Pricing creative work is a daunting task. But if you want to make a living from your creative practices and stop worrying about how ‘art’ can pay the bills, you need to be able to thrive through the scary ‘pricing conversation’.
Should you charge by the hour? What if you have such a good knowledge of the tools that you can solve the job faster? Should you charge less than a beginner who takes a lot of time to solve the same task? How do you even calculate the number of hours it will take you for drawing that illustration?
Of course, you could always use a flat rate. But if the task is not so simple maybe you waste a lot of hours just looking for references and assembling mood boards. Or maybe the client wants to meet again and again, make revisions, and ask for many changes.
What about the client’s size: do you charge the same to a big company, an entrepreneur, or a solopreneur? And timing: should you charge extra for a tight deadline?
Is it even possible to put a price on the value you are delivering as an artist? How to value creativity, which seems so subjective?
When it seems that you finally solved the ideal rate, ask yourself: by charging this, will I be able to cover my expenses? Taxes, new tools, purchase of artistic materials, insurances?
To solve any problem, the best thing to do is to start by asking a lot of good questions.
And to start outlining the answers, we asked designers, illustrators, and artists to share with us how they manage to put a price on their creative work.
Ola Szmida is a professional animator, motion designer, and illustrator. Her experience includes editorial and book illustration, animation, post-production and storyboarding. Her animations were presented at many international festivals such as Seville European Film Festival, Anilogue, Animafest, Fantoche, Mecal – Barcelona, Żubroffka, Młodzi i Film, among others. Follow her on Instagram and Behance.
Sometimes I still have a little problem with pricing for art and design jobs, but I always take into account several factors:
how long will the work take,
if it will be good for my portfolio and whether it can attract new clients in the future
will I have fun and be free in the design process?
The most important thing is time – it is worth calculating how many hours you need to complete the project and multiply the number of hours by the hourly rate. If your customers want to buy the rights to your art, you should double the price.
As an illustrator, when you price your work you have to think about it in two ways: one is your production fee (how long will it take you to complete the artwork aka complexity) and the second is the licensing and usage fee. The production fee serves as a base to your price, on top of which you add the cost of your art being utilized commercially by your client.
Many illustrators that are starting out usually give a flat fee without taking into consideration licensing aspects, which is the most important. The licensing subject is a complex one, so I would suggest an in-depth research over this, so you could better understand what licensing means and how to better price your art based on this. But there are several factors that impact the cost of licensing which are: duration (for how long are you allowing your client to use your illustration, eg. 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, in perpetuity), territory (is your client going to use the artwork only in the United States or worldwide), type (is your client going to use the artwork only on the packaging or will the artwork will be used for some retail items) and if it is exclusive or you can license the same artwork to another client.
When you’re starting out, these things might be difficult to get, especially the licensing part, but you will be able to master it as time goes by.
Estimate how many hours it will take you to complete the artwork and calculate a price based on this. After that, based on the usage conditions, add another 10-100% on top of your production price.
It might be a bit of a trial and error at first and open negotiations with your client, but don’t be alarmed as this is how you learn how to form your prices.
If you’re a graphic designer or you create logos, then the licensing part might not be applicable though.
I would also recommend being very careful with the “work for hire” types of contracts. For an illustrator, that means that you will give away all your rights (including moral rights) to your art and you will never be able to reuse it in any way. This type of contract is similar to an employment contract for an illustrator, but without the client actually paying employee taxes or for your to have other employee benefits. If a client wants to own the rights for your artwork and that is fine by you, you can do so under a full-buyout contract, but make sure you will be remunerated accordingly.
Yulong Lli is a Shanghai-based freelance illustrator. He studied Visual Communication in the UK as a funded exchange program student and received his MFA from the China Academy of Art in 2020. His illustration style ranged from the cultural blending of eastern and western in Shanghai, such as Vintage illustration poster, Modernism arts, and graphic design.
Normally I will ask my agent for some suggestions if I’m unsure about the pricing. He will give me some advice based on his experiences with different projects. Actual working time, the complexity of work, and usage arrangement are three main points for constructing my payment.
She feels inspired to work with design-focused organizations to create editorial art, website graphics, posters, portraits, app visuals, covers and characters — any kind of illustrations. She has created illustrations for Forbes, Volkswagen, Tatler, Interscope Records, Entertainment Weekly, Skolkovo, A1, Salle Privée, magazines, and bands.
First of all, the cost of your work will depend on the region where you live. For example, the cost of an illustration in Russia is lower than the cost of an illustration in California. Just because these places have a different standard of living, you simply won’t be able to live well if, while in California, you take clients from the Russian region.
There are situations when you can live in one region, and focus on another, more expensive one. Therefore, first of all, decide how you will act. We are all scattered around the globe, the situation is completely different for all of us.
Further, if you worked in an agency, you already know approximately how much your working day costs. If you have not worked, you can ask colleagues or your friends for advice. Based on this cost, you can already calculate the cost of 1 hour of your work. Remember that the network also has a lot of useful information and services that calculate the average rate of a specialist in different regions.
If you are a junior specialist, a slightly lower rate can become your competitive advantage.
Next, don’t forget that overtime work (difficult deadlines) should be paid better.
Don’t forget taxes.
Do not forget that you spend consumables for work (buy tablets, pencils, paper).
Do not forget to add some small percentage for force majeure.
Rong Pham is an illustrator with over 6 years of experience in publishing and advertising, also pursuing a degree in Fine Arts, majoring in Son-mai (a traditional Vietnamese method of art-making). As a fine artist, and illustrator, he is well-versed in analogue, digital, and mixed media paintings.
His client list includes Scholastic Asia, Uniqlo, Honda, Coca-Cola, and Poodle Doodle Press, among others.
Definitely a tough question. I remember struggling every time I had to ballpark a project at the beginning, and even nowadays I still do in many cases! I highly recommend talking to other peers about it and researching resources to help you figure it out. Jessica Hische has this really interesting article about “The Dark Art of pricing” that I found very useful back in the day.
I have to say, that I still struggle with this 🙂 It’s not easy to price your art. I usually try to ask my clients first, in case they have a budget in mind. If not I try to estimate how big is the company or client and how visible will my art be, the more visible the more expensive the design will be. Consider how long have you been working on the piece and if there were or will be any editing upon request from the client. There is also a Handbook Pricing and Ethical Guidelines for graphic artists, which might be helpful to look through.
Germán Reina Carmona is a 2D artist from Lanzarote, Spain. He works as a freelance concept artist, developing characters and environments for creative agencies, studios and game builders such as Roll7 (UK), SunnyBoy Entertainment (US), West Studio (US), Brown Bag Films (UK) and Zombot Studio (TW).
Alberto Miranda is a Multidisciplinary Visual Designer and Illustrator from Madrid, Spain. He works as a freelancer, focusing mainly on editorial illustration. His impressive client list includes The New York Times, The Guardian UK/US, The Telegraph, Medium, El País, Líbero, and G2, among others.
I’m afraid that I won’t help you too much with this issue because many of my commissions come with a closed fee and it’s up to me to decide if I think that price is fair or if it is not. There are many different ways to decide how much your art is worth. Some people have a daily fee, others have an hour fee, etc. The best advice I can give you is to decide which one fits you most and go for it. And of course, never work for free. Never.
We hope these tips will help you set fair prices for your creative work! Remember that MasterBundles is a platform where you can sell your graphic designs easily and profitably. Click here to learn more.
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Feli Arrieta is a book editor and content creator from Buenos Aires. Tirelessly curious, she is passionate about traveling, living new experiences and learning different disciplines, to be shared through her writings.