Pricing Your Work
Art by Tanner Garlick
Hello friends! Our most recent episode just dropped, click here to listen or to read the shownotes. Feel free to discuss any thoughts or questions related to this episode in this thread. Thanks for listening!
"How much should I charge?" This is a common question that every professional artist needs to confront and understand, yet it is often talked about so vaguely which leads to a lot of confusion and mystery. In this episode we hope to shed some much needed light on the subject. We go over day rates, how much beginning children's book illustrators typically make, things to consider when pricing your work, negotiation tips, whether or not you should do work for exposure, and the benefits to having an agent.
I find it best to break Pricing discussions into two main categories:
Flat Fee. In which the illustrator creates the work and gets paid a one-time fee.
Royalties.Ongoing Revenue. This usually involves an advance of some kind with (potential) ongoing payments as the image continues to be licensed over time.
The approach you use to price each will involve some or all of the factors mentioned in the podcast.
I always prefer a royalty arrangement because there is never the "fear of leaving money on the table".
But that said, pricing work (either flat fee or royalty) should primarily be determined by the value of the image to the client.
Jonas Zavacky last edited by
Great episode! I am just curious how all of this would be different when you are living in EU. The principles are the same I guess But for example prices would be totally different imo. I would love to be proven wrong
More thoughts on pricing:
You really can't have a discussion like this without mentioning the Graphic Artist Guilds Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.
In Great Britain I am aware of the Association of Illustrators
Please post links to other illustrator organizations that address pricing issues for their members.
BUT one of the best articles I've ever read on how to think about pricing is from Jessica Hische:
lenwen last edited by
I really like this episode! Pricing is always an issue for me.
Recently I also listened to this Youtube and I think it really helps:
I also think Michael Janda's Youtube channel covers a lot of similar issues:
sigross last edited by
Class episode, great insights.
Here is a spreadsheet on google docs of anonymous wages for art jobs Arts + All Museums Salary Transparency 2019_View Only
Can't find any illustrator prices, there's a few designer positions listed. Just interesting to see the variety of art jobs out there and what people are getting.
Great episode! And thanks @davidhohn and everyone else for the additional info! The struggle I’m having recently is explaining limited use licensing. My friends husband is starting a business hoping it will be something that ends up like salt life or tapout. It’s for a pretty specific market. However he’s not an artist. Which seems weird to me why he would want to start up something like this. But he’s hiring mutual friend for the images and I may try some for women’s. I would rather do a flat fee and a time frame that he can use the image. Then we can reevaluate after that. I don’t want to sign it completely over. Does that protect both of us? He doesn’t have to pay for a lifetime usage for something he might not need for a lifetime. But when I tried to explain it to him and also another client it goes over their head. The shop owner said that “You listen to too many podcasts.” Yay. He’s still a great guy and I’ll let it go.
Great episode! And thanks @davidhohn and everyone else for the additional info! The struggle I’m having recently is explaining limited use licensing. My friends husband is starting a business hoping it will be something that ends up like salt life or tapout. It’s for a pretty specific market. However he’s not an artist. Which seems weird to me why he would want to start up something like this. But he’s hiring mutual friend for the images and I may try some for women’s. I would rather do a flat fee and a time frame that he can use the image.
Just to clarify a bit more, the flat fee for a limited time frame I would consider a "royalty" **. That is, you are licensing your work for a limited amount of time with the idea that if the product sells you will then relicense it for an additional fee (effectively a passive revenue stream as you don't have to sit down and create a new piece every time you receive a licensing payment) This is basically what happens with other "advance against royalty" arrangements like picture books, or t-shirt designs.
When I mentioned "Flat Fee" earlier I was referring to those arrangements in which copyright is either legally (Work For Hire) or effectively (All Rights) transferred to the client. Leaving little or no possibility for the illustrator to generate passive revenue
Then we can reevaluate after that. I don’t want to sign it completely over.
I generally recommend conducting your freelance business in this way.
Does that protect both of us? He doesn’t have to pay for a lifetime usage for something he might not need for a lifetime.
As a general practice, yes that should protect both of you. Be very specific about what rights are being licensed. This guy might think he's "buying" the artwork (i.e. Work For Hire in which he is now the legal "owner" of the copyright) As you can imagine that is (and should be) VERY expensive. Charging upfront for every potential use of an image for 95 years from creation involves accounting for many potential uses.
But when I tried to explain it to him and also another client it goes over their head. The shop owner said that “You listen to too many podcasts.” Yay. He’s still a great guy and I’ll let it go.
It's your job to understand how to license your work, since as a professional illustrator that's how we generate income from our creative efforts. And as you've already experienced, being able to educate potential clients is part of the job as well. If needed explain it like renting a car. If there's only a little money in the budget they get to rent the car for the day. If there's LOTS of money in the budget they get to "buy" the car for life. That should simplify it down to a level that someone brand new to licensing can understand.
** In light of this clarification I edited my initial post about royalties to be more accurate to the kind of license I meant. I always enjoy discussions like these as they encourage me to clarify my own thinking.
tqcreative last edited by tqcreative
Great episode, I'm glad someone is OK with talking about this globally taboo subject.
