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Update on Freelance Artist Prices

It’s hard for me to believe that a couple of years have passed since I last wrote the article on “Prices to Charge as a Freelance Artist“, but it has. At the time, it got the attention of several major artist-related websites and it gained a lot of traffic. I received an email in regards to it a couple of days ago. A reader named Adam wanted to know if the general pricing structure outlined has remained the same since time has passed. My answer would be “yes”, but I figured it might be worth copying and pasting our correspondence below as it might prove useful to others:

Here is the original correspondence below:

 I came across your blog about pricing as a freelance artist.  Price to Charge as a Freelancer or Artist.
It was extremely informative, but being that it is now close to a few years old, how much of that information still remains true – Has pricing become tighter within the past few years, or remained the same?

I would like to offer watercolor rendering, but have no clue about what to price, and I too feel that drastically undercutting is no good for the industry as a whole – but am at a loss of what to charge because I see so many ( likely foreign based) illustrators/renderers offering services for a few hundred dollars, and that seems completely unsustainable here in the US.

I chose to email you rather than reply to the blog because the last post was quite some time ago, so I was no sure if you were still watching it.  I hope you do not mind.

My reply:

Hi Adam,

Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been swamped with things to do. It was probably a good question for the blog, and if you wouldn’t mind, I might repost this:

To answer your question, the prices haven’t changed. Most of my estimates factor in just operating costs such as rent and other bills. And trust me, those haven’t changed. If anything cable and cellphone bills have increased. The only thing that has somewhat decreased are oil prices and they’re still high.

As for the market, it’s still competitive with China and India in the mix, however their prices have steadily increased. There might be fewer rendering freelancers out there due to the economy, but that’s not going to lower the bottom line any—it should help the survivors if anything. Also banks are still reluctant to make significant loans to developers without a significant amount down so there’s some cuts in that department.

So, the market is still hanging in there. I wouldn’t say as good as it was a few years ago but it will come back. One shouldn’t have to ask for lower than what I had posted unless a person is starting out for a few first sample projects or a company hits a major lull in work and needs to get temporary finances in order. If it continues to stay low, either an artist is going to crazy due to the amount of work and changes involved, or it’s just going to be unsustainable.

I’ve been told repeatedly by customers/clients that my prices are generally right in the middle, so I think that’s where we all should be (of course, who wouldn’t like more which really should be the case for the amount of work involved.)

As for outsourcing, I have written articles about that and will probably post something within the next day regarding the topic. The savings really aren’t that great due to all of the communication issues which can add weeks to a client’s project. Especially with China, they’ll make unlimited changes but always make dozens of errors, then there’s situations where they hit you up with hidden costs. I’ve had numerous people tell me that they’ve tried it but their time is more valuable in the end. It’s worth just spend a few hundred extra to get it done 3X faster without the headaches. The only time it’s worth it is if its an extremely complicated project and you have months to dedicate to fielding questions.

It’s important for many of us to recognize basic operating costs and try to profit somewhat accordingly, otherwise we are all doing each other a major disservice by undercutting one another. That’s the reason why I posted the article—mostly just to give everyone some basic business-sense to build our craft upon.

Let me know if that helps.