“Pricing Game” For Illustrators


I’ve been a member of the Graphic Artists Guild for a couple of years now. They frequently host webinars on various topics related to business and art. The webinars are open to everyone for a fee unless you’re a member. Then they’re free. That alone makes a membership worth the cost. To give you an idea, here’s a list of past webinars.

On July 30, 2014 the Guild will be hosting a webinar/workshop for illustrators called “The Pricing Game”. Four experienced illustrators will each share an example of a real-world project, give you a chance to quote your own price, and then tell you what they actually charged and discuss some of the how’s and why’s of pricing your work. Here’s the official description from the Graphic Artists Guild website:

Do you feel like  you’re rolling the dice every time you bid on a new illustration project? This workshop is designed to help you learn what other working illustrators are charging, and how you can defend your pricing decisions. We will be presenting a project from each of four experienced illustrators, showing a range of project types. And we’re following up the Pricing Game with a discussion with our illustrators on how they estimate on new assignments, manage their client’s expectations, and follow through to successfully close a project.

The four pro illustrators are Marty Blake, Mark Monlux, Ed Shems, and myself.

Register or get more info here.


Be Your Own Boss: Freelancing Tips & Tricks


Every year at the CTN Animation Expo I give a workshop on the business side of freelancing for artists. I’ve finally recorded it as a 2-hour webinar, which launched today at TaughtByAPro.com: http://taughtbyapro.com/course/be-your-own-boss-freelancing-tips-tricks/

I did my best to share what I know about promoting yourself and pricing your work. Topics include:

  • The Pro’s and Con’s of Freelancing
  • How To Stand Out As A Freelancer
  • Getting Started As A Freelancer
  • Building A Marketing Machine
  • Tips For Making Your Website Work For You
  • Ways To Find Prospects and Leads
  • Tips For Effective Cold Calling
  • Ways To Promote Yourself Effectively
  • How Much Should You Charge?
  • Tips For Talking To Clients About Money
  • Tips For Negotiating Effectively
  • Spotting Bad Clients
  • Professional Practices That Will Help You Stand Out


The 2-hour webinar is broken up into 7 mini-sessions to make the info easier to digest. Cost is only $10 for one month of on-demand access to the whole thing. There’s also a lot of other terrific courses being offered on the site. I’m honored to be in such esteemed company.

Should A Freelancer Ever Negotiate His Rates?

After reading my recent two-part post entitled “How To Bid Out A Project” (Part 1 and Part 2), artist Mike Dashow emailed me with a question. He writes:

I really enjoyed your blog post on bidding out a project….Once you have spoken with a client about needs, time-line, rights for image reuse, etcetera, you generally have a good idea of what you think the value of a job it. Do you then tell them that’s what the job will cost and hold firm on that? Or do you inflate the price more, leaving yourself room to negotiate down when they make a counter-offer? Or does it depend on the client?

A great question. Here’s my response:

My personal approach is to just give a straight-up, reasonable cost of what I really think a project is worth. I don’t think it’s fair or respectful for me to “jack up” a price estimate unnecessarily with the expectation that the client will try to talk me down. In fact, if a client wants to haggle it often indicates that they don’t have much respect for my time, effort, and skills—they just want to find a bargain. That’s not the type of client I want to work with.

A funny thing about human nature is that the more we pay for something, the more we value it. When I was starting out as a freelancer I was surprised to find that the clients with the lowest budgets were sometimes the most difficult to deal with (slow to give feedback, asking for endless revisions, etc.). From my perspective I was doing them a favor by cutting my rate, but from their perspective they weren’t paying much for the artwork anyway, why not tinker around with it?

Of course not every low-budget client is difficult—I’ve worked with some terrific ones who were absolutely wonderful. But in general my experience has been that the lower the budget, the less likely it is that the project will be smooth sailing. So I’ve taken the attitude that a fair price is a fair price, and either they can afford it or they can’t.

