The Next Generation: Creatives share what they actually charge for projects
Knowing what to charge for your work can feel daunting, particularly when you’re just starting out. As part of their newly-launched series, The Next Generation, our sister company It’s Nice That look to shine some much-needed light on the process of calculating your fees. Here, we’re sharing an extract from their advice series, as a range of honest creatives share their top tips for pricing your work and what they’d charge for a selection of hypothetical projects.
Money. We rarely talk about it but it’s something we all undeniably need. It’s a murky topic that makes many cringe and clam up, as what one earns can become a judgement for success or arrogance. But for newcomers to the industry, particularly the ones that want to go freelance, pricing work is essential know-how.
To give you an idea of how three practising creatives price their work, and to demonstrate that money is a topic we should all be talking about, we’ve asked them to tell us what they would charge for hypothetical projects.
Harry Butt is an animation director, repped by Blinkink in London, who’s freelanced for several years boasting a client list that includes Boiler Room, Chloé, MTV, Nike, and Warner Records.
For Harry, the main issue when it comes to pricing is the fear of not being paid and a lingering trepidation that the client won’t stick to their promise. “Often the details of a project change, perhaps more work from you is needed, and you need to be quick and confident in making sure you’ll be paid fairly,” says Harry.
With this in mind, Harry’s top tips when it comes to pricing your work are:
1. Work out your day rate
Calculate your expenses – rent, bills, food and so on – for example, £1600. Then, work out how regularly you can get work – ten days a month? – and work backwards from there. For ten days of work, you’d need to charge £160 per day to cover the bare minimum, so you would want to make it up to £200 to cover extra costs like savings and work upwards from there depending on your experience. My current day rate is about £300 to £400.
2. Calculate how long it will take
In addition to the above, the most basic formula for working out your project fee is working out how many days it will take, add another 20% or so in case the project drags on or you need to buy some things like materials, digital assets, or fonts.
3. Get a contract from the client or download a template online
It’s boring and weird to be official but it means things can be way more informal and easygoing from that point onwards. It’s the most consistent way to get fairly paid, I promise!
Harry’s Hypothetical Brief
A four-minute music video for an up-and-coming band – you already listen to their music and like what they do. The job requires techniques and processes you’ve worked with before, you’ll be undertaking the whole thing on your own and have a month to complete it.
“This one’s really hard to price when you’re starting. This particular scenario could be anywhere between £1,500 and £4,000 – the lower end would cover my time and any materials needed to produce the animation, the higher end would be executing a higher quality piece by bringing some extra help on board. Any higher than that and it may be asking too much if the band is very small.”
Jo Zixuan Zhou
Jo Zixuan Zhou is a freelance illustrator living in Shanghai who is a master of editorial work. Her beautifully tactile drawings – inspired by printing textures and simplistic compositions – have appeared in the pages of The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek and too many others to note.
For Jo, connecting with friends and professors while studying became her go-to whenever she was confused about pricing. With plenty of experience now under her belt, her tips today are:
1. Know how much you’re worth and don’t be taken advantage of.
2. Some clients don’t have much experience working with illustrators. So you’ll have to explain why you’re charging this amount of money for this amount of work.
3. Make sure you know what rights you own when it comes to your artwork. List your services and rights clearly before signing your contract. The devil is in the details.
Jo’s Hypothetical Brief
A series of three spot illustrations that will run alongside a feature in the magazine of a newspaper. You’ll be working with their art director to visualise the editorial, in your style. You’ve worked with them before and know they always go through at least three rounds of feedback, plus the deadline is five days from now.
“The keywords for me here are five days, three pieces and three rounds of feedback. It’s quite a rush. It’s also for a feature of a national news outlet. So my initial quote will be $2,400.”
Aurélia Durand has made a name for herself through bright, empowering illustrations, animations and paintings through which she celebrates diversity. Her focus is on Afro-descendants, who she depicts with joy and pride. Colour is a major facet of her practice; one that’s embedded within her work for Adidas, the BBC, The New Yorker, Pinterest, Refinery 29 and countless others.
Aurélia believes that getting to grips with pricing your work is fundamental to having a successful career in this industry, and universities should give more attention to the topic when putting students through their paces. Having not had that vital education, she says that she instead “learned a lot by making mistakes. Today, I know how to price according to what I am capable of offering but I am still figuring it out.”
So that you can avoid some of those mistakes, Aurélia shares some things she’s learned as well as advice on where you can get more information:
1. To be confident, I make art that is valued.
2. I learned from the most prominent business people how to price my skills online to have an entrepreneurial mindset. I found answers via podcasts, videos, Instagram accounts, and more.
3. To know what my work is worth: when do people comment on it, what do they like, what do my clients want from me, what is my unique skill which cannot be found anywhere else? How much is this worth?
Aurélia’s Hypothetical Brief
A series of designs for tote bags with a major US retailer. The designs will be rolled out online and in-store and are limited edition. The client is super specific about what they want from you so there isn’t much creative freedom, but you align with their ethical production and use of sustainable materials.
“First of all, I would not take this job because there is not much creative freedom, which is the most important thing I look at in a creative brief. But let’s imagine I need to get money to pay my bills and I can’t say no. It’s still a creative job that I will find joy in. I would ask for $15,000 for one design sold in all their shops on a tote bag. $7,000 for printing on tote bags. $5,000 for digital marketing. $2,000 for the use of rights.”
This is an extract from an article originally published on It’s Nice That. Click here to read the article in full and hear from more creatives like Lagos-based photographer and filmmaker Isabel Okoro and London-based graphic designer, Callin Mackintosh.
Are you hoping to pursue a career in the creative industry? It’s Nice That are calling all emerging creatives to apply to their annual showcase highlighting fresh talent. Find out more and apply here.
Written by Ruby Boddington