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.