At the AOI, we advise on pricing (opens in new tab) on a daily basis, covering everything from the smallest private commission to the biggest advertising campaign. We see illustrators being offered fair – and often generous – amounts of money every day. Yet we also see many who willingly give away their rights or work for free, and then are not able to sustain a career in the industry.
But with some support and a bit of basic knowledge, illustrators are increasingly negotiating better fees. We say a big yes to that.
We asked fashion illustrator and AOI member Willa Gebbie to share her insight on costing. More information about pricing can be found in the Members Area at The AOI.
01. Consider pricing based on usage
"Pricing is difficult. It's hard to know what the going rate is, and no one wants to feel like they've charged too little," says Gebbie.
"For jobs in marketing and advertising, I charge based on usage, which is a bit complex as you need to think about how the illustration(s) will be used, who will use it (or them) and for how long. I loved Jessica Hische's article, The Dark Art of Pricing (opens in new tab), which gave me so much confidence in how to speak to art directors about money and usage. The AOI's pricing advice has also been invaluable."
02. Remember it's not just about the illustration
However, sometimes, quoting isn't a straightforward process. "Recently, a regular client was interested in developing a short animation with my illustrations," says Gebbie. "I've never worked on an animation before, but I share a studio with some really great animators, and knew it could be great to involve them and work together.
"When the role involves multiple people, you're not just being paid to draw, you have to manage the project for the client, and make sure that everyone involved is being paid fairly."
03. Don't sign over copyright
Occasionally, Gebbie's clients will ask her to assign copyright. "It's really disappointing," she explains. "I'll always give them a call and kindly ask them if they can provide a licensing contract. Sometimes that's all it takes; not everyone understands what they're actually asking for. If the money is decent, or if it's obvious that the artwork will never be used for anything else, then I'll settle with giving rights ‘in-perpetuity'. But often, I'll turn work down rather than give away my copyright – mainly out of principle."
04. Never work for free
So how does Gebbie feel about working for free? "No way. Not for a company who is profiting from it," she assets. " There are much better ways of working for free, such as collaborating with other artists on personal projects, so I do that instead. I already donate a lot of my free time to the community through Yo Illo (opens in new tab). Sometimes I'll do a freebie for a friend's wedding invitation, but only for VERY good friends."