Illustration pricing doesn't have to be a mystery.
Illustration pricing, in my experience, has more to do with self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth – than the “going rate”.
That being said, as a freelance artist, these self-doubts can hurt us by underpricing our work, which isn't a way to start in your first illustration jobs.
2 parts of illustration pricing
- Your costs of doing business and living
- The value of your creative solution to your client's problem
As an example, I’m going to illustrate the pricing model of a fictitious illustrator.
Let’s say her name is Monica.
Monica is an incredible illustrator.
She’s worked at a normal office job for the past few years but she’s now ready to go out on her own. She’s creative by nature so she struggles with the business stuff.
As she sets out on her own, she determined that it costs $1500 per month to live run her new venture. These expenses are made up of rent at a small co-working space near her home, various software programs, a monthly fee for her website, and a variety of tools and supplies.
Now Monica knows she’s a good illustrator. She’s not new to the game and she’s aware that her work is stronger because of her insights on the character design, the animation process, story, and interactive media.
Let's pretend she emailed a mobile game developer and she got an interested response about having her design characters for a new game they're developing.
But she is struggling to price the project correctly.
She referenced a guide and found the minimums were too low. Now she is trying to take into account how much she should charge based on her expenses, time, and how much she would like to save.
Here’s what I (Chris) would tell her:
Define your rate: This will be the foundation on which we will build your pricing. (Let’s say it’s $450/day for Monica.)
Estimate the total hours to finish a project: Remember, illustration pricing isn't solely based on creative hours when you're illustrating. This includes phone calls, emails, time for revisions, and taxes – which most new illustrators forget about. Let’s say she estimates this project will take 14 days arrives at $6,300.00 USD as an estimate.
Build-in your profit: Add a 10% profit margin on top of your current $6,300.00 bid. In this case, it would be an extra $630 bringing Monica's project total to $6,930.00
You might think randomly adding profit to your rate is a bit random.
But building a lasting illustration business requires you to make a profit. That means you must learn to earn some portion of your money without doing any work. You need to have money to reinvest into your own business, personal savings, and other investments.
Presenting your price
Always share illustration pricing as a flat rate project fee. There isn't any need to itemize your fee and justify every dollar. This is simply what you charge.
Don't feel compelled to offer a breakdown of your price by hours or days.
You're offering one solid creative solution, so you'll charge one solid price.
So confidently present your flat-rate project fee.
To almost guarantee, you win the project, tap into the concept of price anchoring.
Figuring out new ways to add value to your potential client's project that could garner a higher rate.
For example, could you add more images?
Could you add animation?
There are many creative ways you could add an additional offer inside your illustration proposals.
Regardless, this depends from project to project but offering alternative price points taps into the concept of price anchoring. So if your potential client is getting offers and bids from other artists and they see your different pricing packages.
Something interesting is going to happen.
Ultimately, they're going to compare your prices against your prices and not against your competition.
If Monica wanted to get more advanced, she could also build in licensing into her price. Where she is essentially charging for usage rights for the mobile game developer to use the characters. I could talk for days about art licensing, but it's something to also think about as an illustrator. How is your clients going to profit from your creative images and ideas in the long run. This is where learning more about art licensing can help you out a lot.
Key points on illustration pricing
- Your illustration pricing doesn’t have to be a guessing game.
- Take the time to understand and calculate your base rate.
- Present your prices as a flat fee. Never break it down by time. Pricing is based on the value your work adds to a client's outcome.