Help! How much should I qoute a client?


  • SVS OG

    Hi, everyone! For the first time someone emailed me through my online portfolio. They’re from a medical center in Brooklyn, NY and they’re looking for an illustrator for a signage they’re working on. I realize I should ask details about the project first but I don’t know what to ask. I need your help guys. What should I ask them? They’re asking for a qoute. How much should I charge for a job like this?

    Thank you so much for your help.


  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @nyrrylcadiz I would first ask the requirements as far as size. Do they want a full color illustration or a spot image. Do they have assets that they want you to work with? Do they have text that will be added? If so what is that text? What is the project timeline? - those are just a few of the questions that stand out for me. From there I would figure out how long it will take on an average and then multiple that by an hourly rate. That would be the estimate I come up with.

    I then create a contract for the client to sign with a requirement of half up front, unless I now the client personally. Then I wave the half up front.



  • Those are great things to consider @nyrrylcadiz. I also always ask for how a client will use the image. I price things one way if they are going to use it for a promotial banner and another if it's also going to also be used on a billboard, T-shirts, website and stickers. Often a greater usage commands a higher price.



  • @Amber-Lynn-Benton Want to reiterate what Amber wrote. Pricing is primarily based on usage.


  • SVS OG

    Hi, everyone! So I emailed the prospective client, inquiring about the project and they just got back to me. They said that they wanted to make a series of 6-8 pieces of 11x17 posters for the medical center and that they target it to be completed in about 4-5 weeks. So I guess they’re looking to mass produce or at least print in bulk these posters. I looked at my schedule and I think I can complete that number of illustrations within their timeline.

    You guys mentioned that I should charge based on how long it will take and how they’re planning to reproduce the images. I calculated how much I’ll need (living expenses) to produce the said illustrations but I think my price is fairly low given the lesser living expenses here in my country. Is there any base price for these type of projects? I’m afraid that if I offer my current qoute, I might end up with the shorter end of the stick or if I give a high amount that this will turn them off. Any advice? Thank you so much for your help.


  • SVS OG

    Oh, by the way, they mentioned that they discovered me through the student article on the SVS page. So, thank you so much to @Will-Terry, @Jake-Parker , @Lee-White and the entire SVS team for coming up with that idea. It really works.


  • SVS OG

    Also, I’m planning to ask if they’re also consulting other illustrators so that I could give a more competitive qoute. Do you think that’s professional? Or Do you think I shouldn’t do it.



  • @nyrrylcadiz I think you are fine to set a project price for this job using your hourly rate. Just make sure you build in hours for research and communication. Your project price would be a per poster price since they don't have an exact number.

    If you don't have an hourly rate yet here is my favorite method:

    Set an annual salary for yourself.
    Add to that all of your annual business bills (rent, internet, phone, CC, insurance etc.)
    Divide by 49 (or your own number for 52 weeks - time for sick days and vacation)
    Divide by 5 (you only work 5 days a week)
    Divide by 7 (8 hours minus a lunch hour)
    Administrative Multiplier: add in a buffer for Administrative tasks that don't bring in income. I suggest at least 15% which would mean multiply by 1.15.

    If this is your first client project (and it sounds like maybe it is) make sure that you limit revisions and other issues by having sketches approved by the decision maker before doing any work on finals. Sometimes I run into situations where the person I'm communicating with throughout the project isn't the decision maker - always know who that is up front.

    I normally ask for a non refundable deposit with new clients to cover my initial work in the beginning. Not everyone does this - it's just one way I sift chaff. On a larger project like this you might also request a kill fee if the project is dropped after the sketches are complete.

    Because you are pricing this on a project and not usage basis in your contract you should limit the work to what they have asked for - you are assigning them poster rights. If they were selling the posters or giving them away for promotionals you might also limit the number printed without paying an additional fee but that doesn't sound like the situation you are describing.

    Good luck - let us know how it goes!


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @nyrrylcadiz I will politely disagree with @Amber-Lynn-Benton. Your bills and expenses are a way to understand how you are doing relative to your income, but they should not in any way set the rates for your income (hourly or otherwise). The reason I don't like this method is that it sets up an arbitrary rate that has no connection to the work. It's connected to your personal living situation. For example, If you used this method and had a studio in LA and another in NY and just bought a boat for taking clients out (all business expenses), your hourly illustration rate would be very high! But if you lived in kansas in a 1 room shack for your studio, your hourly rates would be very low! See how neither of those situations has anything to do with the actual art and how we make a living from it?

