Charges for illustrating for an app?



  • Hi guys!

    If only there was a penny collection jar for every time someone asked "HOW MUCH DO I CHARGE??" on this forum! šŸ˜…

    So I was approached by a start-up company who is creating an educational app for children and wanted about 20 illustrations for it.

    Assuming the rates for illustrating a picture book for a starting professional is anywhere between $3k-10k, what would be the equivalent for an app format?

    Or even what questions I could ask the client to help me figure it out (apart from timeline, budget, usage, rights). I have zero knowledge about app development!

    Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks!


  • SVS OG

    @Neha-Rawat oooh! šŸ˜šŸ˜šŸ˜ i honestly have no idea but iā€™m very invested in this. I hope you get this job. Also, have you consulted your agent? They might get a higher deal for you.



  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz I haven't consulted my agent yet. I know they could help me with a higher deal, but do you think they would help me in figuring out the initial rates? I'm guessing they would ask the client for their budget and negotiate a little and see if I'm ok with that.


  • Pro

    @Neha-Rawat Hi Neha šŸ™‚ Actually I can help on this one! I started my career working in a studio that makes apps for children, and even now that I am freelance I still have some occasional work from a local mobile games studio.

    My experience is that this sort of work is always the very definition of scope creep LOLL... If you think it'll take 10 hours, it'll probably take 20. If you think it'll take 20 hours, it'll probably take 50 haha... That's because not only the illustrations have to be great, all the creative leads must approve as well as clients and execs, AND it need to work inside the game as well. I sometimes get messages weeks after delivering something that they're running into a snag integrating it into the game and need it exported differently, or some such thing. If a game story element or mechanic gets tweaked later on to polish the game, the art might need to be tweaked to reflect that.

    The other thing to consider with apps is that it's overwhelmingly Work for Hire contracts. The app is the studio's brand and IP, and they require all copyrights of the art most of the time. Now that I do children's books I've come to value my copyrights and not sign them over, but for app work it is different and very much the accepted norm in that industry. Only accept if you're comfortable with that. It makes sense too with what their usage needs are, so it's not just a whim. You would likely not be able to resell such specific work, and in your contract they would most certainly insist that you not ever attempt it.

    Considering these 2 things, it's my belief that game/app work is best charged for BY THE HOUR or using a day rate. This way no matter how much they make you touch it up, you're paid for all of it. Last job I did for them, they changed their minds and had me start from scratch 3 times!! But it didn't matter because if they wanted to waste their money, it's no skin off my back. I even charge them for the time emailing back and forth and getting briefed, the same as an in-house artist on the clock would. Now, when I worked at the studio my salary came down to about $30 an hour but this was for a stable full-time permanent position. For freelance work on apps, personally my hourly rate starts at $50 an hour. But it can be much higher, it's up to you to negotiate depending on your needs.



  • @NessIllustration Ooh that's very interesting to know! Thank you for sharing your experience!

    I've never actually charged an hour/day rate before. How does that work? They've given me a brief description of what they want for each illustration. So should I just tell them my hourly rate and give them an approximate estimate of the total hour of work for each piece? How do you prove how many hours you've spent on a piece? Is it just based on professionalism and good faith? But what if I'm waaay off my estimate? What do you do then? This is so scary haha!


  • Pro

    @Neha-Rawat It is based on good faith šŸ™‚ You can arrange with them a schedule to compile and invoice your hours. For instance, with my studio I bill them all worked hours after 2 weeks (if I did work during those weeks). For the estimate, you get better at it the more you work. At first I'd say give yourself some wiggle room in the estimate, so if you think it'll take 15 hours, say it'll take 20. If you end up taking 15 they'll be extremely happy! Under promise, over deliver šŸ™‚ Also tell them up front that the time it'll take will also depend a LOT of the amount of changes they want you to do and if they change their minds, so while you'll try your best to abide by the estimate, it's possible that the actual number of hours will be different. Keep up good communication during the whole process. If you're starting to lag behind because you're using up more hours than you thought in the earlier stages, tell them as soon as possible.

    If they request a large change, inform them that this will take x amount of hours to do and will bust up the estimate. This will allow them to make a final decision with all the facts. For example, I've sometimes been asked to do a "small change" which only looked small to them because they didn't understand the process. When told "this will take 8 hours to change", they were shocked but then they have the option of deciding if it's so important that it's worth it for them, or if it's not. I talk to them to figure out what they're trying to accomplish with this change, and if there's a way to compromise by doing another less time-consuming change that would yield a similar result to what they want to achieve. If I can find a solution for them that only takes 3 hours instead of 8, everyone's happy. So yeah, just be upfront, communicative, and generous with your expertise to make an hourly project successful for all parties šŸ™‚



  • @NessIllustration Thank you so much, Vanessa! You've been so helpful! šŸ™‚



  • @Neha-Rawat Something I've done on a number of occasions is a hybrid model when no one was 100% sure how long it would take or how many hours they would need on the client side. So I set up an hourly rate that is open ended, but there is a "not to exceed" number in the contract.

    For example, they think they need 10 illustrations. If I thought that would take 30 hours to do and I charge $50 an hour, I'd work it out to not exceed $1,500 unless we have a mutual agreement to extend the contract. Then I'd be feeding them updates when we hit different hour milestones they had an idea of how fast they were burning through the money.

    That REALLY helped frame the conversation because it was very clear to them when they were approaching our threshold, and it also gave them a realistic idea of what happens when they revise the hell out of a design. And when they asked about more work or more major revisions, it's easy to piggy back the conversation with things like, "I'd love to - just to let you know we're at 25 hours currently, so what we're talking about will probably end up needing another 5 to 10, so we'd be at 35 hours total. As long as we're all good with that, I can get started right away". It was just a normal part of the back-and-forth and you don't need to feel like you're knocking on their door for more money if scope creep sneaks in.



  • @jdubz Thanks, Josh! That makes sense! Smoothly including the money talk is definitely a skill that'll come in handy. šŸ˜ƒ
    For now, I've replied to them with a bit of an overestimate. Let's see how it goes! But I appreciate your input, thanks!


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