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How Much Does an Illustrator Make?

How much a professional illustrator makes varies. Some make big money while others just eek by.

The difference isn’t always how good the illustrator but is often how much their representative or agent or their own skill at business acumen is.

That’s about the size of it.

Illustrators usually have an agent who goes out and finds them work, negotiates deals and more. Nowadays with the advent of the internet more illustrators are doing their own representation and that means the pay rates go from one end of the scale to the other. There is no standard except in certain businesses. Even then, since there are so many illustrators available from around the world the price tag depends on how good they are and that special thing they do that others can’t provide.

Take for example the illustrator who is tops at catching the expressions on horse’s faces. Some illustrators will do a bland thing and not get down to the root of what makes the animal special. They may miss that twinkle in their eyes or the way the animal cocks its head. Now comes along that illustrator who gets it right all the time. Fans flock to their work and that means they’re in demand and can ask a higher price. Talent and skill mean a lot to commanding the higher prices.

See how there isn’t a standard? Even in comics the old standard fluctuates. Some pages go for $50 and some can go as high as $500 or more. It depends on the artist and their skill and the demand for their work.

For magazines it also fluctuates. One can be an artist in the US and illustrate something for a magazine in Russia. The Russian magazine might need that art badly and the price goes up. The reverse can be true as well. Sometimes the artist’s own specialized style can be so in demand that people will be willing to pay far higher then the market demand. Things have changed greatly now that illustrators have access to the web.

How to negotiate a salary?

It all depends on how in demand you are and how important is the project to the client. Look at the overall project itself. Pace your work flow with the deadline, guidelines and salary you need to not only do the job but have some leftovers. Don’t do a job for $100 and by the time you’re done you’ve spent $150 doing it. You end up in the hole.

Clients will do their best to get the cheapest price and those are the clients you watch out for. Don’t go for the lowest price and be firm on what you know you need. Be reasonable and if someone else isn’t being reasonable then don’t do business with them.

Finally, look at what the competition is charging. It’s tough to find out all the details but some illustrators will brag and others will not divulge a thing. It’s all about the contractual issues but there are services out there that have standards of illustration pay but in today’s market thanks to the internet you might as well throw that book out the window. Pick your own clients, chat with pros, get a rep if need be and negotiate. You’ll get a good price for the jobs.