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Freelancer Anonymous: Keeping Your Name Off Your Work

Today's Lab blog features a great write-in question from one of our readers. We tapped attorney Rachel Brenke, aka the LawTog, to give her advice on how to address this sensitive situation.


Q: In some cases, especially in the early stages of his/her career, a photographer takes a job because the money is great and they can execute the assignment very well, but it's not in the direction in which they wish to steer their career. For example, if the photog's interest is shooting portraits and lifestyle, he/she might take on a commission shooting a wedding, a menu, or an architectural project just to be able to make rent.

Protecting Your Assets

Question: What are the main steps I can take to protect my freelance artist business? From financial investments to copyrights to contracts – anything and everything I may need.

While covering “anything and everything” is a little ambitious for a single post, here are 5 of the most important ways to protect your assets:

Helping Clients Understand Your Illustration’s Pricing

Question: I have worked with some major illustration publications. Work has been a bit slow lately and I’m taking on some smaller clients. I don’t really want to adjust my rates, but at the same time I understand that budgets vary from client to client. What is the best way to educate a client on my pricing structure, as well as to charge a rate that is appropriate and not too low?

Illustration is one of those subjects where clients have a hard time understanding the price structure, since there are no hard costs to accommodate pricing, like hard drives, equipment rental, etc. The best way to validate your worth for a job is to base it on industry standards for illustration projects similar to what you’re doing for your client.

The Graphic Artists Guild is a great starting place to justify what rates are acceptable in the marketplace right now. The problem is, editorial and other publications tend to pay editorial rates, not advertising rates, and these rates can be half the costs of an advertising project.

8 Must-Haves for Your Next Professional Contract

Question: What are the key "ingredients" or criteria to always have in any contract, even simple ones?

When a photographer creates a professional contract, whether it’s an invoice or an estimate, it is very important that it be clearly written and include all relevant information. Often we refer to contracts months or even years later, so the more information included, the better.

Keeping Up With Digital Usage Rights and Prices

Question: How have digital rights usage evolved over the past five years?

As we all know, the digital distribution of imagery has exploded in recent years.

Where “digital rights” may have once referred primarily to first-party web usage, today that phrase could cover everything from traditional banner ads and website usage to social media, email blasts, tablet and mobile editions, games and other interactive media, kiosks and multi-touch exhibits, apps, e-books, downloads, webcasts and more.

Patience and Compromise are Parts of the Negotiation Process

Question: It’s usually going to cost more than the client thinks it will. How can I tactfully and effectively communicate the value of the assignment’s required services?

“Fairness” is one of my favorite words, especially when it comes to estimating a project. Since there is no standard list of prices that work for every client or company, negotiating in a professional, tactful way is key.

Once I know the scope of the project and also the requiring rights, I then gauge the amount of time and work involved for the illustrator and/or motion graphics artist. This should give me a pretty good idea of what the budget should be … what’s “fair” for the amount of work and usage.

Estimating and Negotiating: Where am I Going Wrong?

Question: I have put in bid after bid. It always ends up with me not getting the job, though the art buyers tell me my numbers are solid. Is it my numbers? Is it that I am not established enough? What is wrong with my estimates? Is it my negotiating?

The best way to answer this question is to address the possible scenarios that can prevent a photographer from landing an assignment, along with important points to consider when communicating with your client and structuring your estimate.

Understand Your Value When Negotiating Fees

Question: How can I negotiate licensing fees and terms? I often wonder if artists are losing their power with image licensing, since many clients want buyouts and won’t compensate appropriately.

The topics of fees and buyouts have always been hot ones in this industry. I think it’s a real shame that equipment has gotten more expensive and the fees and compensation have stayed the same or decreased since 2000. While everyone loves the convenience of digital, it has created more and more loss for the professional photographer. We are seeing more out-bidding by less-experienced photographers giving away all rights while the professional is trying to stand his or her ground. So, what’s the best way to negotiate to be fairly compensated?

15 Questions and Strategies for Illustrators to Properly Estimate

Question: Clients always ask for an estimate, and I tend to low-ball – any good strategies for coming up with a proper estimate?

Creating an accurate estimate is the best thing you can do for the client, your own illustration business and the industry. Even though no two estimates are the same, most can still follow a general outline for what should be included. Here is a list of questions to ask your potential client to help create an accurate estimate that fulfills both their expectations and your needs.

A Stock Photograph’s Worth: Pricing and Licensing

Question: What are some methods to figure out pricing for the licensing rights of photographs I want to sell as stock?

As is the case with so many aspects of our industry, there are not many hard and fast rules when it comes to estimating fees. So much depends on the final number and the reasons for the wide swings in prices vary from project to project and photographer to photographer.

When a client calls us to license an image for stock use, here are a few ways we determine the price:

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