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Guest Post-Will Terry-How much do you charge for an Illustration?

How much should I charge is a constant question we hear from many.  It can be the worse part of getting a job offer.  Having to negotiate the price you place on a job in fear of charging too much or too little can be nerve wrecking.

We’ve put up a couple of posts about how to figure out what you should charge for work and even noted a free app that takes a number of factors into effect when coming up with an hourly rate for you individually. (We’ve even listed the book Will doesn’t like in his video as an Essential Read!)  Will has a great new video up where he discusses how he goes about pricing and the number of factors that go into him making the choices he does.

He passes on a lot of wonderful advice and I hope you all listen and pay close attention.  He is always passing on wisdom and great info to his peers!

I’ve been wanting to make this video for quite sometime. I get asked all the time by students, people at conferences, and visitors to my blog – how should I price my work? In this video I share my opinions about figuring out exactly how much to charge and how it can vary depending on many factors that are happening in your life. I realize it’s a bit lengthy but I didn’t want to leave stones unturned. I wanted to have a detailed answer that I can email out whenever I get asked this question in the future.

If you’ve even wondered how much to ask for on an art project I hope my ideas help you.

For more great posts and info from Will be sure to visit his website or blog!!

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44 Comments

  1. Mili

    Great video. Couldn’t access it on the blog for some reason, but I found it on YouTube. I like the Artist’s Guild book, because It is a great resource when you have little business experience and are just starting out, but I do not treat it as the law. I treat it as a guideline. I love Will’s video and it is worth the half hour watch. I price my work by saying to myself: I have five years of formal art education, I have awards and experience, and a 100% client satisfaction. I am not greedy, and though I think my fair price is 30$/hour, I will work for 20$/h if I really like the project. Now, if a job is going to get me enormous exposure I may go lower depending on my financial standing. I have taken on some jobs for below minimum wage, but I got other compensations. It really depends on what the client is offering and your situation in life. Great post Wilson.

    Reply
  2. Diana

    The best advice & explanation I’ve seen so far.

    Reply
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  4. Chris

    Great video with some nice strategies and useful info. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
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  6. Diane

    I like this. Very useful in helping refine our (illustration AND graphic design) pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey style of quoting in this business. sigh. One other thing, though– I have been thinking about reps, which you mention. Are they hard to find? Worth it? What percentage do they take? How much of the client contact do they do, just $$ or art direction as well? You mention your rep but not factoring in their fee…anything would be helpful.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Hey Diane,
      Reps aren’t hard to find but they are picky about who they take on. There are reps for almost every genre of illustration. The amount of commission they get ranges from one to the next and is dependent on which industry they are repping. Most children’s market reps get anywhere from 20-40%. What they do varies from one to the next as well as far as guiding your portfolio or critiquing your artwork. In most instances you’ll need to know what it is you want from an art rep before deciding which one to approach. You’ll find great ones and bad ones. When you find a rep you are interested in, you should definitely vet them. Ask some of their current artists about them and what they do. Do they even like them? Stuff like that. If you have a rep you definitely have to factor in their commission, 20-30 percent is a lot!

      To be honest this deserves a whole article itself!! LOL! We’ll work on one and get it up soon! But this should help to get you started! We’ll put up a list of reps as well in the article! Thanks Diane!

      Reply
  7. DRStott

    Excellent advice. I have been intuitively doing this but during those dry unproductive economic times vacillated in the decision process. This gives a more concrete visual in my reasoning. Thank you.

    Dennis

    Reply
  8. Sue Shanahan

    Thanks for this generous post. I’ve been an illustrator for many years but still feel like I’m out of the loop in how to figure out pricing.
    Happy new year,

    Sue Shanahan

    Reply
  9. Lora McAlynn

    A listing of illustrators and their bios would be a great resource for writers with your name heading the list, of course.

