How to get your pricing right

At the AOI, we advise on pricing 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

Gebbie co-runs the popular monthly illustration meetup Yo Illo

Gebbie co-runs the popular monthly illustration meetup Yo Illo

"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, 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."

Gebbie's clients have included Chanel, H&M and Diesel

Gebbie's clients have included Chanel, H&M and Diesel

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. Sometimes I'll do a freebie for a friend's wedding invitation, but only for VERY good friends."

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 271; buy it here!

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The Association of Illustrators is the professional body for illustration in the UK.