Advice for artists -how to price illustration work

Although I have been working in the creative arts since I graduated back in 2002 it’s only in the last few years that I have been involved in the world of illustration. Unlike most other creative jobs illustration is not priced per hour or on a day rate but per project and the price centres around the following:

  • Usage of work – what is the illustration being used for- book cover, email marketing, greeting card, tee shirt design, advertising? Rates vary widely depending on the area of use. It is important to have this specifically defined in your contract and for further uses another license agreement would need to be drawn up.
  • Area of Use or Territory it’s being licensed in. If the work is only to be used in the UK then the price would be lower than say if the client wanted Worldwide rights.
  • Duration of license – this varies on what the work will be used for. For example a editorial spot in a magazine will only be licensed for say 90 days whereas a site map in a client’s brochure may be licensed for up to 3 years. All rights are returned to the illustrator once the license expires.
  • Deadlines. This really only should effect the price if the deadline is very short notice and would involve working overnight/weekend work. The price added would be an additional percentage of the original costing for the project.
  • Client’s Budget and Profile. If possible get an idea of how much your client would like to spend. Even if the budget wouldn’t cover the usage it is worth outlining the costs to negotiate a deal with them. Most Art Director’s have a fixed budget and know exactly how much they have to pay you so it would be up to you to accept the commission or not. High profile clients tend to have larger budgets for illustration particularly in the area of advertising. It is important to research as much as you can on the client so that this can come into consideration when quoting work.
  • Expenses. Some jobs will require additional expenses such as travel, postage and reference costs. It is important to discuss and agree an additional amount to your fee before commencing the project to ensure they are covered.

AOI have some excellent resources for working out these costings and I would recommend their book The Illustrator’s Guide to Law and Business Practice to start with. For more support consider getting a membership with the AOI as they not only have a pricing survey which covers a whole range of areas but also an online enquiry form where you can get advice on working out more detailed projects.

Where an hourly rate (with no transfer of rights) would be needed is for instance if your client needed some preparatory /development work with the view to commissioning later.

To work out this price you need to decide how much you would like to earn over the year- this is your salary. Then work out how much you need to run your studio- expenses, overheads, bills and add this to you salary figure. Now divide this by the number of days you will be working- remember to take out holidays, sick days, weekends, bank holidays, lunch hour and administration/research/development time each week. This number will be your base hourly rate. Remember the client is not just paying you for your time but for your experience, your skills, your research, your education and your knowledge so you may need to consider this too and add accordingly to your experience.

When giving your prices make sure you give yourself time to work it out- so if a client is asking you for a price on the phone politely say you’ll get back to them with a price via email. That way you have all the terms outlined in black and white with the price.

If you are not happy be prepared to walk away. Taking on work where you are not comfortable with the terms will not bode well for your peace of mind and doing the job well. Going too low and trying to undercut the market will also harm yours and others future work in this industry.

For more advice  and thoughts on this subject check out these links:

Pricing strategies: 15 different ways to price your creative products or design services



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