    Reply
  10. Rosemary Fanti

    Oh, thank you for articulating such an essential topic! Very informative and just the right advice to get me motivated this morning. Love your work and passion:))

    Reply
  11. Sarah madsen

    Huge thankyou!

    Reply
  12. keith favazza

    very nice. I like a lot of aspects (bottom line – holding your ground). I have been illustrating forever and still have not found the right clients. Recently I have been doing educational art. The pay is fixed on their end and is so low (competitors overseas making nothing). I need to bust out and maybe find a rep. I am willing to go the rep route. Let me know when you do that video! Thanks. Keith Favazza

    Reply
  13. tim

    very informative,thank-you, from a writer / business standpoint, some illustrators demand and receive price, others may not, its a gamble / scramble.
    there is no guarantee that the work, (book) is going to be accepted, non-the-less sold, that being said, I turn-off the illustrator because of their demand / ego, not understanding the positive, upside of a team , working business relationship, the right team can create wonderful stuff for a long time ! currently I do not have someone to build a working relationship with for a storybook – film, again that person does not currently exist, now, agreement should be made between the illustrator and creator / writer in terms of percentage based on sales? again no guarantee anything will be sold, become a team, the writing is never finale, not perfect, it can always be edited and continued, And so is the art, a working relationship / friendship needs to be formed, work together , hopefully the end result from story can be a film, not difficult given today’s technology, the writer and artist must create a relationship, this being said, respectively, much is being said in this video but it does not answer or solve the issue, you must have an understanding of the business relationship. As much as I enjoy new faces, I would NOT like to jump around looking for an illustrator for every piece of work. thank-you, sincerely Tim.

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      Hey Tim,

      I hope I’m not misunderstanding your reply. Freelance Illustrators by nature will have multiple business relationships in their career, if they are successful. Friendship while nice, isn’t necessary for a successful business relationship. This video asserts that artists know their value, set it and demand that from any potential clients. I’m not sure if you are advocating entering relationships without pay or not, the wording was kind of muddled. So I won’t speak on that specifically. But I will say that Mr. Terry’s advice is sound. If you are presented with an idea that you love and you are willing to offer a lower bid to get it, then do so. If a job isn’t to your liking then either pass on it or put a price tag on it that makes it worth your while. Whichever motivates you is fine. As long as you are able to approach the job in a professional manner. Artists have to be honest with themselves when it comes to those things. Our attitude and feelings can have direct effect on the final product. If we are bored or unhappy working on something many readers can see that manifest within the work.

      As for NOT wanting to jump around to multiple artists for every piece, I think that’s a bad idea for YOU and your material. Would you want the same director to direct every single movie that comes out of Hollywood? There are books that I have written that I know MY style wouldn’t best visualize the ideas and story I’ve written. Every project, book or idea has its own personality and deserves to be looked at with fresh eyes, a fresh vision and given it’s own voice. Your story is worth finding the best Artist to bring it to life.

      -Wilson

      Reply
  14. Lin Rodgers

    Your video is the best information I have found on the subject of pricing. I agree about GAG, I am not sure why they exist. It is great to know you didn’t to help people and didn’t have to worry about bottom line. Best wishes for 2013!

    Reply
    • WilsonWJr

      While we agree with most of what Will says, we do believe that GAG handbook is a great jumping off point for many artists who know nothing about the industry or expectations. The book includes a lot more than just prices. In no way shape or form should it be a “Bible” for artists, but it is a good resource to get basic information and an idea of how much you can or should be charging, boilerplate contracts, copyright info and things of that nature. I will admit that we didn’t know about all the legal issues artist’s have had with them though! But in no way is this forum about suppressing anyone’s ideas or viewpoints. Mr. Terry is very welcome to his opinion and voicing why he feels that way! (Which he always does with a lot of wisdom and professional knowledge.) In fact we welcome all of you to voice your opinions so that information like this can be passed on to your peers and fellow artists.

