RULES A FREELANCE ARTIST MUST KNOW! Part I

Although I don't like beards, this is how I would dress if society wasn't so judgemental.
I get asked a lot by students and peers alike what they should charge for a freelance assignment-- and I'm always happy that they do.

Am I an expert at pricing?  Probably.  I am able to make a living from art.
Do I make mistakes?  Of course.

(Any clients of mine who read this blog-- please leave now-- this is not for you!)

THE RULES OF FREELANCE
#1 Rule you MUST understand:
Clients will sometimes try to get a better price from your competition, and that's perfectly okay.  If you have built a solid relationship with that client they will likely contact you to see if you can match the lower price, and if you can't, that leads to;

#2 Rule you MUST understand:
Sometimes it's okay to pass on an assignment.
If it's less than you're willing to work for, if it's not worth your time, or if its just not the right assignment it's better to pass then it is to slave over something you're not making enough money to pay your bills on.

#3 Rule you MUST understand:
Sometimes it's okay to lose a client.
Hopefully under good circumstances, they went to that lesser charging competitor and ended up being happy with the work they did.  That's a good situation.  The bad situation is they are unhappy with the new artist and come back to you again and ask if you'll lower your prices.  That's a tough situation to be in.

A SAD BUT TRUE STORY
"It's the amateurs that ruin it for the professionals."  -- Harlan Ellison
Once upon a time there was a very talented artist who hoped to make it on his art, but for the time being he had to work a difficult long hour other job to pay the bills.   When a client approached him to see if he'd be willing to do a large illustration for them he was so excited he instantly quoted them $100 for the gig.

The client was familiar with his work, so they had no doubt he could do it.  Their hesitation was that they had been paying $1500.00 for the very same assignment from another artist (me) that they'd been very happy with.  They couldn't understand how this other artist could do it for so much less.

So they called me.

They explained that the budget had been cut on this annual project, they now had only $700 to spend on this assignment-- which they had offered to me and I declined by the way

(#4 Rule you MUST understand:  Never go down on your price.  It will never go back up.)

I laughed when they told me what he did.  I laughed because in his excitement he killed the assignment,   not just for me but for any other artist who might be willing to do the work for $700.   Had this artist called me and said "What should I charge for this?"  I would have told him I know the budget is $700-- ask for $850 and settle for $750 if you can work at that.

Now I know some of you might be thinking there's no way I would have done that.  There's no way I would surrender a client over like that, but it's the truth.  I am busy enough already that I don't have to cling to assignments like that-- and at the risk of sounding egotistical, even at $1500 that's a pretty small job on my scale.

I refer more artists to work than I accept.

Because I live by Rule #2.

Because I live by Rule #2 I am available when that bigger assignment comes along because I'm not bogged down doing something I didn't want to do in the first place.  Let me go on record that I also do plenty of assignments for a lot less than even $750-- but they are usually assignments that are either easy or something I just want to do.

FREELANCED.com is a pretty good site to find work.  But I sometimes laugh at the jobs that are posted.  While a good percentage are realistically priced, there are some that are just plain ludicrous.

COMIC ARTIST WANTED - 100pg graphic novel Due Immediately or Sooner!  Pays $150.00USD Must be Professional!

Can you imagine that?  100pages due now and it pays $1.50 a page!  $1.50 a page!!  And did I mention it's due NOW?
That means the artist who accepts this job is going to be putting themselves in a high stress position trying to get these pages drawn and approved and they'll have $150.00 to show for it.

And there are more than 50 applicants for it.

Now here's the reality:  This "publisher" is going to pay $50 (if that) and end up with 10 pages of art over the course of the next six months before they run the ad again and likely the same cycle will happen.  After the course of a year they'll either give up the project all together or they'll have 25 pages of mis-matched art of varying quality, but I guarantee-- GUARANTEE-- they will NOT have a 100pg graphic novel anywhere near completed in the next TWO years.

Meanwhile, I'm on the home stretch of my 125 page DRACULA Graphic novel which is due in the hands of the publisher one month from today, and it will be there.

Why won't this other "publisher" accomplish their goal?  Because they aren't serious.  No matter how much they say they believe in their project they don't, otherwise they'd get over to the bank and take out a loan of $15 - $20K and actually hire that professional they're looking for.

$20K for a comic book???  Imagine the creator of THE WALKING DEAD having the attitude of this "publisher"-- it would still be an idea in the development stages rather than a multi million dollar award winning series.

You see, coming up with the concept, even writing the script is a helluva a lot easier than it is to draw the thing.  And if you want a PROFESSIONAL you have to be willing to PAY a PROFESSIONAL.

Which leads into this:

If YOU WANT TO BE A PROFESSIONAL YOU MUST CHARGE LIKE A PROFESSIONAL.

Continued Tomorrow.