Pricing Advice for Creatives 2/2

Let’s talk about pricing, part 2….

Following on from my first post about pricing (which you can read here) in this post I will go into some more specifics of pricing. As before, this is all based on my own experience (and mistakes!) in illustration, so please keep in mind this is all my opinion which may differ from someone else and their experience.

Firstly, within illustration there are many different types of paid illustration work. If you are just starting out, it is probably a good idea to join the AOI (Association of Illustrators) or HAI. There you can find guidance on contracts, illustration types, and pricing - until recently anyway, as the AOI are no longer offering the same pricing advice that they used to, due to the legalities of doing so, but as far as I am aware they still have something in place that will at least act as a guide and also still offer lots of very useful advice for your career in a broader sense.

Below I will give a summary of different types of illustration work, and an overview guide on pricing for them.

One thing I would suggest, which applies to all types of creative work, is asking the client at the start - ‘Do you have a set budget/ fee in mind, or would you like me to quote for it’? Maybe this isn’t appropriate in all scenarios, but I have definitely found that this can be a good way to deduce how serious the client is and what their prior knowledge of commissioning illustrators may be. And if they get back to you with a figure, and you are happy with it, it can take out the complexities of quoting each time.

  • Editorial illustration - this is an area I don’t have a lot of experience in, but what I do know is that there will usually be tight deadlines/ turnaround times - depending on the magazine/ newspaper/ article it is for. It is not as well paid as it used to be, perhaps partly down to the accessibility of info, images, and news, we all have with the internet. A ‘pro’ would be that it could lead to regular client work if you get a weekly feature for example. The price for this would usually be based on taking into an account all of the following:

    - Size of illustration, for example a whole page, a half page or a ‘spot’ illustration, or if it is for the cover it should be priced much higher - price per illustration.

    - How big the client is and therefore how many people are likely to see it.

    - Your level of experience in this field.

    Some clients will have set fees they pay for certain sizes/ pages, if they are transparent with this from the start it is up to you to decipher from the above if you think their price is fair. There is no harm in getting back to them and asking if they would consider raising it to X, especially if you can back that up with why what you are offering is more skilled/ you have more experience. This might even help the industry as a whole if they start the think they need to pay a bit more and will also give them feedback on their current fees.

* Useful link: Holly Exley does a lot of editorial work (amongst many things!) and has some great advice on pricing, and generally being an illustrator - mainly on her youtube channel! Definitely worth checking out. *

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  • Advertorial illustration - This is generally priced much higher than editorial work because the client is using your work to help them sell something and therefore they need to pay for a licence to use it. This could range from a tv advert, to an advert in a magazine, on the side of a bus etc The basis for a quote is still similar in some ways ie:

    - How big is the illustration/ where will it be used - for example, a page in a magazine, or a giant billboard, or the side of a car, or all of the above, which are very different scenarios. The price can vary a lot depending on how they plan to use the image. This is the case whether you are creating a new illustration for them, or if they want to use an existing illustration you already have in your portfolio.

    - Where also means where in the world. A licence for UK only, USA only, or worldwide for example. The greater the size of area, the higher the licence fee. If they don’t have a set area, it is a good idea to quote them for different scenarios to give them options.

    - How long will the illustration/s be used for. For example, is it a one off feature for 1 month or 2 years or in perpetuity (forever) the price will increase based on the length of time.

    - Size of the client. Are they a start up, or a global company, or somewhere in between? Be sure to do your research before sending them a quote as sometimes seemingly small companies are actually owned by much larger companies with a much greater reach than you might initially think.

    Useful link: If you haven’t read this article by Jessica Hische, do so now (or once you finish reading this blog :P ). It has lots of useful advice, and figures to help you with this!

  • Live illustrating - this is quite different from both the previous types of illustrating. I should say that some illustrators perhaps focus on just one type of illustration work and specialise in that, and others may do a selection of a few. Live illustrating is highly skilled and comes with its own pressures. You have to draw on demand in what can sometimes be a hectic and pressured environment. I personally LOVE doing live illustrating, but it was daunting the first time I did it and for sure it would not suit everyone. It is a good idea to practice live drawing (and timed!) in your own life before considering adding this to your skillset. Since you are not usually hired to draw a set number of illustrations in this scenario, nor will the illustrations be used for an advert or other use (and if they are this should be quoted as an additional licence on top of your live illustrating fee) in this situation it usually makes sense to charge an hourly or daily rate.

