5 Important Steps to Becoming A Full Time Artist



  • @sigross For me, I told them $500 was a discount because they were a self-publishing author and it was only 10 pages and that the normal rate was $1K.



  • I normally avoid name my price for as long as I can when working as a freelancer. I ask the potential client to tell me their budge instead. If I think the fee is not reasonable, I then tell the client the budget is too low to meet my standard and ask if they can raise the budget. If the potential client is not serious, he/she would probably stop coming back to me by now, which is fine for me. If a project is very interesting, and the client seems to be serious, then I can consider offering a discount.


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    @xin-li

    I normally avoid name my price for as long as I can when working as a freelancer. I ask the potential client to tell me their budge instead.

    While your approach is quite common, I recommend that illustrators don't make this the ongoing tactic they use.
    Instead as soon as you have enough experience to know what your work should be worth, the illustrator should put out the first number.

    To be clear -- I'm not saying this approach of first asking the client the budget should never be used, just that there is a time (two to three years into your career) that it should be intentionally phased out. The reality is that asking the client for their budget first puts the illustrator at a disadvantage.

    For YEARS I read seasoned IP attorneys repeatedly telling illustrators to stop asking clients to name the budget. This was on an older discussion board TheiSpot.com. I was quite new to my career and so I didn't quite understand why.

    A while back I came across a really good negotiation podcast Slate's Negotiation Academy. In episode 1 "Who Sets the Price?" this dynamic is covered. Scrub to 9:40 which is where they start discussing this topic.

    If you only listen to one episode of the series listen to that part. But the entire 10 episode series is eye opening!



  • @davidhohn Thank you for sharing the podcast. I really need some more negotiation advice.

    Well, regarding naming the price: with established publishing houses, I would get an offer as a starting point for negotiation. I thought it was a good tactic to use for other types of projects as well. Now I am not so sure anymore, got to listen to the podcast you suggested :-).



  • @davidhohn said in 5 Important Steps to Becoming A Full Time Artist:

    TheiSpot.com

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I've always struggled with doing the "tell me your budget" thing because when I freelance with larger companies they always ask me my price, and it feels weird to try and get them to tell me their budget instead of just answering. It doesn't bother me so much when it's just a small company or person for some reason.



  • @jdubz totally agree on this. I think you can accept lower rates if it serves another purpose- maybe it will be a great portfolio piece or maybe you agree with whatever the project’s goal is. It doesn’t have to be money but there has to be something in it for you. But keep your minsdset clear that you did not do it for the money only. Because you are right, it’s so easy to get trapped in the starving artist mindset. I think it’s good to have another job that brings some sort of regular income so you don’t fall into this trap when you’re just starting out.



  • @Jeannelle said in 5 Important Steps to Becoming A Full Time Artist:

    "But keep your mindset clear that you did not do it for the money only. Because you are right, it’s so easy to get trapped in the starving artist mindset."

    I think you're right to say that you were willing to work on a project because there was something more to it than just the money. But I see some issues to this as well. If we were to adhere to what @jdubz said, your client pool might be composed of word of mouth clients that told each other that "this artist was willing to lower their rates because they believed in my message". Like a game of telephone, those other clients pay more attention to keywords such as "lower rates" and not so much of "the message". There are a lot of self-publishing authors with a "cause" and if they take a liking to your work, with the understanding of your previous rates, I'm concerned you'll get a handful of authors swarming at you asking to push whatever agenda they have for cheap.

    I keep hearing people say that illustrators should charge cheap because they should focus more on educating children. While yes providing quality education through children's books are important, you get what you pay for, which does not bring out books of quality education.



  • @Michael-Angelo-Go said in 5 Important Steps to Becoming A Full Time Artist:

    I keep hearing people say that illustrators should charge cheap because they should focus more on educating children. While yes providing quality education through children's books are important, you get what you pay for, which does not bring out books of quality education.

    I've always tried to look at this like charity - while it's important to give back, but you gotta assign it some boundaries. For my website company, we look for one organization locally we can help at a super reduced rate. We're not taking on all this discounted work, but it's a targeted decision to help one organization with our best work without feeling like we have to starve to do it.

    I don't know how that would translate for illustration clients, but I imagine in time as you built up reputation you could probably find a way to do something similar where you have a focused amount of work your going to give away at like 25% because you believe in the cause.



  • @jdubz I think that's very reasonable. When I mentioned that it was more like that person believed that this should apply to all illustrators on all children's book projects. Basically, they believed all your projects are inherently charity by nature and that if we want to make a living through our services, they said we should just try to sell our art and not make books.



  • @jdubz exactly!

    As someone who had to take on cheap jobs just to get a paycheck (by necessity, I started out freelancing on Elance, which has now become Upwork, right when the economy tanked in the US), I’ve been there!

    One thing I’ll add is that I personally found it hard to break out, to find that confidence you spoke about and ask for a fair price. Especially since I had a good reputation on Elance and had a lot of offers coming my way — I DID start to charge more, but since your rates are posted front and center on your profile page and your job history (along with the price) is right below that, you have to raise them incrementally. It was VERY SLOW growth, something that I still feel the ripple effect from even 11 years later. Now, looking back, I wish I would have negotiated for higher pay right at the outset, but being naive and desperate for that one job to get started on, I didn’t.

    But on the positive side, like @Will-Terry said, it gave me a lot of experience! And I got some of those bad illustrations he talked about out of my system.

    So on the one hand, it stunted my professional progress. On the other, it gave me some valuable experience that will only help me moving forward.


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