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Budgeting for Illustration, Know thy Client

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Part of what I do at Hire an Illustrator is have clients send me their job briefs and then make appropriated recommendations about who they should hire for their projects in the form of a list of candidates. As the Little Chimp Society is a community of illustrators and people who love illustration, I though I’d share a bit about how it works when it comes to budgets and negotiations, from my point of view.

If I know a client doesn’t have a budget for an illustration job I tell them they need to find one. If they have a small budget and they’d like to work with a quality illustrator I tell them they need to find a bigger one. If they don’t tell me their budget, I don’t ask them unless I suspect they don’t have one. The thing is, negotiating fees is between the illustrator and client. I can make recommendations or offer advice, but there’s a huge variation in what clients can pay and what illustrators charge. People are normally surprised at how affordable custom illustration actually is, even though it’s a very unique thing and not cheap.

A client is buying a custom piece of work and while it can’t be compared to say a custom piece of furniture, it has a lot of the same attributes going for it as far as it being a unique creation is concerned, so there isn’t an off-the-shelf cost. Plus it’s actually quite complicated when it comes to quoting on a job: there’s the experience and reputation of the illustrator to consider; there’s copyright; there’s usage; and there’s the size of the client and the industry they belong to, along with the value an illustration will bring to their project. As I said, it’s complicated. Life would be so much easier if we were all carpenters, we’d measure the space and then price for materials and labor without ever needing to take projections or alternative uses into consideration.

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When a client approaches an illustrator, unless they’re an experienced art director, they should be prepared to have the illustrator ask them questions they may not have thought of. Plus the client should make as much information about the job available to the illustrator from the start. This will allow the illustrator to create an informed quote. It also really helps if the client can tell the illustrator what their budget is, as only the client knows what they can afford. Most of the time a particular illustrator is approached because the client wants to work with them and if the illustrator wants to work with the client, they’ll try to work to the client’s budget. If the client’s budget doesn’t cover the illustrator’s fees, they’ll kindly refuse the job, or try to come to some sort of licensing or other arrangement that’ll make the budget work. Alternatively, if there’s any flexibility in the budget it may go up, it may go down. What it comes down to is both parties needing to negotiate the terms to find something the client and illustrator are happy with. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process, but the more upfront the client is and the less fishing they do, the quicker it will be. Illustrators know what rates they need to charge, clients know what they can afford.

Supply and demand is normal in the commercial world, but should be an afterthought when it comes to illustration. Every piece commissioned is custom and for something specific from it’s inception. Not working to a supply and demand model may be a foreign concept to a business-orientated client who primarily works with numbers, but this is why an illustrator should be aware of this and should know how to handle a client with that mindset… if the client’s expectations aren’t already being managed by an art director or middle man. What clients tend to miss is the inherent value a good illustration can bring to a project, not mentioning the creativity and ideas an illustrator may have. This is why a license is always a good idea too, even a simple illustration has a lot of inherent value and if an illustrator was to hand over the copyright, lock stock and barrel, they’re also transferring all of the image’s value and future worth. Clients don’t normally (and vary rarely) need the copyright to an illustration and it’s worth a lot more to the illustrator than it is to the client. This is why if a client demands the copyright to an image it can add 50-100% (sometimes more) onto the cost of a job. But licenses can have varying terms that allow a client to use an image for their needs. With an illustrator retaining some of its value via the way of a license, budgets and costs can normally be drastically reduced.

Finishing up, what I would say is if you’re an illustrator, make sure you understand the value of your own work and be ready to explain that to your clients. You know what you should be or need to charge and your clients know what they can afford. Communication is the key, work it out.

Artist Credits…
Research World Magazine / Ben Aslett / http://illo.cc/12408
The Lonely Goldfish / Andy Smith / http://illo.cc/10139

Social Round Up: Space, Negan and a Jake Parker video interview

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We saw this impressive work by Chris Hall for Ideas Fortress over on Hire an Illustrator the other week. Even though it’s for kids we might have to check out the Space app to see what we’re missing out on when it gets released. The artwork looks great!

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Mark Reihill posted up a Walking Dead work in progress to accompany the roughest cliffhanger in history! Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of Negan is spot on if you’ve not seen it yet, but you know the comics. This season of WD is one of the most intense so far, it’s such an exciting series. The official art and fan art is alway fantastic to see and I think the quality relates to how passionate people are about the show. Plus zombie are cool!

We’ve been a big of Jake Parker's work for a longtime now and there’s a great little Jason Brusker Youtube interview with him on YouTube, that we also thought was worth sharing. Check it out…

If you’d like to leave a comment, visit our Facebook page. Like the related post and have your say. As you know we no longer accept news submission at the LCS, but feel free to send us an email or message if you’ve got something you’d like us to check out.

Finding your niche!

It’s all well and good telling people you’re a Jack of all trades… if you’re a handyman. But even if a client doesn’t have a specific style in mind, you’re not going to stand out from the crowd. Not being able to show people that special thing you do means you’re not special at all, or to finish the saying… a master of none.

