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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.

Determine the Parameters

We usually try to find out up front what the budget is and how much work is involved in a particular project. Determining other changeable factors – a job’s timeframe, whether the customer is supplying reference, the exact usage, etc. – is also critical to determining whether a project is truly worth your time and efforts, before you accept it.

Smaller clients often need to be educated on what is acceptable in the marketplace. If they’re not familiar with illustration pricing based on the specified criteria, this will unfortunately need to come from you. If you do have a pricing guideline to share with them, one that’s already established and practiced, this will help validate your pricing for the job.

Ask Around, Be Honest

Networking is another good source to help make sure you’re in the right ballpark for what’s being asked of you. Your peers who have worked on similar projects can act as a barometer with regards to what they’ve gotten in similar situations.

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Image ©Jill Calder

Of course, in most cases, editorial and publication rates are pretty much established by the time a client contacts an illustrator. The determining factor on whether or not to accept the job is often the level of exposure it will give the artist and the creative collaboration it will allow.

The bottom line in educating clients who don’t have a working knowledge of these things is to be honest. As the illustrator takes on smaller non-publishing clients, the best way to educate those on pricing is to have an open conversation on usage and what is involved in the creation of the illustration.

It’s also important to educate clients about the process of licensing only what they need the illustration for. This helps tremendously in keeping projects within a reasonable budget for both client and illustrator. It makes sense that a local brochure is going to be seen by a much smaller audience and have a much smaller overall budget attached to it, as opposed to a national campaign that might also include out-of-home and consumer print use. By working with your client, you can make sure you both get a fair deal.

About Simone Friend & Beth Johnson

Friend + Johnson has been connecting creatives creatively for more than 20 years. Simone Friend’s background is in fine art, illustration and fashion. Beth Johnson has a rich history in photography and film production. This magic combination equips them with an inside savvy in matching photographers, illustrators, projection artists and videographers from around the world with clients and projects. The Dallas‐born firm has offices in Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco and New York City. Agents in each region nurture strong relationships with agencies and art directors and excel in pairing F+J artists with clientele to produce memorable, successful outcomes. Friend + Johnson

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