One of the most difficult parts of being a beginning freelance artist is setting the right price for the work you perform. If you set it too low you risk getting underpaid, if too high, you may loose offers to the competition. When your client base is still small and you aren’t hired specifically to do ‘your style’, you need to be careful about what you propose.
Below you will find some advice to help you make the best decision possible.
The easiest way to calculate the price of your work is to estimate the hours it will take to complete the project from start to finish. That means, the whole creative process including research, preparation, the making and eventual fixes or corrections. Maybe also an extra hour for writing e-mails, chatting or otherwise communicating with your client or team.
If you have just started out as a freelancer, it may take a few projects to learn to accurately estimate the time needed to finish a job and you will most likely miscalculate a few times. Take it as a learning experience and don’t worry too much but be sure to pay attention so that you don’t keep making mistakes that will cost you working for free.
Besides the time spent on the job, it is also important to take into account the value it will bring to your customer.
Consider who is hiring you to do a project for them. Is it a big company or a small family business? Think of how they are going to use your work. Will it help them market their products for many years to come or are they going to use it for a specific purpose for a limited amount of time?
There is a difference between creating a logo to represent a big clothing company versus illustrating a manual to be used in a safety training for the same company’s factory workers. The amount of time put in both projects may be the same but the value it brings to the company is much lower in the second case.
You may get hired to do a pamphlet for a small vacuum company to promote their newest products. The pamphlet will be used for 3 months and then never again. It is very unlikely that the company will hire an expensive freelancer to do the job but they will still look for a professional designer, since the project is for marketing their business and so the company’s sales may be affected. They may look for someone who charges per hour but they may be willing to pay higher rates.
To accurately estimate the price for a project always consider the value your work will bring to the customer, as well as the amount of hours you will spend working on it.
An artist may be commissioned by a middle-class family to do a realistic oil portrait of all family members together. Let’s assume that it will take the artist about 70 hours to complete the work and they agree to be paid about $2000 for the painting ($28/hour). Obviously the portrait will have great sentimental value to the family but they won’t profit from it in any way, only hang it on the wall in their living room.
The same artist is hired by the Time magazine to do a cover illustration. They need a modern design, simple but eye-catching. It takes the artist 20 hours to complete it and they are paid $3000 ($150/hour). Also, their work is shown on the front page of one of the most popular magazines, so they also get plenty of exposure and a great addition to their portfolio.
Should the artist demand the family to pay them $10000 for the painting ($150/hour) or tell the Time magazine they only want $600 for the illustration just to make the rate per hour even? I’m sure you know the answer.
You may find yourself doing work for very different rates depending on your client’s budget. It is completely okay, as long as you decide that the payment and the project are worth your time.
Your experience and skill level
As a beginning freelancer with no prior experience, it will be difficult for you to find jobs if you set your rates too high. Try to be honest with yourself and measure your current skill level. Think of how much value you can offer to your potential clients and set your price accordingly. Once you have the experience and a portfolio full of examples of your past projects, you can start raising your rates and demand higher payments.
Be careful not to undervalue yourself. The internet is full of freelancers with good skill, charging very little for they hard work. They are at high risk of being unfairly paid and loose the opportunity to advance in their career.
Be proud of your art and try to be as objective as you can in pricing it’s value.