Judge Dredd - The Natural ©Rebellion

Judge Dredd – The Natural © Rebellion

I’m not saying people shouldn’t expand their horizons, it is just that it takes time to build a business and you shouldn’t run before you can walk. Illustrators should find something that they’re really good at and make sure any potential client knows it. You want to pigeonhole yourself and make sure you’re the go-to guy for something specific. Deciding to play to your strengths doesn’t necessarily guarantee work, but it does mean you’re competing for clients in a smaller field with less competition. By narrowing your market you’re actually making more work available to yourself and not less.

Where's Stig? The World Tour - BBC Books

Where’s Stig? The World Tour – BBC Books

For example if someone’s looking for an animator, they’re going to hire an animator and not a children’s illustrator who dabbles in animation. The Jack of all trades might not even be on the client’s radar if they’re not specified what they specialise in for the sake of wanting to not miss out on a job. The same goes for comic book artists – if that’s what you do, that’s what you should call yourself. People will hire comic artists for more than graphic novels and comics, but they tend not to hire people for comic work if they’re not a ‘comic book artist’. Also as far as I know, specialists or people who work in a niche market tend to get paid more too. Have a look at successful illustrators, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree the common thread is that they all have a specific style and that they tend to work for similar clients and do variations of the same kind of job, time and time again. There are exceptions to the rule, but not everyone can be Damien Hirst.

Find your thing and make it yours! The world is your oyster.

Artist Credits…
Judge Dredd / Graeme Neil Reid / http://illo.cc/528
Where’s Stig? / Rod Hunt / http://illo.cc/9747

We built the new HAI website

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It took almost three months, but we did it. The new website we built for Hire an Illustrator is now online and you can check it out at hireanillustrator.com. The old site was just over six years old (a dinosaur in internet years) and really needed an update, but we didn’t want to stray too far from the established design as we believe if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. HAI is an important part of many creatives’ daily routines, whether it’s updating their own profile or searching the site for an illustrator to hire. It needed to be easy to use and familiar to avoid any major learning curves when it came to the new site. The most important part was clients being able to find the type of illustrator they wanted as quickly as they did on the old site. And the 500+ members needed to know what they were doing with the new site without a series of complicated instructions.

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We rebuilt the site from the ground up, as the old site had five years worth of patches and fixes to keep things running smoothly. It would have actually been more work to drag the site into the 21st century than rebuild it. We worked on making the site as fast as we possibly could while integrating modern technology and techniques. We’re pleased to say the site is now fully responsive, which means you can use it on your laptop, iPad or smartphone with ease. Finding an illustrator has never been easier.

We’re really happy with how the site turned out and we hope the members of HAI love it too. Traffic has increased and job requests for illustration work are already up by a third and we’re sure that trend will continue.

If you’re looking for an illustrator, the staff at HAI are more than happy to assist you with your quest: hireanillustrator.com/i/submit

Likewise, if you’re interested in becoming a member of Hire an Illustrator, you can sign up at hireanillustrator.com/i/apply.

First things first.

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It’s a little bit late, but happy New Year guys! Mail Me Art: Open All Hours (MMA4) is still going strong, although we’ve been a bit lately quiet on that front. We’ve decided to delay the exhibition and latest book for the minute and start the ball rolling on them again in late 2016 which will be followed by the launch of Mail Me Art: Apocalypse (MMA5). However, this does mean that MMA4 is now open again for submissions and all you need if you’d like to take part is the Mail Me Art: Short & Sweet (MMA3) book. The reason for the delay is that the LCS is currently working on a complete redesign of the illustration promotional service Hire An Illustrator and it’s no small feat. Once that’s complete we’ll be fully updating Mail Me Art’s website and social pages and further integrating them into the Little Chimp Society to turn the LCS into the creative community hub we always intended it to be.

The awesome bit of mail art above was sent to us just before Christmas by our friend Beach and I’m sad to say today… RIP David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), legend.

Why as a freelancer you shouldn’t work-for-hire!

It’s actually really simple: every time you create a new, original piece of work you own the copyright to it. Instantly. Automatically. You don’t need to apply for it, it’s yours… even if you don’t finish the piece. The main exception is if you become a full-time employee of a company or are working on a licensed character or something similar. But then if you are an in-house illustrator you’ll be entitled to holidays, sick pay, maternity leave, maybe a pension and all the other awesome things you get when you’re an employee rather than being your own boss. In return for those things and a regular wage, as long as you’re not on a zero hour contract and you feel you have job security, I think it’s a fair compromise to give up your copyright and become a work-for-hire cowboy.

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Brony, copyright Alex Fine

But when you’re your own boss and you have to cover all those things yourself, why would you give up your copyright? There’s almost never a good reason to sell full rights when you can sell a client a license and save the client a pretty penny in the process. Yes you heard me right, by not selling your copyright to a client you’re saving them money. Take your typical fee (not including full rights) and add 100-150% to it; that’s how much you should be charging for the copyright. If you already include the copyright when you sell an image, you need to half your fee… is that enough? If you don’t think so, you are undercharging for your work, undervaluing yourself and making it more difficult for other hard-working illustrators to charge a proper fee. Not to mention you could be damaging future relationships with your clients when you realise you should have been charging them more. When you quote for a job, never include the copyright and always give the client a few licensing options. If the client does ask for copyright, and you’re willing to sell it, double up your highest quote. They may need it, they may want it, but if that’s the case they should be paying for it.