    Your rate should be based on usage and rights you are granting. A starting point should be the Graphic Arts Guild Pricing and Ethical guidelines. https://graphicartistsguild.org/product/the-graphic-artists-guild-handbook-pricing-ethical-guidelines/


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    I should also add that hourly rates are a terrible way to price artwork. Here's why:

    A client needs a job from and can pay $50 an hour. They hire two illustrators to do it.

    Illustrator A takes 6 hours to finish the job, so they make $300.

    Illustrator B is a hotshot and very good at what they do. They do the same job in only 3 hours. So they make $150.

    So illustrator B is penalized for actually being better and more efficient.

    To make this example even worse, the client ended up paying only $450 total, but this was for a logo for their company and was actually worth $15,000. But since the illustrators didn't understand that, the client got the best deal of all!

    Hourly billing doesn't make sense and sets up a very difficult lifestyle for an illustrator to maintain. Charging by the job and rights/usage makes the most sense and is sustainable for us to make a living in our industry.



  • @Lee-White And I'm going to agree with your disagreement, lol! I should have used more specific language - I meant business expenses only - CC subscriptions, studio rent, paper/supplies if you track those costs, etc. In other words your overhead.

    I know that as illustrators grow in their careers you move away from hourly or daily rates but when you are just starting out (or two years in like me) they are extremely helpful in making sure you have your bases covered and aren't moving backwards.

    The graphics guild says that a poster would be priced anywhere from 500 to $7,000. I like the guild handbook but it can be confusing to use those prices when pricing your first job. Posters aren't listed in the table of context or in the index and you have to know to find it in the retail product table along with greeting cards. @nyrrylcadiz I recommend it but it takes some time to get familiar with.


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @Amber-Lynn-Benton I changed it to reflect buisness costs only. Same deal though. Your business overhead SHOULD be thought about, but shouldn't be factored into an hourly rate.

    I agree with those figures from the Guidelines book. I suggested $650 as a rate for these posters as a beginning pro.

    I should also add that I can sympathize with what Amber is saying. As an early pro it is very tricky to figure out rates and all the things that go with it. Keep your expenses as low as possible. Try to adopt good practices with rates, usage, rights from the beginning. Coming up with a big project quote is tough, and it may seem easier to go with an hourly rate. But we need to try and resist that urge. Sometimes we have to educate our clients on how all this works too. Sometimes they don't even know, so they offer out an hourly rate. But overall that hurts the industry as a whole. The time to take an hourly rate is if something is truly production based. Such as color correcting a file for a client or stuff like that.



  • @Lee-White I appreciate and agree with your comments. They are helpful and encouraging. And I hope this discussion doesnt feel like an argument.

    I started out with no degree, no experience and no portfolio, lol - just hustle. Until 8 months or so ago all my work has been graphic design and no illustration.

    To further clarify I don't track my hours and bill clients on an hourly basis. I estimate my time based on previous experience and the reqs and use my rate to quote jobs on a project basis but I've gotten wiser about paying attention to usage. I began to realize that if I designed a poster for a set price that someone prints tons of copies of for sale that I lost out.

    I've gotten better at estimating my time and have steadily been increasing my rates. They've more than tripled in two years as I've gained experience and confidence and gotten client referrals. And I use the handbook to see where I'm tracking in the range of prices.

    Admittedly I err on the side of working rather than losing out on price if it's a big job like this and a client I want. But I also am beginning to turn down more jobs with budgets that are too small.

    I also do retainers and freelance for local print shops which I really needed to have a hard and fast hourly rate.


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @Amber-Lynn-Benton I hope this doesn't sound like an argument either! Somehow things can look like that online which is so weird. : )

    We need to be having these discussions because it's the only time anyone talks about them. All this stuff is normal for other industries, but not ours. Which keeps us all in the dark unless we mention it and speak open and honestly about it.

    Glad to hear you are working and it sounds like you are doing quite well! Yay for turning down small budgets! : )



  • @Lee-White @Amber-Lynn-Benton your discussion has been really helpful and I for one have learnt something from it! I always used to charge by the hour but recently I've been trying to price based on the overall project and it's usage like you say.
    The one thing I do find tricky is how do you even start coming up with a price for the usage of your illustration - e.g you're asked to produce an illustration for a company's ad campaign online or something, and they say they might use it in the future on posters etc.
    Do you both have a system or way of working out how much you charge in this case? And also, if the client is only saying they MIGHT use it for more in the future, do you still charge them the same rate to compensate if they do use it?

