New Edition of “Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines” Now Available


One of the more challenging aspects of freelancing (especially if you are just starting out) is figuring out what to charge for your services. Different clients have different budgets, and they will be using your artwork in different ways. How do you know what your fee should be for a greeting card illustration? What is a reasonable royalty for a children’s book? What about that ad agency who just called and needs storyboards by tomorrow?

Fortunatley, there’s the Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, published by the Graphic Artists Guild. The GAG is a professional organization for commercial artists. Every few years, the GAG surveys their members (both graphic designers and illustrators) to find out what they are charging for various projects and publish the results in book form. The 12th edition is hot off the presses.

Each chapter covers a different industry that commonly hires freelance artists (i.e. advertising, magazines, book publishing, etc.), and gives a detailed explanation of the standard industry contracts/terms you should expect to see for use of your artwork. The more you know about a particular industry, the more able you are to present yourself as a knowledgable professional and the less likely you will be to undersell your services, or worse, get ripped off by a client with low respect for artists (and believe me, they are out there).

Each chapter also includes charts that list the current “going rate” for various projects, to help you figure out what you should be charging. Since every project is unique and there are many factors that effect price (i.e. complexity, deadline, rights purchased, the artist’s experience, etc.), the charts often have some wide price ranges. Still, those charts have saved my bacon many times.

(Incidentally, when a client calls I have learned to never, ever give a price quote off the top of my head. I’ll either over-estimate and scare away the client, or underestimate and wind up resenting the fact that I’m working so cheap. Instead, I always tell the client I need to run some numbers and get back to them. After I’ve figured out what I think I should charge, I usually grab this book to see what others are charging for the same service and, if necessary, adjust my fee accordingly.)

Finally, the book also includes sections on professional ethics, legal issues and contracts, complete with sample contracts and business forms for you to copy and use. I’m surprised at how many freelancers (especially those just starting out) don’t use formal contracts when being hired for a project. If you come to the client with all of your terms spelled out in black and white, you immediately present yourself as a professional worthy of respect. You also scare off any shady clients who might want to take advantage of you. And by spelling everything out up front you prevent any misunderstandings about fees, deadlines, or what exactly is expected of you. I personally have adapted my estimate/contract from Tad Crawford’s Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators because it comes with contracts on CD which I can cut-and-paste into my letterhead. But the GAG info in the Handbook is very helpful as well.

I should also mention that most of the book’s content is geared towards graphic designers and illustrators, though there is also some info for cartoonists, animators, website designers as well. I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive in the mail, but the previous edition had only a few pages of general information about freelance animation work. But that edition was published four years ago. With recent advances in Flash technology and the YouTube phenomenon, internet animation is booming like never before. Hopefully the 12th Edition will have more in-depth pricing info for animators.

This book is an absolute must-have for any freelance artist. Make sure to get the 12th edition (although curiously, the 11th edition is still featured on the GAG website). If you freelance, run out to the bookstore and grab a copy right away. Or order one from