Some Big Companies at this stage will tell the artist they want to buy or own all copyrights to the image created. For instance, if Disney commissioned me to do an illustration featuring Mickey Mouse, well, they own Mickey Mouse. They would not want me later on licensing the illustration to a company that makes Disney toys for sale with a product, because Disney wants to own and control the Mickey Mouse brand. So, they will without a doubt tell me that working for them means they will purchase the entire copyright from me. This leaves me with no secondary streams of revenue. This usually costs money, and Big Companies typically pay accordingly.
Learning How to Commission Illustration by Randy Gallegos

When you sell a client a license it’s either time-limited or usage-limited or a mixture of both. For example, you might sell an editorial license for a newly commissioned image to a publisher permitting them to only use it in their magazine or on their website as part of a certain article. You’re then free to sell the same image to an apparel company or an advertising company who might use it as part of a motion graphic. But to avoid a conflict where two companies are using the same image at the same time, you might sell the first company an exclusive 12 month license, so although they can still only use it for certain things without paying extra and extending their usage, they’ll be the only ones with the image for 12 months. You can even offer them a renewal when the license expires or offer them a longer license in the first place. Alternatively you might offer them an exclusive perpetual license on using the image in their magazine. They then have it exclusively for a specific usage forever, so why would they want to pay extra for the copyright?

I don’t believe that an illustrator should never sell their copyright. I just think that when they do, they should be paid appropriately for it – and if they don’t, they should be able to bring in a secondary revenue stream from the work they’ve created through additional licensing. Obviously, when an illustrator has more experience they can demand a higher fee for their work, but over time an illustrator’s actual portfolio should gain value too.

If you ever need advice on this subject or any other illustration-related issues, join Hire an Illustrator, then you can email me or Jane directly for help. Or if you just want to get your two pennies worth in on this topic, follow this link and leave a comment on our Facebook page.

Presenting the MMA4 Submission Gallery

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The deadline for sending in a submission for Mail Me Art: Open All Hours has now past, but we will still accept late submissions until the New Year. It’s just submissions that arrived before the deadline will get priority if there ends up being a lack of space at the exhibition or in the next publication. All you need is a copy of the Mail Me Art 3 book if you do want to take part. We will do our best to accommodate any late submissions that do arrive, but as mentioned we can’t make any promises.

If you’d like to check out all the current submissions, we’ve just put up a gallery of all the Open All Hours mail art. Visit the Mail Art Gallery for Mail Me Art: Open All Hours, it also includes a list of all the MMA4 contributors.

The Captivating Art of Jason Limon

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We’re always happy to see Jason Limon‘s work pop up in our Facebook feed. He’s a very creative and talented artist with an unbelievable consistency. I think we’ve been following his work since 2007, when he took part in the first Mail Me Art. We’ve still got his mail art in storage… I think. We might have to fish that out. :)

His weird and furry creatures are awesome! I’d really love to purchase two or three of his original paintings, but I might have to settle for prints, as is normally the way when you’re a minor league art collector. And don’t even get me started on how amazing his sculptures are!

Check out the rest of Jason’s work at… limon-art.com.

How to Hire a Children’s Illustrator

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If you’ve written a manuscript or are planning on writing a children’s book, there’s a very handy FAQ over on the Hire an Illustrator staff blog. It covers everything from whether you should actually be hiring an illustrator or not and how much it’s going to cost you. If you’re not an author and have joined the dark side as an illustrator it’s probably worth checking out yourself too. The questions were devised and answered by Ginger Nielson who has years of experience in the publishing industry and has created almost 40 children’s books herself.

Visit: How to Hire a Children’s Illustrator

Image Credit… The Waif by Peter George.

IH8WAR: Artists & Designers Against War

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Friend of the LCS, Charles Hively, recently had a chat with us about a very intriguing project he’s running via his Artisanal Media LLC company with colleague Sarah Munt. Charles is hoping the project will eventually turn into a movement and take on a life of it’s own. IH8WAR was born of a talk they gave at Vienna’s Joseph Binder Symposium in October 2014 on the responsibility of artists and designers to become involved in the state of the world.

You can listen to the talk here…

If you weren’t aware, since 2003 Charles Hively has been the design director for 3×3, and is also the founder and publisher of that awesome publication and website.

The poster at the top of the post was created by Monika Grubizna and below you can check out a few more of the submissions.

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Stop the War – Alberto Ruggieri (Italy)

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Stand – Giulio Bonasera (Italy)

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War = Death – Seymour Chwast (United States)

IH8WAR is accepting submissions; head over to their site for more information. http://ih8war.com/