Why you should never lower your illustration rates

As illustrators, sometimes we focus too much on selling our time.

The problem with selling time is that your client knows your business margins. They’re measured in seconds, minutes, and hours.

Let’s say you’re creating an illustration or portrait. It’s so easy to get pressured down in your rates if you base them on time.

You know how much you need to earn every month to live a comfortable life. But, when you work with clients on a regular basis, they feel like they know it can’t hurt to negotiate down for a discount.

Clients will feel clever and ask for a discount. I totally understand from their perspective If they can save a little on their budget, they’ll look good for slimming down their project expenses. I get it.

What most artists do, (I have also been guilty of), is give in and lower their rates when asked.

It usually happens during the last minute of a new project negotiation. In fact, it almost always happens – like clockwork, towards the tail end of a negotiation, a client will ask for a lower rate.

“We know so and so who’ll do it for less.”

“We just don’t have the budget for this project.”

And most creatives will lower their rates. Why?

Because they’re afraid of losing the client.

Remember, 99.9% of everyone who asks for a lower rate will pay what you originally asked for.

Professional artists hold true to their prices; amateurs don’t.

If your goal is to build a lucrative career as an illustrator, then never lower your rates. There is a reason you’re charging what you’re charging. You’ve spent your whole life working and investing on your skills and talent.

You only want to work with clients who value your work and creativity with the respect you deserve. So if your client sees you in the same light as their 16 year old cousin who also “draws a lot”, then you’re setting yourself up for a horrible client experience.

Your time is limited — you can only work on so many projects at once. And while fear of not finding another client leads us to accepting projects with terms we don’t agree with, it’s always better to say no to improper standards than working on a long term project with uncomfortable terms and payments.

Never negotiate a lower rate. Negotiate on the scope of a project instead.

So if your client asks you to lower your rate, then lower the amount of work you’re going to do as well. If their budget doesn’t match the work you have to put in, then do less work. Don’t ever do less quality of work, just lower the scope of the project.


For me the most nerve-wracking part of illustration projects isn’t the actual creative part. It’s the moments right after you’ve sent a creative proposal or had a first meeting with a potential illustration client.

Where you’re constantly questioning yourself, “Did I say everything right?”, “Did I sound like I knew what I was talking about?”, “Did they hear my cat in the background?”, “Why haven’t they called me back yet?”, “Was I too expensive?”.

Then there’s my FAVORITE moment:

That one email or phone call where a client gets back to you and tells you they’ve decided to hire you for an illustration project.

But after all the confetti settles, what’s next?

Now it’s contract time. Ewww gross.

Don’t worry, contracts for illustrators don’t have to feel like algebra homework, be intimidating for clients, or be 20+ pages of legalese speak.

Over the past week I’ve received a number of emails from illustrators, not fun ones:

“…there was a clause in the contract that said I was technically an ‘employee’ of their company, even though it was a one week illustration project. So now they own the complete copyright of the characters I designed for their game.”

“…every time I ask for my final payment, they keep requesting an additional revision. It’s feels like they’re doing this because they’re trying to avoid paying me.”

“…I recently read a few weeks ago in one of your email about how you include “usage rights” in your contracts, it made me realize how I’ve missed out on additional income for all the clients I’ve worked for …”

This is craziness!

How you run the legal part of your illustration business is just as important as making great art. If you’re interested in adding a solid freelance illustration template to the behind-the-scenes of your business, I have one for you.

The illustration contract template I’ve included in the Illustration Essentials course is simple, straight-forward, not complicated to understand, and easy to customize on your own.

Issues with clients during your next illustration project can lead to sour experiences, which in most cases, is totally preventable.

This illustration contract template will help you clearly outline how you handle revisions, get paid, manage your “usage rights” (this clause alone will help you generate additional revenue) and more.

Make your life and your illustration business as awesome as possible with this illustration contract included in the Illustration Essentials course.

This is the contract I’ve used and adapted on 100+ illustration projects over the past 10 years, it’s that rock-solid.

I’m happy to make this illustration contract template available to you when you join Illustration Essentials. I use this contract template for my freelance illustration projects, as do hundreds of other illustrators who’ve already enrolled in Illustration Essentials.

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