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How to price yourself as an illustrator

These days it’s so important to know how to negotiate a price for your work. It can be intimidating to look into the eyes of a potential client and feel like you may lose the job, but I’ve compiled a few practical tips to help you walk into any negotiation with confidence!

Know your worth.

You will not get what you deserve unless you know what you deserve.

Knowing my worth as a children’s book illustrator has long been my enemy. I’ve struggled to know where I fall on the “talent scale” and what I should charge for my time and effort.

I encourage you not to shy away from the question, “What are my illustrations worth?” And face that question head on by doing the research, talking to other artists and illustrators, and giving yourself credit for the time and effort it takes to create beautiful, imaginative, unique work.

Reach out to those who respect you.

It’s sad to say, but you will meet people along your journey who do not care, or simply don’t know, that you have bills to pay, a family to support, or a lifestyle to maintain. These are not the people you want to work with.

I’ve been approached by many authors in search for an illustrator for a story, poem, or commission who wanted me to work for near to nothing. I don’t blame them because children’s books are expensive to produce!

I had to make the decision early in my career to turn down those who weren’t willing to pay me what I knew my work was worth.

You will thank yourself in the future for finding clients that respect you and realise your artwork isn’t a hobby but a legitimate career.

Do your research.

You will be able to state your price with confidence when you’re able to point out the facts.

Doing research about what illustrators usually get paid in your area will give you an idea of roundabout what you should be charging.

Being able to tell potential clients that you’ve talked to other, more established, illustrators will give you a higher level of credibility when it comes to negotiating a price because they will know you’re not just pulling numbers out of thin air.

Come prepared.

If you quote a price to a client and it’s met with hesitation, don’t be afraid to justify yourself.

Depending on your method of work, you will have natural living expenses, recurring fees from programs like Adobe Creative Cloud etc., art supplies, workshops you’ve attended, conventions you’ve been to, and loans from the university you got your art degree from.

Im betting you’ve probably spent quite a bit of money to put yourself in a position where you can get jobs creating professional illustrious for someone else.

Create a scale.

Chances are you wouldn’t charge your grandmother the same price you’d charge a big-name client like Google or the New York Times.

The solution? Create a sliding scale you can refer to when considering what you will quote for a project.

I usually look at whether a client is an individual or company, pursuing publishing or private commission, has plans to expand or just has a one-off idea. Depending the scope of the project, I decide my price.

Shoot higher.

When it comes down to the budget phone call with my clients I always panic and blurt out the nicest price I can think of, even if it’s not the one I deserve. I am here to tell you the client loves this. The illustrator does not.

Make a pact with yourself that you will ask for the higher price, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable. Do not be afraid to lose the client because chances are, they will try to bring the price down before they quit on you.

On a side-note, when you low ball yourself you decrease credibility as an illustrator because the client will think you lack experienced or are desperate for a job. That’s not a good look when you’re trying to come off as confident and professional.

Be honest.

There’s a tendency to believe that you have to have a stone-cold face while negotiating in order to intimidate. I believe this is rubbish and just makes everyone uncomfortable.

Be chill and state your price. It’s okay to tell someone you think their price is a bit low and that you don’t want to work for anything less than your floor price. Negotiating should be based on a mutual respect for each other’s profession and need to make a living.

Plus, honesty and transparency are key factors in building a trusting working relationship. Clients that trust you are more likely to come back to you for future projects.

Face the fear.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m constantly questioning myself, wondering if I’m a “real” artist.

This fear can be debilitating, especially when it comes to quoting a price for a client. In the back of my mind I’m hoping they don’t laugh at me or scoff at the price, which would confirm my fears that I am not a legitimate artist who is worth their asking price.

But this is just a fear and fear lies. So, if you’ve ever doubted yourself as a “real” artist, you are. Trust me.

Establish credibility.

You’re the expert. You are the illustrator and anything you say will be taken at face value.

To help establish credibility reference past projects, bring up success stories, and talk about all the experience you’ve had.

Potential clients like to feel like you’re a seasoned vet and know exactly what you’re doing. When negotiating prices, you want your client to feel as calm and confident as possible.

Drop an Anchor.

Start out the negotiation process by dropping an anchor. An anchor is a reference point around which you’d like to negotiate.

Usually the anchor you drop at the beginning of negotiating a price for your work is what you ideally hope to get. The potential client will then give input from there and you will begin to discuss the price and come to a settlement point.

If you don’t have an anchor point, do some research about what illustrators in your area usually ask for and go from there. It is important to go into negotiations knowing what your anchor is and being confident. 

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I hope these tips help you gain confidence to get the price you deserve for the work that you do!

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