However, I want to point out that there is a huge difference between the haggling client and a respectful client who just happens to have a smaller budget. The respectful client’s attitude is not “how much artwork can I get for cheap”, but rather, “how much quality artwork can I afford?”. There’s a world of difference between the two. For such clients I will try to find a pleasing compromise that will fit their budget without slashing my rates.

For instance, if a magazine wants a spot illustration and a half-page illustration for only X amount of dollars, I might suggest doing two quarter-page illustrations instead. Other ways you can negotiate working for a lower fee might include extending the deadline, simplifying the artwork, cutting the number of illustrations, keeping more rights to the art, or requesting a higher royalty. Never lower your price just to satisfy a client’s desire to land a bargain. There should always be a fair trade-off.

How To Bid Out A Project (Part 2)

Continuing yesterday’s post on tips for pricing your freelance services….

7. Talk about money at the very beginning. You may be tempted to put off talking about money, perhaps with hopes that the client will eventually bring it up or that you can just figure out a price when the project is over. This is a huge mistake, and very unprofessional. The sooner you can negotiate a price, the better. The worst thing you can do is keep a client guessing about what the project will cost them. Discussing the price up front will help you to appear more confident and professional, it will keep you from potentially wasting valuable time on a dead-end project, and it will help you weed out clients who have tiny budgets or who simply want to take advantage of you.

Under no circumstances should you begin doing work without having first negotiated a price.Read More

How To Bid Out A Project (Part 1)

Recently I was approached by a potential client to illustrate a coloring book. The artist she had originally chosen had backed out, so the deadline was now very tight. Since I was already committed to several projects I wasn’t available to help, but I gave her the name of a talented, up-and-coming illustrator whom I happened to know was in-between jobs.

A few days later, I received an email from the illustrator asking for advice. He had started writing up ideas for each page of the coloring book, and even did a few thumbnail sketches. The client liked his work and decided to hire him, but said she could only pay $10 per page! (A laughable sum, considering it would take the artist several hours to illustrate each page. She was essentially asking a skilled professional to work on a rush job for a fraction of minimum wage.) The artist was understandably upset and asked me what he should do.

I felt awful for having handed him a lemon, but decided the whole experience would make a nice springboard for a blog post. It’s an extreme example, but it illustrates the difficulty many artists have (especially those just starting out) when negotiating a freelance project.

Read More

How Much Should I Charge?

As a beginning freelancer I really struggled with this question. When I bid out a project, how much is too much (or too little)? Do I bill per hour or take on the project for a flat rate? I don’t want to under-sell myself, but I also don’t want to lose the job because I’m too expensive. I also want to walk the line between two extremes, either selling myself short or ripping off a client.

If you’ve wrestled with these issues, have no fear. The folks at HOW Magazine are hosting a webinar (an online seminar) to address this very topic. “What Should I Charge” is the third installment in the HOW Webinars series put on by the folks at Marketing Mentor. For $69 ($49 if you’ve signed up for a previous webinar) you can listen live on November 15 and even email in questions during the webinar. Or, during the next 12 months you can log on and listen to a recording of the webinar. You can even download notes and slides from the presentation.

I’ve listened to the first two webinars and I got a lot out of it. Among other things, the second webinar had some great tips for shy introverts on how to network at meetings, parties, seminars, and other events where you have to actually carry on conversations with live people. Being an introvert who works alone, my people skills can sometimes get a bit rusty. I was able to use some of the webinar tips at a recent chapter meeting for the National Cartoonists Society, and I found them to be very helpful. I’m not talking about shallow Tony Robbins baloney. These were practical tips to help take the pressure off of so I could network and have fun at the same time.

As I’ve written earlier, my only gripe about the HOW webinars is that they aren’t really designed for Mac users (you have to use Firefox, not Safari, and even then I can’t get the “pause” button to work, meaning you will have to listen to the webinar straight through). Still, despite the glitches I’ve been very impressed with the content. Even though I’ve been freelancing for over ten years now, there were still quite a few things that I’ve learned.

For more information on “What Should I Charge?”, click here.