Davina Kinney Illustrations
"A picture is worth a thousand words."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how do you put a price on it? What one person may call 'paint splatters', another may call 'fine art'. So how do you decide how much your work is worth?

That's a tough question.

Unfortunately there is no formula to finding out the answer. However, there are many factors that contribute to the worth of a piece of art. (A painting, a photograph, a sculpture, etc) Popularity of the artist is one, quality of the materials used is definitely another, and also it has to create a certain spark in someones heart. Something that attaches that person to your art, so much so, that they are willing to pay a higher price for it. So once again, it is ultimately up the 'eyes of the beholder' to decide what it is worth.  

For the purposes of this blog, I will be expanding specifically on how to charge for illustrating children's books, but some of the principles can be used for other works of art as well.

There are a few different ways of calculating how much to charge for illustrating a book. One method is to pick a figure for the entire project. You could also decide what you want to charge per page, and do it that way. A third option (One I personally use) is to decide how much you would like to make per hour, estimate how long it would take you to complete the entire book, and charge accordingly. Personally, I prefer this method because it gives me a basis of how much I am making with my art versus my other job. TIP: Pick out two figures; one high one low. One being what you would love to make, the other being what you are willing to make.

When it comes to charging, regardless of what method you use, it is important to remember two things. One, the job market for illustrators is very competitive. If your 'dream figure' is higher than most authors/publishers are willing to pay, it will be very difficult to find steady work. Second, because the job market is so competitive, if you charge too low, you are hurting your fellow artists. I'll elaborate:

Say you charge $500 for a job, whereas other illustrators are charging $2,000. Well, more than likely your client will choose you over the other illustrators. That's good, right? Not necessarily. Now, let's say you complete the job, your client is a satisfied customer, and you two part ways. Down the road that client wants to hire a different artist and complains that their rates are too high because their previous project only cost them $500. This artist now has a decision to make. They are forced to either decline the job, or accept the low rates. This can create a chain that is difficult to break. Besides, you would never want to find yourself on the other side of that fence, right? So if you are timid about asking for a higher rate, remember you not being greedy, you are making a living. Plus, are also helping your fellow artists down the road.

Another subject I want to touch on is the difference between negotiation and compromise. If royalties and/or rates are not agreed on, should you refuse the job? Well, that choice is up to you, but there is another alternative and that is negotiating. You have to remember that the author you are working with is also trying to make a living off of their work. If he/she will not accept your rates, it's probably because they cannot afford you, not because they think you're not worth it. If the two of you are willing to make an agreement you are both happy with, your client will appreciate you and be more willing to work with you in the future. What you never want to do is compromise. If you accept a rate that is too low or less than you desire, you will find yourself unhappy and most likely unwilling to work with them again. This scenario is the reason you want to pick out two figures in advance. 

When I illustrated my first book, I honestly made very little for how much time I spent working on it. Do I wish I charged more? Absolutely. Do I regret it? Not at all. I learned so much from my first book that I consider the experience I gained as part of my payment. So when you first start out and realize you are charging much less than you feel you deserve, remember not to kick yourself too hard. We all learn through our own mistakes, but hopefully this blog about my mistakes will help you minimize yours down the road. 


How much do illustrators charge?

Below are some references you might find helpful.

"I am always doing that which I can not do in order that I may learn how to do it." ~ Picasso

For the first time in my life I have a steady job with guaranteed hours. (guaranteed being used loosely here) Even so, I would go home at the end of the day and ask myself, 'what have I actually accomplished today?' The answer: nothing really. Not that having a job or career (regardless of how stable) means you have no purpose or drive, but in my particular case, I had neither. During the week, I would put in my hours of working, go home, have the weekend off, and start the whole process over again. I wanted more. I wanted a sense of purpose and fulfillment after the end of the day.

The worst part of having a comfortable job is the fear of being suddenly uncomfortable by change. So I decided to do what I was afraid of: Change.

I have always loved art and drawing. I remember taping my drawings on my friends window and pretending to sell them to rich art collectors when I was only 6 or 7 years old. For me, becoming an artist was my dream. Now career choices are exciting as a child, (heck, we're excited FOR the child! They have so much potential!) because 'growing up' is so far away. But when you wake up one day at the age of 24 and ask, 'what just happened?', careers are suddenly very daunting.

