The freelance illustration pricing guide

Are you an illustrator who has trouble pricing your services?

You're not alone.

Many illustrators have a hard time figuring out what to charge for their services.

In this article, I'm going to share with you simple steps to take to figure out how much to charge as an illustrator.

Also check out my guide on how to license artwork.

How to figure out your rate as an illustrator

Determining your illustration rates is made up of three things:

  1. Your costs of doing business and living
  2. Your quality of work
  3. The value your illustrations have to your client.

Illustrators need to make sure that the money they make from their work covers their expenses and makes a profit.

For example, let's make up an fictional example of a graphic designer named Susan.

Now she wants to start her own illustration business.

She is creative by nature, but she finds it hard to deal with the business side of things.

To set up her own illustration business, she has determined that it costs $900 per month to run the business.

These expenses are for rent at a small co-working space near her home, software, and tools. (This does not include her living costs.)

Now Susan knows she is a good illustrator.

She is not new to this and she knows that her work is stronger because of her insights into the design process, story, and interactive media.

Exciting news!

After sending 20 introductory emails a week for a few weeks, she landed her first client.

It’s a project where they need 14 spot illustrations for a popular blog.

Susan is struggling to price the project correctly.

Here’s what I (Chris) would tell her:

Option #1: Price based on a project rate

  • Define your base rate: This will be the foundation on which we will build your pricing. (Let’s say it’s $250/day.)
  • Estimate the total hours to finish a project: Remember, this isn’t simply creative time. This includes phone calls, emails, revisions, and final file delivery. Let’s say this project is estimated at 14 days and Susan has a project estimate of USD $3,500
  • Build in your profit: Most illustrators simply trade their time for dollars. Simply add a 10% profit margin on top of your current $3,500 bid. In this case, it would be an extra $350, bringing Susan's project total to $3,850
  • Negotiate the “usage rights” cost: For this example, let's just include one year of use initially on their website. After a year she can charge $250 for each spot illustration if they want to keep using the illustrations on their website.

Susan will only provide you with a price of $3850 in her proposal.

Option #2: Pricing based on the value

Another way to determine your prices will be to base them on the value your images are offering.

For example, let's say you're making a series of illustrations to go on 10,000+ tins of gourmet chocolate that sells for $25 USD a box. That's $250,000 in sales.

Probably more around a $200,000 profit for the company after you factor in other manufacturing and shipping costs.

So does $600 for a few illustrations make sense?

Heck no!

If your illustrations help sell more boxes of chocolate by appealing to potential consumers, your illustrations are worth A LOT.

Charging $20,000+ for your illustrations AND negotiating a percentage of sales is not out of the question.


Because your images are one of the most important elements in determining sales.

But, if you were to create designs for a local coffee roaster that sells 100 bags of coffee each month for $20 each.

You can't charge more than $20,000 for your work.

Their value varies depending on the type of artwork you offer. I hope this has given you some ideas on how to price your services.

How do I price my illustration services?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You will need to consider the costs of running your business, the time it takes you to complete a project, the value of your illustrations, and the market rate for illustrators in your area.

What is the going rate for freelance illustrators?

The going rate for illustrators varies depending on the type of illustrations you offer, the market you are in, and the level of experience you have. Generally speaking, you can expect to charge $50-$250 per hour for your services. Even if you charge per project. Your earnings based on hours worked will be in the range of $50-$250 per hour.

How do I calculate the costs of running my art business?

To calculate your monthly costs of running your business, simply add up your total expenses, including your illustrator fee, website hosting fees, and any other miscellaneous costs. Then, divide that number by the number of months you expect to work in a year. This will give you your monthly overhead costs.

Is it better for an illustrator to charge by the hour or by a project?

This is a matter of preference. Some illustrators prefer to charge by the hour. Others prefer to charge by the project. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which pricing model works best for your business.

Should I offer usage rights with my freelance illustration projects?

Usage rights are a negotiable part of every project. You can choose to include them in your price or offer them as an add-on service. If you do include usage rights in your price, be sure to specify the length of time and type of usage included in your contract.

How do I negotiate usage rights with illustration clients?

Usage rights are a negotiable part of every project. You can choose to include them in your price or offer them as an add-on service. If you do include usage rights in your price, be sure to specify the length of time and type of usage included in your contract.

When should I raise my prices as a freelance illustrator?

You should raise your prices when you feel you are worth more than your current rate. As your experience and portfolio grow, so should your prices. You can also raise your prices to adjust for inflation or the rising cost of living in your area.

How can I increase the value of my illustration services?

Here are some tips for increasing the value of your illustration services: Price based on a project rate: define your base rate and estimate the total hours to finish a project; build in your profit; negotiate the “usage rights” cost. Price based on value: consider how much value your illustrations are offering to the client; Factor in the type of artwork you offer when determining price. Increase the value of your illustrations: Offer additional services such as revisions or file delivery; upsell clients on usage rights or other products.