How to Price Your Illustrations

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You get an email.  Tanya from a publishing house would like to commission you to illustrate a chapter cover for a book about famous dogs.  You get another email.  Roger from a computer firm wants you to illustrate a series of artworks to use for advertising on billboards.  Then you've got another email and this time it is from Jessica who needs some surface patterns to use on bed linen for a small homewares chain in the United States.

Then they ask the next question.  How much would you charge?  The hardest thing about illustrating is pricing your work.  There is no set rates, it is up to you to set your rate and work around that.  If your fees are too low then you can damage your own ability to sustain yourself long term but also the industry.  Too high and you won't retain clients if you get any at all. 

Pricing is individual and has to take into account such a huge variety of things.  This is one of the reasons at many art schools and college they don't teach you business as part of your course.  They teach you to make art, think about how to make art, talk about it, write papers on it.  How to sell something?  No.  How much to charge?  Definitely no.  

This is where we thank internet land and there are recommended associations and places where you can find estimates.  At the end of the day it is up to you and the client to negotiate the price.  Sometimes you'll have an agent to negotiate on your behalf, but at the same time they take a large percentage, so there are positive and negatives to everything.

Holly Exley has released this great video.  I love her honesty and how she breaks it down quite simply.

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The Graphic Artists Guild has an amazing handbook that compiles the average rates for everything you can think of that your art can go on.  It is in US dollars but you can convert the rates into your currency and they'll still be similar.

NAVA has released an average for fees and wages for 2017Pricing Resources by Laura Wood.  Jessica Hiche talks about the dark art of pricingRecommended rates of pay by ASA.  Book illustration pricing by Cegur.  A designer's guide to pricing by William Beachy.

I would also say from experience you should initially ask the client how much their budget is.  You should always ask as many questions as you can about the project.  The more information you have, the easier it will be to charge a fair price for your work.  Some questions you should ask the client and yourself

  • What do you need the artwork or illustration for?
  • How does it need to be created?  By hand, digital, on canvas, ceramics?
  • How much time will the research take, what research is needed?
  • Is it a portrait that needs physical sittings?
  • Is there travel involved?
  • What are the material costs?
  • Are there extra costs?  If you have an original work you may need a photography studio to do the high resolution scans or do you need a photographer?  Do you need a graphic designer?
  • Are you selling the original work, are you loaning the illustration or are they buying full copyright?  Do you need to post anything?
  • Is this a rush job that requires an additional fee?

These are some of the questions that will go through my mind when I'm contacted.  I need to take all of these things into account as not only do I need to consider the field my illustration would be used for (as each has a different price point), I also need to weigh up the time certain elements may add to the project.  

Lastly, illustration is a specialist field.  It is very hard work and takes years of training whether it be through art, graphic design, sewing or other creative fields.  Give anyone a pencil and they won't be able to draw a cat in the same way that you can (if it ends up looking like a cat at all).  Don't underprice yourself and don't give your work away.  

How to Protect Your Artwork from Being Stolen

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One of my most frequently asked questions is "How do I stop my artwork being stolen on the internet?"

I have so many tales to tell, and so many occasions my work has been taken.  The time one of my works was turned into knitted garments and sold over Europe.  Another they were printed on tops and sold all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand.  Then there was the time they were skirts in China, the students that trace my works and resubmit as their own.  Plus the times it was taken, recoloured, cut up and used over websites.  

Illustrators Australia have written a great article with lots of advice for Australians when it comes to protecting your work.

A great book called "Owning It" by Sharon Givoni covers the subject across a whole array of creative industries.  You can also get help via Arts Law, The Copyright Agency.  The next step is to contact a lawyer and there are some arts based lawyers out there who can assist you further.

Whilst I understand how frustrating it is to have your artwork stolen, there are many steps you can take, and in this fast paced digital age sometimes you just need to stay a step ahead and be a trend setter.

  1. Never put high resolution digital files out for the public to use.  If you store your artworks on the internet (ie dropbox) then password protect and restrict who can access those files.  Think twice about whether you want to sell high resolution files for instant download unless you are willing to take the risk.
  2. Save all your images in low resolution and name them (I prefer low res JPEG).  Watermark, naming files and embedding your name/business name is a great way to help track your work.
  3. Know your rights, be careful where you share your images.  Many websites have clauses that allow them to repost/use your artwork for free with no direct credit required for their advertising/use.  This includes apps.
  4. Put EVERYTHING in writing.  Emails, word documents, facebook messages.  Save and print it all.
  5. Use contracts.  They may seem scary but they are pretty commonplace and when you break down the legal jargon they are easier to understand.  Contracts are there to protect you and the client.
  6. Don't let it scare you.  If your artwork is stolen, then you can follow it up and work out how to resolve it with the people/company involved.  Most of the time it is just a lack of awareness on their part and a quick phone call or email rectifies it.  Sometimes you'll have to take the legal route, but the most important part is not to let the negativity around the process suck the creativity out of you.