      Reply
  15. Gordon Laurens

    Thanks Will, great information on pricing, and you certainly put into words many of the concerns I have when pricing a job. I feel it is a fine line between pricing and getting paid fairly, and under quoting or quoting to high and losing the job or regretting that you took it on in the first place for too little.
    sincerely Gordon

    Reply
  16. Faythe Mills

    Great video!! I watched it to the very end;-) Thanks for the great advice!!

    Reply
  17. Karen

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  18. Terry B Gardner (@tbgdesign)

    I LOVE this video…so honest and right on.

    27 years freelancing, and I still love to hear someone else talk about their pricing and experience.

    Reply
  19. Elinor Mavor

    Thank you Wilson! I have been using this type of reasoning for determining bids for artwork and also for editorial work for some time. So your advice is vindicating! Being flexible and negotiating as you suggest here can make it possible for everyone to be happy and for the best possible work for the project to be created. The best possible work is what I want to create and certainly what the client wants as well.

    Reply
  20. Bianca

    Great advice, thank you a lot!!

    Reply
  21. Charles King

    I have 35 years experience making money with my art. your advice is very good. If I may, I would like to add some advice. I draw for a living, but I am not an illustrator. I work for exhibitors as an entertainer at trade shows by drawing cartoons.Years ago, I got to the point where I was charging $1000 a day. I worked for 3 large companies within a 3 week period, and all 3 said I was not charging enough. I asked the 3rd person what he thought I should charge, and he said I should double it. He said imagine you have a pressing legal problem, and you contact 2 lawyers. One says he charges $100/hr, and the other charges $200/hr. Which one will you use? The more expensive because it is a matter of perceived value. For about 15 years I have charged $2000 per day. And, I get more work. Your best advice is to ask what is their budget. You find out really fast if the customer is serious, and, if they know what they are doing.

    Reply
  22. Edna

    Thank you for sharing! The video is so inspiring and chockful of useful material for veterans and newbies alike. For me, it helped to address the Incongruency I’ve experienced trying to use PEGS, as compared to the pricing and negotiations I’ve successfully implemented for other gigs (such as event caricatures and children’s entertainment). Good stuff–thanks so much! (BTW, is it possible to shield this video from our clients’ eyes? ;-))

    Reply
  23. Helga Tacke

    Dear Will,
    Wow, Wow, Wow! Thank you for making this film.
    I think that everything you said makes sense.
    I wish I had heard this years ago.
    I am illustrating, but have not yet been paid for any of my work.
    I made a deal with the writer that I would wait till just before he publishes to get my money.
    $300 per spread.
    I knew all along that I was under selling my work. But, had no work, so the desire was greater than the money.
    I have now perfected my work greatly, because of the amount of spreads I have made. But, I know that I will never do this again, without compensation. I just need to figure out how to solicit my work.
    Thank you again for this very important video.
    Helga

    Reply
  24. Janet Gane

    Loved the dumpster association with your commentary and I do agree with you regarding “how to price” artwork. It’s a juggling act with knowing the value of what you have done, how it is going to be used, and who knows the extent of the use your artwork will encounter or be desired for.

    Quotes are also better in writing, as you suggest, as are conversations fully understanding the role and job being offered. You seem to have done well in both working commercially and helping those of us also staying current with changes, education, and information regarding current scenarios.

    Many thanks.
    Janet

    Reply
  25. Catherine Ward

    You were absolutely wonderful ……and spot on!

    Reply
  26. Carolyn Endacott

    Hello Will,

    This was a great video; very informative. Thank you for posting it.

    Reply
  27. Jessica Warrick

    Hi Will,

    Thank you very much for posting your video. The sweet spot arc is a genius approach to figuring out pricing. I’ve been needing this info for many years…I really appreciate you making this info available to us.

    -Jessica

    Reply
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  30. Kirsty

    Thanks – that was very helpful.
    One thing, though. If you are willing to work for a really low price (say because you’d enjoy the work) that can encourage clients to offer you – and others – low fees.

    Reply

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