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So you want to be an illustrator?!

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The LCS isn’t the bustling creative web portal it once was due to the sudden and all engulfing rise of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. However, we still keep an eye on things and occasionally post an article or run the odd art related project (like Mail Me Art) when we get the chance. But when it comes to career-related and general advice, our new home for publishing these sort of articles is the HAI Staff Blog. We try to write and publish them when we can, but there are only so many hours in a day, as every self-employed person knows. Here is a list of all the freelance illustration advice riddled articles you may have missed over the last year.

Lots of people want to become or train to be illustrators. Some people take up the trade because they have a natural talent and others end up as artists because their mothers incessantly told them how good they were and they started to believe it! However you became or will become an illustrator, we’ve all got to start somewhere. As we live in a multimedia-rich world these days, it’s never been easier to find information and advice about the industry we all love.

Become an ArtPACT patreon

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ArtPACT has been free for a while now and was running on general donations, but there weren’t enough to maintain the service. Sadly, it was announced a couple of weeks ago that they were giving up the ghost and closing down. This announcement managed to light a fire under enough people’s butts to kickstart their Patreon campaign and breath new life into the service. They’re looking to reach a minimum of $250 per month to keep their excellent service going, so if you can spare anything to help them out, I’m sure it’d be appreciated. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3802975

ArtPACT is a free online resource for illustrators focusing on the fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and comic book genres. The ArtPACT website has information for artists of all experience levels regarding contracts, copyrights, and alternative income solutions.” – Jim Pavelec

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

Get your professional conduct on!

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There’s a new post up on the Hire an Illustrator blog and it goes into the ins and outs of how to conduct yourself when it comes to talking about clients after the fact on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve been guilty ourselves of having the occasional rant, but when your reputation is part of a professional community as a whole… You do need to keep yourself in check. Visit the HAI blog and have a read at hireanillustrator.com/i/blog/1113/

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

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.

Lizzie Mary Cullen: Late Paying Clients Can Ruin Illustration Businesses

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Lizzie Mary Cullen has just had a well said rant about clients paying their invoices late or not at all, and how it is much more than just an inconvenience. If you commission illustrators, please pay attention and have a read. You hire them because you love what they do, so please show them enough respect to pay them on time.

Read: How a Late Paying Client Can Ruin a Freelance Business

How to Approach US Art Directors

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Words of wisdom from 3×3‘s Charles Hively, the Jedi Master of working with art directors and quality illustration. Charles is going to be running a 3-hour webinar which will be a bitesized version of the full-day workshop he held in London, October 2014. It’s $50, but worth every penny and they’ll be a Q&A.

We’ll discuss the most important times of the year to send out materials, and the months that are a waste of time and money. We’ll talk about the best day and time of day to contact a prospective client. We’ll explore what to put in a subject line that will get an art director to open your email. And what months you should plan a visit to New York and how to set up appointments. And we’ll share with you the materials that come across our desk from both photographers and successful illustrators. Learn from their success. – Charles Hively

The webinar will be on the October 24th, 9am-12pm EDT and you’ll find tickets via Eventbrite at http://tiny.cc/3x3webinar.

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.