As long as I’m on the subject of freelancing advice, let’s see if I can offer up any coherent tips on figuring out prices…
Ah yes, the age-old problem of what to charge. One way to make life easier is to figure out a general hourly rate that you can survive on. Then when considering a job, you can give a price or estimated price based on how many hours you think the job will take, multiplied by your standard hourly rate (give or take some adjustment per job as needed Sometimes you’ll want to charge more for extenuating circumstances, such as rush jobs.) You don’t have to tell the client your hourly rate if they’re expecting a flat fee, but you can use your hourly rate to figure out a suitable fee. Basically you want to make sure you don’t end up charging less than minimum wage when you divide the amount of time worked by the amount you’re paid, because that would suck.
When estimating the amount of hours a job will take, make sure to account for revisions (and you might want to also add a bit of time for unknown SNAFUs and project management, especially if you’re estimating something you haven’t done a lot of, or if you’re dealing with a new or inexperienced client.)
When you’re starting out, yes, you WILL underestimate some jobs and end up essentially going into unpaid overtime. You kind of have to accept this as a learning experience. Over time you’ll learn to make more accurate estimates.
Some types of clients have standard rates, especially publishers who work with a lot of illustrators, so it doesn’t hurt to just ask what their budget is before you start spouting off prices. This makes life a lot easier. (And if it turns out their budget is too small for comfort or if they don’t want to pay at all, you can then politely decline the job before getting too entangled.)
ALWAYS get a contract first, before you do any work, with all the deliverables clearly outlined, including the number of revisions for each. And make sure there’s a kill fee, in case they cancel the job when you’ve already done half the work. Also, if you’re really unsure of a client’s reliability, you might want a clause to say that final artwork will be delivered on final payment - and then don’t give them originals or high-res files until you’re paid. An alternative safety measure is to split the payment up into milestones - so much on delivery of sketches, so much on delivery of finals, etc. Then if they slip one payment, you can halt the job midway if necessary until things are sorted out.
DO NOT accept any clause saying that payment will be “on publication”. Those clauses are horrible. It means if the client fails to publish for whatever reason, or delays publication for months or years, then you don’t get paid for your work. This is bad.
If a job is really nebulous in terms of what needs to be delivered and how revisions are handled, charging by the hour might be the way to go, depending on what you can negotiate with the client. Some clients prefer a fixed rate for the job, or a fixed rate per item, but sometimes you can compromise with hourly rates and a price cap - for instance, say you’ll charge X per hour up to $10,000 (or whatever amount,) and if the job isn’t done in $10,000 worth of your time then you negotiate more hours.
Note that clients who frequently work with artists usually have a standard contract, so you won’t have to write your own contract for these clients. However, you should look their contracts over for loopy clauses, and don’t be afraid to ask for changes if necessary.
For less experienced clients, you’ll probably have to provide your own contract (after explaining to the client that you can’t work without a contract.) The Graphic Artists Guild book in the last post is what I usually use for standard contract forms.
FIGURING YOUR RATES
One way to figure out a general hourly rate for yourself is to figure out your living expenses and the costs of freelancing (supplies, phone/internet, mailing, conventions, whatever other expenses you have,) and then figure out how much you need to make per week to cover that, assuming a standard 40-hour work week, and then divide by 40 for a ballpark hourly rate. You could also work backwards from how much you need to make per year to survive, but that’s a lot of math.
Actually, don’t just cover your living expenses, make sure you have enough profit left over for emergencies and living in a civilized manner. As you get experience and your work is worth more, or if your expenses go up, you’ll probably want to start upping those rates.
Of course, then it’s up to you to actually GET enough work to survive on… But that’s a whole other complicated topic!
All right, so I’ve been asked for advice on pricing and the business of freelancing, and rather than try to somehow telepathically communicate links via Tumblr’s message system that doesn’t allow links, I thought I might as well put together a post of resources for figuring out the practical side of being an artist. Because this is stuff everyone needs to know anyway, right?
First off, a super-useful book for freelancers is “The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines”. The prices may be skewed to the USA, but they give a good ballpark idea of approximately what’s expected in the market. So it’s a good starting point for figuring out your own prices and not ending up with something completely whacked out. The book also has tons of sample forms and information on best practices, which can be even more useful than the prices.
Here’s some sites that often have good articles on the business of art and the finer points of freelancing:
Potentially useful forums (mostly concept art oriented, but they sometimes cover more general things too.)
* Yes I know ConceptArt.org has had a lot of political and technical turmoil lately, but the archives have a wealth of useful material. What I usually do is use Google to search the CA archives: type the topic you want + “ConceptArt.org” + optionally the section you think the topic is in (the “Art Discussion” section used to have a lot of stuff on the practical side of art.)
CGHub used to be another one, but it’s officially dead, alas. There’s a new one called "DrawCrowd", but right now it looks like it’s mostly for art sharing/eye candy and not so much for discussion/info.
If you’ve got the money to spend, this is supposed to be pretty good:
And it looks like there will be a useful video or two posted here (coming soon, but I have my eye on it:)
I’m sure I’m missing a lot more resources, if I think of more I’ll add them!