    Sorry lots of rambling there haha, this is always the part of working freelance that scares me as I've never been good at valuing myself as an artist properly!



  • @Lee-White It’s a good discussion! Would you expand upon what you said when you say overhead should be considered but not included in an hourly rates? I certainly do have overhead and expenses and I know what they are. I don’t run my business out of my personal checking and I make nothing other than a portion of what I bill right now -I do have a few very small royalty checks beginning to come in but they are nominal. If I don’t cover what I would like to be paid and my (‘overhead’ which I also account for taxes with) into my billing how else would I do It?


  • SVS OG

    Hi, everyone! So I already sent a qoute to the client. Fingers crossed everything goes well.

    Thank you so much to everyone who gave their advice @Lee-White @Amber-Lynn-Benton @Chip-Valecek @davidhohn. I would also like to thank @KathrynAdebayo for starting the student interviews in the first place. Again, thank you so much!


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @Amber-Lynn-Benton Sure, what I mean by that is that you SHOULD know what your overhead is (both business and personal), but that shouldn't change the amount you charge a client.

    What you charge a charge a client is based on usage/rights/and size of the company, etc. What you need to make for your business and your personal expenses does not change the amount that a client will be charged.

    BUT, how much you spend on business/personal expenses DOES need to be measured against that income so you know if you are making a profit or not. If you are not making a profit and your rates are up to date with what what is fair for those projects, then you need to re-evaluate the business. Perhaps you are slightly undercharging? But if not, it means either trying to get more work or get higher paying clients and/or lowering your costs so you have more profit.

    Hope that makes sense. Let me know if I can answer any more questions.


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Here's another example to help illustrate my point. In this example, illustrator A has higher expenses than illustrator B. BUT, the job is still worth $750. The income amount doesn't change due to your expense needs, but the FREQUENCY of being hired would need to change to cover the costs that illustrator A has.

    One other thing to note: a small difference in the frequency you need to be hired adds up to a LOT over time. Illustrator A needs 24 more jobs per year than illustrator B!

    Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 11.29.16 AM.png



  • @hannahmccaffery One way to think about it is you are selling them the rights to use your artwork - in this case on posters - your not selling your artwork. This allows you to reuse content - like a character you might come up with or it allows you to create derivative work in the future. In this case if I priced this as a per poster price that price would only be good for posters only - and even a limited quantity or for a limited time - say 2 or 3 years and I retain the copyright. At that time the rights revert completely back to me or we re-negotiate.

    If it is a situation in which they are providing copious reference/materials and or they want to completely own the artwork it's a different conversation.

    And it's also different if it's totally your work or derived from your existing work or unique style and they want to buy all rights of it forever and you can never use part of it again or make derivative work.

    That guild handbook which we're referring to so often is helpful. Those price ranges $500-7000 for instance is a big range. 'And it's because it's a sliding scale - how much flexibility/ownership do customers want with artwork and how in demand are you as an illustrator. The goal is to retain as many rights for as much compensation as possible.

    The more you can charge in the beginning of your career the better off you will be - so definitely give more experienced illustrators like @Lee-White wisdom more weight than mine. As I said in a previous post I've been earning an income from my work for about two years. I started out with nothing and did my first projects for free or very little. (We're talking graphic design/logos, packaging, etc.) I didn't have a community and I pretty much learned everything online - Lynda.com and Aaron Draplin's Skillshare classes. This year I am on track to break 15K for the first time - I hope by quite a bit. And I've done a lot of logo work - mostly for small Mom & Pops - which is why I've never found a $15K logo job. It sounds like so little when I write it out and think about all the work. But I also only work part time - I homeschool my kids and work in the fringe hours. It's been a long slow climb but my skills have gotten better and my income is growing. And that extra $1K a month means a lot to our household budget.

    One of my problems until recently was confidence in my work since I didn't have a degree or any previous experience. Last year I began going to some local events hosted by my AIGA and my work (graphic design work) was respected by local designer and agencies I looked up to. I worked on a team for Make A Mark this year and our project was nominated for an AIGA award. Those events have brought me more connections locally and more work.

    But that confidence is beginning to make me bolder in pursuing illustration rather than just graphic work. 😅 Now I'm working a ton trying to grow my illustration & drawing skills and get a small portfolio that I'm proud of together - that's why I'm here in this space!


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