I was recently contacted to illustrate a children’s book. The opening and reading of the email was actually insanely exciting, because this person found my work on Behance, liked it so much that they clicked through to my website, and contacted me about their idea. For someone new to that whole experience, it's pretty earth-shatteringly awesome.
I was unbelievably excited and elated and hanging out on cloud nine. I’m gonna be the next Maurice Sendak!
Floating back down to reality, I realized, “Omg, how do I price this??” After intense research(links below), thought, and advice seeking, I arrived at an amount. Through that research I also found that doing children’s book illustration requires a much more complicated agreement than a single illustration or design. So I had to research legalities and standard terms and all that jazz as well.
At the end of an intense day of research, I presented my proposal to the clients with what I deemed to be a very fair amount for the level of work and really short time frame given. They responded, “Your terms and price and ours are very different, we will continue searching.”
Blow to the heart, my friends! BLOW TO THE HEART!
But was it really?
I took a step back and realized, no, this is a learning experience. They wanted to take ownership of the entirety of my work and give me peanuts in return. (Btw, when you see the words “work for hire” you RUN my friends, RUN like a gazelle being chased by a hungry, greedy cheetah!) They also were unclear if they wanted to publish the book or keep it for personal use. Read: “no royalties for the hard working artist.”
Take away lesson: Stick to your guns, price yourself for what you believe your work is worth, and don’t be tricked into giving your time and talent away for nothing. You have to pay your bills too!
I’m learning through this process of experiences what I’ve known in my head for quite some time; working on your own as a freelancer is a whole different world than working in a comfy office, where you get your dependable paycheck, all your work is handed to you, and you don’t have to think about anything else other than getting the work done.
As a freelancer, everything depends on you. Finding work, making contracts, ensuring everything is legal and the terms are fair, accomplishing the work, delivering it, and ensuring the client is satisfied.
Thankfully, I’m learning these things in the best way possible, which is in tandem with a day job that covers the bills. (See The Overlap Technique by the amazing Seanwes). So I have a safety net in case freelance work doesn’t happen, which I’ve seen can happen quite often. And even when work does come to you, if your client wants to pay you pennies, you have to dust your hands off graciously and move on.
That’s a whole other realm of difficulty that I’ve been facing and I know other freelancers deal with.
How on earth do we price our work? That will be left for another blog post where I’ll provide you lots of resources and things I’m learning. For now, I’ll provide a few quick links at the end of the post to give some help with freelance pricing and some others that I found while researching for children’s book illustration pricing, in case you're curious.
So we make mistakes, we interact with clients that aren’t exactly ideal, and things don’t always go how we perceive they should. But we pick ourselves up and move on, taking every single experience with a grain of salt.