    - This is one of the few, if not the only type of illustrating work which I would recommend pricing an hourly/ daily rate for. Consider carefully how much you should charge for what is a highly skilled job. It might be a good idea to work out your desired annual income, then from there work backwards to determine what your hourly rate in this case would be. Therefore considering that you will only do a maximum amount of hours of this type of work in a week/ month, include all admin/ preparation time/ practicing and commuting to the job should all be considered to calculate your hourly rate.

    - Materials fee - this should either be accounted for within your hourly rate, or as an additional one off set fee to cover your material costs. Art materials are expensive and doing a live illustration job may mean having to buy new products/ tools for the specific event. So make sure you are not out of pocket for this!

    - Travel / accommodation - if you are being asked to travel to an event or stay overnight, the client should cover this cost in addition to your illustrating fee.

Useful link: Miss Magpie does a lot of live illustrating, and also has some really useful words (and numbers!) on her blog about pricing and what not. Check it out here.

  • Packaging illustration - this could be for food packaging/ labels, drinks packaging, cosmetics packaging etc. This is usually quite well paid as it involves a licence fee to use your illustration/s, which will effectively play a large part in the branding of the product and in helping it to sell! Which comes back to understanding the value of your work, and the value of what you are providing the client with!

    This is usually priced similar to advertorial in that they are paying for a licence to use your illustration/s so therefore take into account - where it will be used/ for how long/ and in what scenarios. Again take into account the size of the client. If it is a big client, sometimes it can work out better to be paid a small percentage of each product sold, on top of an initial fee to create the illustration/s if it is not existing work.

There are other types of illustrating that I will not go into, but just to give you an idea of the scope there is: storyboarding, illustrations for gaming, book illustrating, murals, card illustrating to name a few! If you think any of these would suit your work and what you want to do, try and research them as much as you can.

A few last notes which should be kept in mind for all the scenarios I have mentioned above:

  • Always have a contract

  • Ensure everything important is covered in this contract including how many changes are included in your price - for example ‘3 minor changes’ and any more than that will be charged on top of the quoted fee. Sometimes at this stage I will state a (high) hourly rate for any further changes

  • Wherever possible do not assign copyright

  • Ideally request 50% of your fee upfront and 50% upon completion of the job. You may also want to consider including in your contract a ‘kill fee’ which means a set amount you will be paid if they decide for some reason not to use your illustration/s.

  • Always be nice, professional and communicate things clearly, especially if it is a client that doesn’t usually work with illustrators, try and explain to them the process behind your quote, sometimes this helps the client to understand what they are paying for, rather than just receiving a figure as if from nowhere.

I realise I have not mentioned an actual number anywhere. But hopefully this can still act as a guide to be used in conjunction with advice and numbers you find elsewhere. As well as learning from your own experience.

If you are an illustrator reading this and you want to leave a comment or share your experience/ thoughts on any of the above, please do! Or if you are/ want to be an illustrator and have a question, please feel free to leave it in the comments below and I will try my best to answer them, or at least it might get the discussion going with others reading this!
Thanks SO much for reading and I hope some of this was useful for you,

Further reading, more useful links on pricing here:
Podcast! >

Pricing Advice for Creatives 1/2

Let’s talk about pricing…

That conundrum which no doubt haunts any creative at some point in their career.

 There seems to be a growing conversation about this online (in my Twittersphere anyway), which surely can only be a good thing and help alleviate some of the supposed mystery surrounding this topic. For the most part I have stayed out of the online discussion so far, but as it is continuing to grow, I decided to share my thoughts. With more people speaking about their individual experiences, hopefully everyone can be more informed and have a wider perspective on the whole thing.

 Amidst this online discussion, there are unfortunately also more and more stories of people getting ripped off, working for free, and not to mention the many sites that basically breed undercharging for our highly skilled services, if you have ever fallen into them you probably know the ones I am talking about! Trying to teach people to value their work seems to be the underlying issue in many cases.

 I think one of the reasons I have never spoken out about pricing is partly because I felt like I wasn’t in a position to advise anyone. To some extent this is still true, but after the Illustrators pricing survey (read here!) was published, it made me think that maybe all the experience I have amounts to more than I give myself credit. I know any advice I could have been given earlier on, and to be fair, any advice even now, would always be extremely helpful and welcome. In many cases I have learnt from my own mistakes.

 I have thought about the topic of pricing a lot, and actually have a lot to say about it, so therefore I am going to split this over two blog posts with the aim to keep it as concise as possible (not one of my strong points). I should also say that everything I will say here, is my own opinion, and from my own experience.

