Once you have a good idea of what the work you’ll be doing and what rights the company will require, then you can start talking about pricing. The biggest question when it comes to pricing art is: hourly or flat rate? Ultimately, it’s up to you. But, I prefer a fixed rate, for a few reasons. A fixed rate motivates me to work quickly and efficiently, rather than rewarding me for working too slowly. It allows me to come up with prices based on what I think the value of the art is, which is not necessarily related to how much time is put into it. I think clients prefer it, because they know exactly what they are paying upfront.
Obviously, there are potential drawbacks to flat rate pricing. One of the biggest drawbacks is when working with picky clients that ask for endless edits, which can seriously hurt your hourly pay. To combat this, I always include in my contract how many sketches, revisions, etc., this flat rate includes. For example, they get 3 concept sketches to choose from, a first draft based on the chosen concept, and 1 round of revisions. If the clients end up asking for more than what is included, I charge an hourly rate for the extra work.
Even if you decide on a flat rate, I recommend thinking of the hourly rate you’d like to make, based on your experience and how you’d like to be compensated for your time. I started with an hourly rate of $25/hour and have since increased that to $40/hour, but more experienced artists can charge up to $100/hour or even more. You’ll also need to come up with an estimate of how long the project will take. Estimating time can be difficult, as many artists tend to get lost in their work, but it’s essential to properly place value on your work as a freelance artist! I recommend keeping track of the time you spend on every project, even the ones you do for yourself, so you can have a good idea of how quickly you work. Don’t forget that a project done for a client will likely involve more drafts and revisions than one you do for yourself. Multiply your hourly rate by the hours you estimate working to come up with a flat rate.
It’s pretty simple to price a project based on the hours you expect to work. For most projects, it’s an appropriate way to come up with a price. But, you’ll also want to consider the value a company is getting from your art. The size of a company, and how they use your image, can have a huge effect on the value of that image. Obviously, this value can be much harder to pin down, compared to determining value based on the amount of work you put into the piece. Don’t be afraid to charge more for an image that’s going to be heavily used and distributed than an image with limited usage. Charge extra if they want all the rights to an image, or to charge more to a large company than you would a smaller one.