How To Price Your Art

(Originally published in 4/17/2013)

There is a saying from Paul Scriven about pricing for freelancers & designers:
Work either for full price or for free, but never for cheap.”

There is much truth in this statement. Sometimes cheap can be good to get you some reward as a beginner, but that makes it difficult to climb the professional ladder.

The graphic sums up these points nicely:


I teach these concepts to all of my students.

The question always is how to appropriately raise a price with a client and how to know when you are good enough to do so.

There is not one universal answer to this question. First off, it is important to know what keeps you competing as a freelancer in the first place.

Legendary author and graphic novelist talked about it this way:

Neil Gaiman said it right in a speech once and a fan made this nice Venn Diagram to illustrate his key points.

You either get work because you are good, easy to get along with or because you always deliver on time. You need to fulfill 2 of these 3 criteria to stay in the game.

However, if you desire to raise your prices you must improve all three.

When I discuss pricing with a new client I am considering communication and wavelength.

Time is the only factor I use to raise or lower a price, but it is crucial to be able to accurately estimate just how long you need to finish your work, otherwise your pricing will be off.

One solution is to get faster. Optimizing your workflow and productivity gets you further but sadly only to a certain degree, the agreed upon fee. This will not magically increase just because you need only two hours to finish the job instead of 10 hours.

So the only way to increase the sum is to charge more for less time.

If you can give a discount to someone who has time and doesn’t require an illustration the next day, you can definitely do the opposite with clients who want an illustration beforehand.

If in a negotiation you can present yourself as an expert and demonstrate that your usual turnaround time is one week at a good price, this  will look professional. If your prospective clients hesitate because of the higher price, you can always give a discount for two to three weeks turnaround time. People catch on to the fact that your value is time and that you are aware ofwhat your time is worth.

Always ask yourself if the client or target audience is right. Every market has their own roster. Editorial illustration for magazines have a turnaround time of 2 days or less hence  they pay more than your average book publisher.



About the Author Oliver Wetter

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