I had a situation a little while ago when I was contacted by an agent looking for an artworker on behalf a client. They saw some drawings of animals I created for an online portfolio/gallery and praised my ability, saying that I was perfect for what they were looking for. The client was a butchers business looking for images of animals, in a style matching their branding, to be reproduced in large format to apply to their delivery vans. I was very excited to have been picked out and contacted, the job was right up my street and I very much wanted to do it.
I offered a flat rate for the whole job, including region and period usage, with consideration for myself being an inexperienced artist. I figured having my artwork so publicly accessible was a bonus too. I was thrilled at the prospect of this opportunity.
I proposed £500 ($663 at that time) open to negotiation and the contact kept me waiting for 3 weeks (ignoring my follow up communications). They finally responded saying they accepted an offer from another artist due to budget constraints. I undervalued myself and my cheap offer was rejected for an even cheaper one. So hard to swallow!!
I later realised that it's important to keep going and keep trying, regardless of the missed opportunities and step backs.
Thanks for reading.
animatosoor last edited by
@tqcreative Thank you for sharing this. I have wondered about this too. I'm still early in my career, though, so maybe you or other professionals could weigh in?
My concern is:
- Sometimes I'm afraid to quote according to what I think my services would be worth and how long it would take for me to finish the project, because I think it wouldn't take long for the client to go with someone with lower rates. My rates have been outside of clients' budgets before, and oftentimes they wouldn't budge at all. Either I lower my rate and close the deal, or they leave and find someone else. Is there a way to avoid this?
E.g. For a recent project, I was told the budget was $1500 for 20 detailed paintings. I quoted $2500 for the 20 paintings, but because the client couldn't afford that, they counter-proposed $1800, and I accepted. I knew it should have been more, but didn't know how else to handle it. I know Will mentioned this as being a potential problem faced by illustrators starting out in this particular episode. I wonder how we could deal with this without selling ourselves short.
sigross last edited by
I thought this was cool, an Illustrated illustration pricing survey by Lisa Maltby. I love the pencil drawn charts and it's informative about all the different avenues money can come from.
Excerpt: 210 illustrators anonymously contributed to this survey in order to start the ball rolling with talking openly about pricing and terms. It also contains insight from art directors from different sized companies and sectors who have anonymously given feedback on working with illustrators*. This survey is not to dictate how illustrators should price their work, but to empower others through knowledge and insight. Please note I am not a statistician and I do not represent a body of illustrators. I have invested in this survey because I believe all illustrators need to have an overview of the industry in order to charge fairly and establish good working terms. This survey is far from exhaustive and will likely provoke further discussion and investigation.
@sigross This is a cool link/article. Thanks for posting! Similar process to what the Graphic Artist Guild does for the Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (but this is more international which I like!)
SarahF last edited by SarahF
In Australia the ASA (Australian Society of Authors) has a recommended rates of pay guide:
"The ASA publishes information on recommended rates of pay for writers and illustrators. We know that this information is highly valued by our members and the wider industry, as it helps creators negotiate and benchmark their paid work.
In the current turbulent environment, however, it has become ever harder to develop a rates schedule that fairly reflects what is happening in the market, without tending towards the lowest common denominator.
It is important to remember that many factors affect the rates of pay being offered, from the size of the organisation offering the work, to the level of experience of the creator. There are two rules that are not open to debate, however:
Writers and Illustrators deserve to be fairly paid for their work.
Creators need to value their own talents and be brave enough to ask to be paid fairly. "
@sigross This was an interesting survey. Thank you for sharing.
I've been reading all of these articles and still trying to puzzle out how to price my work. I was researching the other day and I came across what I think was a guide on how to use some business software (totally unrelated right?) BUT, something caught my eye and I started to think...it was hard thinking and it really hurt. What I saw was a program for separating all parts of a particular job, in this case the example was for a construction job. Supplies, labor, etc, were all separated and billed or priced differently depending on what they were.
Anyway, my thought process, it went something like this (I may be putting something into words that is completely obvious to everyone else but myself).
•Labor & Product: We figure an hourly rate based on a loose timeline of how long a particular illustration (spot, full bleed, vig, bw, etc) should take us. This, being based on time, obviously would be different from artist to artist and has been frowned upon because it punishes the faster artist, BUT that faster artist would charge a higher hourly rate based on his experience and skill, so theoretically that would balance out. So, now we know how long an image takes us to illustrate and we have an hourly rate, putting those together we now have a base price of each type of illustration so if someone wants an 8 page board book with spot illustration only we would have a nice little list of prices to add up and quote the project. But wait theres more!
•Rights & Usage: This is the tricky part for me. I get that we need to charge for rights and usage, i just can't figure out how much that is worth. It seems that it changes if the client is a big dog or a small mom and pop. It changes depending on what they want to do with the illustration(s) and how long they want to use it. Jessica Hische mentions the word "percentages" and gives prices added to her base price, but the math doesn't add up (this could be to bad math skills). Do we have to guess what the percentage is until it finally feels right because there really isn't a standard? Are we all just walking in a fog pretending we can see what's in front of us? All I want is a ballpark number. I do know that once I figure it out, I'm going to share it because my brain hurts and if I can help a fellow-strator avoid this pain, I will. =)x
These are just my personal thoughts. Do you think I am on the right track?