, so I wouldn't get the money until at least a week later. For me personally, this was a major downside of using Upwork.
    • It's a "budget" type of site, so the prices for most jobs are well below market prices. (The last time I looked, most job postings for children's book illustration are $1,000 or less.)
    • It's a worldwide marketplace. That could be a pro, but for most US-based freelancers, it's a con because of the higher cost of living in this country. It's difficult to earn a livable wage while competing for jobs with freelancers who live in a place with a lower cost of living.

    For me, the cons column outweighs the pros and I'm no longer looking for work on Upwork but have been getting jobs from other sources, the majority of which have come from my SCBWI illustrator gallery. But everyone has different circumstances, and what doesn't work for me may work for you.

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 How long does it take for you to illustrate a book? I went to a publishing meetup a while back at The AOI and they said the average time was around 3 months and an average advance of £4000 ($5500 plus illustrator royalties 3-7%).
    So when I see $1000 or less for a book, are they for books that can be made in a couple of weeks?

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