 In this post I will talk more widely about pricing and try to give some general advice and in the second post I will try to focus on more specifics of pricing. This means that whilst I am coming from an illustration background, some of what I will say here is fairly broad advice that can probably be applied to most creative avenues and maybe beyond that.

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  Here we go:

  • There is no rule book, no definitive correct answer - sorry!  

Therefore, my advice, is that you should try your best to spread your knowledge and take advice from as many sources as you can find for example social media, other people doing what you do/ want to do, blogs, friends or people you know in similar positions. This will help you to build a database of information to help you form your own ideas and guides on pricing, because I really don’t think anyone has the correct answer and it is something that will keep changing anyway.

  • If you don’t value your work, why should anyone else?

 Valuing your own work is SO important. However, I appreciate often very difficult, especially if you are just starting out. But ultimately if you undermine what you do, and price your work very low, that is what people will pay, and you will create a cycle for yourself where you are never really breaking out of that. Putting a low price on something undervalues it. Whilst doing the opposite can often have the opposite effect – price your work high, and it will have more value.

  • Shed the ‘starving artist’ syndrome.

 I have quite strong feelings on this one. Whilst I admit choosing a creative career path for the most part doesn’t have the same security or guaranteed wage compared to say, a doctor, I also don’t think it is helpful in any way to ever put a label on it such as, struggling, starving, or poor. This ties in with the point above in a way, if you devalue your choices, your work, you will inevitably be creating this for yourself. Push yourself to think that it is possible to do what you love AND make money, rather than just accepting this starving artist narrative that you have been taught to believe. Being wrapped up in the notion that you will always be poor, is so unhelpful and will not help you develop your business mind. For most creatives this is not that natural, and should be something we all try to learn more about. Having the thought that because you are a creative that you will never have a job, or that you will never earn above X amount, or make enough money before you have even really tried, is futile and demotivating. When I start feeling those thoughts I try to remind myself of what I have achieved so far, to be inspired by what others have achieved and also to think things like: – it is not my work, it just needs to be in front of more of the right people, or, there are 7.5 billion people in this world, I only need a tiny percentage of them to buy/ commission my work. Thanks to the internet, reaching a global audience is a lot easier than is used to be. This then makes me re-focus on the task at hand: I have to keep creating work, and keep putting it out there with the aim to reach as many people as possible.

  • Don’t work for people who undermine your work, and won’t pay what it is worth.

 Accepting work on the various freelance job sites that offer $5 a job, or even £100 but for a large amount of work, can do no good. It completely undermines the whole industry, massively undercutting other people trying to make this their profession, and will not lead to any better scenarios for you. Doing a few jobs that each pay £50, doesn’t suddenly lead to getting £1k jobs, or £10k jobs, if anything it does the exact opposite. How about spend that precious time building your portfolio and get a job that can cover your bills etc. There is NO SHAME in this. I think there is a bad culture of people wearing this badge of pride when they tell people they do this full time. Which is an amazing achievement, of course, but do not let this belittle your achievements and work if you are not doing it full time. If working in a shop, or a bar, or wherever, means that you have the freedom to create what you want (surely why you started on this route in the first place?) on your terms, then to me that makes more sense that bending over backwards to work for little money possibly doing illustrations you don’t care about. This could also help give you the choice to say no to people that clearly don’t value, or respect what you do, I have had a lot of emails in the past where there were immediate red flags, with people being disrespectful about my pricing, and generally being ignorant of what I do. When I need the money it is hard to say no to these jobs, but it doesn’t take long for me to realise it was 100% the right decision not to take on the work. If someone is acting like that in the beginning, that usually means it is going to be a very difficult commission to work on, and probably best to avoid.

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  • Don’t work for ‘exposure’.

 Following from the point above, whether you are tempted to work for a very low budget or for free, do not be lured in to believing it will get you loads of exposure. In the beginning of your career it is so easy to fall for people when they promise you it will get you ‘exposure’. You could have your work in a 100 high street shops, and still not gain much from exposure. Trust me. Especially in today’s climate where images and information are consumed at such a colossal rate, one project, one image, can only do so much. It is a long game, no quick fix, no sudden rise to fame. Creating your own self-directed portfolio is a much better way to spend your time, than creating work for ‘exposure’ to help someone else in their business/ career.

That’s all for now, I will be posting the second half of this post soon!

Thanks so much for reading,


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