How To Price (As A Newbie Freelancer)

  • Hey everyone, sorry if this is a silly question or the wrong place to ask this question, but how the heck does one go about answering pricing requests for things early on in the game? I've only put up one podcast cover on my instagram that I did for a friend, but I've gotten a few inquiries as a result of that. On the one hand, I'd love to tackle something like this if I was getting paid well for my efforts, but I also don't feel "legit" enough or "good enough" to even say I have a price (plus I am a mom with a whole bunch of obligations so for me to actually sit down and do work is nothing short of a miracle these days). I'd also love to ask them to put a down payment first and get a percentage off the whole (because that just seems to make sense), as well as have a really good contract for them to look at. But should I even be thinking of this when I know I have so much to work on? Should I just say I'm not doing commissions right now? (For reference, here is my instagram which is woefully in need of an update with actual full pieces instead of sketches)

  • Pro

    @graphitebouquet It can be tricky to get the confidence to price well, especially in the beginning. In most other professions, you go to school and get a nice diploma that deems you qualified, ready for work and worthy of whatever the entry-level salary is in that industry. In art, it's different. There's no clear road map, and self-taught artists especially struggle with not feeling good enough or legit enough to work, or to price that work well. But art is subjective, and there are paying opportunities for artists of all levels and all styles. If someone says they're interested in commissioning you, that means they are interested in your services and you're already more than legit enough to offer them.

    If you're looking for a figure estimate to start with, the Graphic Design guild handbook is the resource that most artists recommend. It gives you an idea of how to price different kinds of work depending on what it is for. Even if it's the same illustration, prices will vary depending on what it's used for (CD cover, poster, mass-production t-shirts, children book, etc.) Usually, the bigger the company is and the more use they get out of your illustration, the more you should charge.

    The one thing I advise NEVER doing is underpricing yourself. A lot of artists at the beginning think that their work is only work like 10$ or 20$ (even if they spent days on it) because they think it's not high quality enough to be worth a higher price. But at this low a price, you'd make more flipping burgers at McDonald's! You have a skill that you worked hard to hone, no matter where you are in your journey, and that skill is worth at LEAST more than minimum wage at a skill-less job. Underpricing devalues the industry as a whole. Already people are so used to seeing artists on Deviantart charge $5 for commissions that when you ask a perfectly normal wage they think it's outrageously unreasonable...

    Charge what your time is worth, and when someone really wants it they'll be willing to pay your price for it 🙂

  • Still a newbie here but have done a commission or two 😃 I heard someone once said, if you wait till you're "ready" to begin then you've waited too long. As for pricing, you can do some research on what others are charging for a similar job. But if you're at the start and value the experience too, then maybe think about just how low you would do the job and still be grateful for it, and then negotiate with that point in mind. I agree with @NessIllustration, definitely don't underprice. The worst thing is doing a job knowing you're selling yourself out. Putting down 50% on project start and 50% on completion is pretty standard too so don't be afraid to ask for that. Good luck!

  • I definitely agree with what is said above.
    And also, it's a really good idea to make sure that you have a contract with whoever you are making art for. I have heard stories and have had personal experience with people saying they believe in paying what you're art is worth and in the end (even though the price discussion was had in the beginning) they scoff at the prices of your work because they see other places sell art that is very under priced like what @NessIllustration said.
    So decide a good price and find a good contract to keep it. It's worth it.

  • Oh my goodness, thank you all! I feel so lucky to have everyone's input and encouragement. Don't worry, I won't underprice my work - if only because I know what that does to other artists trying to make a freelance living.
    I am going to download the Guild Handbook because it looks perfect for all of my questions.
    Does anyone know how to find a good editable template for design/illustration contracts? Or is that in the Guild book?
    Man, this feels so overwhelming when all I want to do is write back to the person and be like "hey sure I'll do it, name your price!" Which would be the worst thing. I'm too impatient lol.

  • Ooh, I just found the Tad Crawford Book, so I’ll get that.

  • Alright, so considering this is one person, not a corporate group asking about my commission prices, and the books I ordered on all of this aren’t gonna get here until the end of the week (and I mean, I’ll have to read them), I don’t really want to keep her waiting. So I drew this up....can I word it any better? Do I need to lower any of the individual prices or make any of them higher?

    B&W with 1 accent color Base Price: $110
    $20 for Brainstorm Session
    $40 for four rough sketches + 2 complimentary revisions to final (Subsequent revisions are $10)
    $50 for creation and delivery of final product. (Revisions on the final are $30)

    Total Without Revisions: $110
    Half of payment up front (after brainstorm session), total = 20%off original price


    Full Color Base Price: $150
    $30 for Brainstorm Session
    $40 - four rough sketches, + 2 free revisions to final (Subsequent revisions are $10)
    $20 - two color tests + 1 free revision to final (subsequent revisions are $10)
    $60 - Final Product (Revisions to final Full Color product are $40)

    Total Without Revisions: $150
    Half of payment up front (after brainstorm session), total = 20% off original price

  • Can I ask what the commission is for?
    If it's just for a portrait or something then those prices seem fair, but if it's for something more then your prices seem a bit low to me. If you don't have much time of your hands then you need to think if that $150 is worth your time? Will it make you stressed and tired? Will the fact that you don't have much time impact on this work? The last thing you want is to produce something you're not happy with AND the client aren't happy with.

    I've just been asked to paint one of those head in the hole things, you know the ones you get at the seaside that you put your face in? No idea what they're called. They want it 140cm x 110cm and I've charged £300 for 3 days work on it, which includes the idea stage, preparation and then completing the artwork. I've also added on £60 for materials which I've asked to be paid upfront.
    They haven't got back to me yet, but I was a bit worried that that price was too high, but then I just think, well this would be my weekend time they're paying for, time that I value a lot as i work all week and rest at the weekend, so I'm going to charge a price that I think is worth my time and effort for this project.

    I hope this helps in some way! 🙂

  • @hannahmccaffery that’s a good’s a podcast cover, which i would mainly do in Vectornator on my iPad. I would be comfortable raising it a bit, but honestly not that much more unless it is highly detailed. Maybe I should make a distinction between just a quicker podcast logo in the center, or something bigger which I would be more comfortable charging more for.

  • @graphitebouquet You could always give them two options, one for a simple logo in the centre and then something a lot more detailed? At least then you'll know what they can afford and how much time you'll need to put into it.

  • Pro

    @graphitebouquet I think you really need to know what you'll be drawing before you can give them any quote! Podcast cover really doesn't tell you much... If it's a headshot in your regular style, then it's something you are super comfortable with and can do quickly. If it's a scene in the city with complex buildings and a crowd, that's an entirely different level of commitment.

    As an example, self-published children book authors looking for an illustrator always phrase their request in the same way that makes me smile: "how much would you charge for x pages?" That really doesn't give enough information haha... I've done 2 books this year, one was a 30 cm picture book in a jungle with lots of characters and complex color schemes. The second one is a small 14 cm with a simpler style, and happens in the North Pole with most of the backgrounds being just a dark sky and snow. The North Pole book is taking not even 1/3 of the time the other one did! So even if it is paid less, I calculated in the end I'm getting more money for my time.

  • @NessIllustration that makes so so much sense, thank you!

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