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How much to charge for an illustration or design

The main problem illustrators and freelancers do is they don`t think like a buisness person.

One of the most frequently asked questions freelancers ask themselves is – how much should you charge a client. How much do you value your own work.

One of the most common feelings I’ve come to learn a freelancer has – not feeling economically appreciated. Which leads to complaining over clients who don’t pay enough.

Now, why do you even consider working for a client that doesn’t pay enough or even at all for your service? You’re afraid to lose the client. You’re afraid of not having a portfolio. You’re afraid of not getting into the biz. And so on and so forth.

Drawing, illustration Stefan Lindblad 2021. In Sketchbook (Art Creation, Talens)

Your clients are close to home

The biz is around the corner. You have paying clients next door. Make contact with local companies and organisations locally and in your country before you look for international clients. Or look paralleled. Most probably your main income and best-paying clients will be those you make contact with yourself via email or simply via the phone. Network with local businesses and people. Give out a business card or postcard with your website address visible. Talk to people. Let them know what you do. And be good, be quality. Deliver. And, don’t rely too much on family and friends or those bidding Freelance websites Upwork and Fiverr and 99Design were you for the most part earn coffee money. Were price dumping rules. Bidding gigs is price dumping and bad for you in the long run. You destroy your own market. Look for clients and build your business like the business person you are in a B2B manner, like a professional.

No need to sign-up with these bidding sites or work for bad clients. I only have an Upwork account because one of the international client I have uses Upwork to pay their freelance contractors.

Ps. I didn’t get the client via Upwork. I got my client via networking. And they approached me the traditional way and asked if I would consider doing work for them, not via Upwork.

People go for the seemingly easy but contra productive way

Still freelancers sign-up with Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, Guru and 99Designs where bad paying clients roam. Where you bid as low as possible to get a gig. Hoping for hand outs. I mention this in a previous post: ”Freelance sites freelancers worst enemy”.

The wrong thing most freelancers do – and I´m an illustrator and Graphic Artist myself – is to sit and accept whatever we get without even negotiating – and then complaining about it. Many Creatives stand with a hat in their hand, afraid to lose the gig and then accept what is being offered. This way they will continue to be in the hands of others goodwill.

The sad thing is many consider working for free so they don´t lose the client – which is a very odd business approach. It’s the equivalent to working at any kind of job for free simply because you’re afraid you won’t get the unpaid job otherwise. Bizarr, isn’t it.

Main problems when negotiating

  • Afraid to lose the client
  • Accept what the client like to pay, without negotiating
  • Don’t have a pricelist
  • Don’t know your hourly rate
  • Don’t know your worth

Don´t work for free. Dont work with bad people and bad buisnesses. Simple.

Be prepared and know your worth

By knowing beforehand what your pricelist is and what your hourly rate is, the easier it is and the more empowered you are in negotiating prices with your client.

If you stick to the prices beforehand, have wiggle amounts and percentages prepared, it all become so much more effective and business-minded.

Create your own Pricelist

Set up a price list of your own. With three levels for any specific job. And keep this three-level price list secret. Never share with a client or in public. This is for your eyes only and something you have as a help when negotiating with a client. This is similar to how many salespeople work.

The lowest price must be a price where you still make money and most importantly feel comfortable with. Never go under that amount. Let say its an hourly rate. Let say you think 30 euros/dollars in your pocket/account with all taxes and expenses paid is a good amount, then add 30 x 2. That gives an amount of 90 euros/dollars you should charge for an hours work. That’s the thinking most retail shops practice, or should. 30 is the cost a seller asks for a product. You pay 30. Then when selling to a retail customer you add 30 to cover your cost. So your even plus/minus. Then you add 30 on top of that. The 30 on top is what you make, your profit. Basically. So a product in a retail store you pay 30 for, your customers pay 90 to buy from you. You can play with the 30, go under or go over, but you have to set the lowest amount so you still think it’s worth it. If you only charge a customer 61, then you make less than a dollar.

Your market is not someone else’s market

Depending on where you live and work on this planet, your hourly rate for instance is in tune with the market you live and work in. So, a person who feels £5 or 5 euros sounds okay for an hour – to me its an insult – £90 or 120 £/euros may sound impossible and a dream. Remember you probably don’t pay as much for rent, food and living in your country as I do. It all depends on where you live and work.

Know your Hourly Rate

By setting up your price list it becomes more clear what your hourly rate should be, or fixed prices.

Its a global world we live in, and it’s very clear to me sitting in Stockholm, Sweden that pricelists and price models depends on which country and economy we live and work in. A cappuccino in Stockholm can easily cost 4-6 euros/dollars whereas it may cost only 1 euro/dollars in some other country or continent. But the general rule of thumb and prices to charge is pretty universal.

Don’t undervalue your work. Stop just accepting and take charge. Dare to lose a client to get a better client elsewhere. And skip Fiverr and Upwork if you can. These freelance gig sites only make you get paid less.

Stefan Lindblad
Illustrator, artist
Self-employed Freelancer

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