Illustration Pricing: How much to charge as an illustrator

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, most artists project these self-doubts by underpricing themselves, which isn’t a way to start in your first illustration jobs.

Determining pricing as an illustrator is made up of three elements:

  1. Your costs of doing business and living
  2. Your quality of work
  3. The value of your creative solution to your client’s problem

As an example, I’m going to illustrate a the pricing model of a fictitious illustrator and designer.

Let’s say her name is Monica.

Monica is an incredible illustrator.

She’s worked for Disney for the past four 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 set out on her own, she determined that it costs $900 per month to 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 accountant, and a variety of tools and supplies. (This doesn’t include her living costs.)

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 animation process, story, and interactive media. She also knows that illustration pricing for top illustrators is higher than what she’s been charging.

Exciting news!

Monica received her first inquiry. It’s a big project designing characters for an upcoming mobile game. But she is struggling to price the project correctly.

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 Stefania.)

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, revisions, and final file delivery most new artists forget to include. Let’s say this project estimated at 14 days and Stefania a project estimate of $6,300.00 USD

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 into 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 can’t exchange time for money your entire life.

You need to have money to reinvest into your own business 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 you we learned about in the previous lesson.

Figuring out new ways to add value to your potential clients project that could garner at 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.

Key points on illustration pricing

  • Your illustration pricing doesn’t have to be a guessing game.
  • A cheap price screams low and higher risk for the person hiring you.
  • 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 value your work adds to a clients outcome.

Brands and publications need quality illustrations now more than ever. Find inspiration and get started with this free email training.

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