The thought of leaving my comfortable job and hopping into the fires of uncertainty scared me. (quite literally. I would shake and feel nauseous at the thought.) But the more I thought about it, it wasn't the thought of change that scared me, it was the thought of failure. So that was it then; I was afraid to fail. However, the desire to finally achieve that dream, to go home at the end of the day, satisfied with my accomplishments, far outweighed my fears.

So I took a chance.

After 3 years of holding back, I finally built up the courage to throw myself out there, open and exposed to the scavenger birds of criticism. And do you know what? The opposite happened. Within two months I got two jobs. Alright, it was a success! So I worked at my comfortable job in the morning and worked on my art in the evening. Clearly this would cause the sense of accomplishment I so desperately desired... but it didn't. Instead I was left exhausted and overwhelmed. I took a leap off the cliff but refused to let go of the edge. I was relying on the stability of my comfortable job while living the mock-life of an artist, And although I wish I could be more free-spirited, throw caution to the wind, and just 'roll with it', I still have bills to pay. After all, I was looking for a career, not a hobby.

I decided if I really wanted to be a full time artist, that goal was left entirely up to me. There was no restrictive payroll, no dictative corporate office, just me. So I posted an ad on every group, page, and applicable website. That next morning I received three jobs offers. Incredible!

Now came the really hard part. How would I charge for such jobs? Fortunately I have a little experience. (all of them being hard life lessons) It gave me an idea of how much to ask for. But if I were to turn this into a career, I would need to charge enough money. Another fear kicked in. What if I ask for too much and send all my job offers running? What if I don't charge enough and I fall behind in my bills? Swallowing my fears (and insecurities at my lack of experience) I took the business approach and firmly, but politely, informed them of my rates. To my surprise, all three of them said my rates were very reasonable and they love my work.

Score! Two fears knocked out in one blow. Fear of change and fear of rejection. Now came the big one. Fear of FAILURE. I sat down and calculated how much time I was spending with my comfortable job and how much I was going to spend on my new art jobs. After seeing how much time I would be spending a month working, I knew I had to make another choice. I had to pick one job. Would I give up on becoming a full time artist and stick with my stable job, or would I live the life of a freelancer?

Well, that is what this blog is all about! I am still working my comfortable job, still working on my two illustrating jobs, and currently waiting on the contracts for the potential three jobs I have coming in. It's my goal to quit my job by the end of the month and officially live the life as a freelancer. (If I can't this month, then next month, I am not backing down!) As I go, I will be writing about my experiences, what I have picked up along the way, and what I have learned NOT to do.

I invite everyone to follow me through this crazy dream of mine and maybe, one day, you'll find the courage to take that leap towards your dream as well.


How to get exposure:

Exposure is EXTREMELY important for a freelancer. After all, you won't find work if no one has heard of you. If you haven't done so, I recommend,

  1. Setting up your own website with a portfolio of your best works. If you aren't html savvy, I recommend something like Weebly. It's free until you buy a domain name, and they use templates, much like Blogger does.
  2. Hitting up the social networking sites. Get a Facebook Page (not your personal page, an actual business page where people can 'like' it) and set up a Twitter account. (I am guilty for not using mine)
  3. Get into professional networking such as LinkedIn. It's not enough to make an account, you need to join groups. The groups in LinkedIn are not just social cliques, they are people who are willing to help you. I have gone to my groups multiple times, and received advice and help from amateurs and professionals alike. Besides, it feels good to help someone out in return.
  4. Also, get business cards! I bring my sketchbook everywhere I go. (even to Wendy's and Dunkin Donuts before I start my workshift) I give business cards out to anyone who watches me as I draw. So now, everyone at work and some businesses know me as, 'The Artist'.

    Becoming An Artist: a dream or reality?

    By Davina Kinney

    Follow along as I pursue this crazy dream of mine! I write about my experiences and what I have learned along the way.


    October 2013



Davina Kinney Illustrations