Best Practices for Freelance Children’s Book Illustration Commissions — Part 1

As a freelance digital artist and illustrator, I worked on 4 children’s books amongst other types of digital art commissions and projects over the last 12 months, and in this series of blog posts I’ll share some hints and lessons I’ve learned.

GIVE A PRICE ONLY AFTER YOU UNDERSTAND THE SCOPE AND THE USAGE PURPOSES

When a client approaches you asking about ‘the price of your illustrations’, don’t get too excited and give a price over phone or WhatsApp. You have to ask some questions first, because your price completely depends on what the client wants.

PILOT ILLUSTRATIONS ARE NOT FREE OF CHARGE

Some clients might ask you to paint a part of the story before they commit to the whole project. They might ask you to draw a panel, a page, a spread, some characters, etc., and they normally expect you to do that for free.

  • Honest Feedback: You can ask the client about the style they imagine for their book and tell them honestly if you can match it. If you think the style is a bad choice, you can educate your clients by suggesting another style you can fulfill and telling them why they should go for it. Your job, before anything else, is to solve your clients’ problems and help them achieve their targets creatively.
  • Basic Fee: You can offer the client delivering the required pilot for a basic fee (i.e. keeping all copyrights for you as an artist). In this case they have to sign a contract that says you’re the copyright owner of the artwork and that it cannot be traced, mimicked or used commercially. If the pilot succeeds, you can add the delta price (of the copyrights) to the final fee — and that’s fair.

OFFER FREE AND DETAILED PROPOSALS TO SET THE EXPECTATIONS RIGHT

Now the pilot illustrations are not free, but the project proposals are.

  • The Process: The proposed steps of the illustration process, including the timeline and defining the allowed revisions.
  • The Offer: You can include a couple of offers with different terms here. For instance, you may include an exclusive offer for a defined time period and limited usage purposes and another one for acquiring the complete copyrights (buy-out offer). This depends on what the client wants you to quote.
  • Definitions: You have to define the industry-specific terms in your proposal for mutual understanding. What is a major revision? What is a minor revision? What is a scene?
  • Notes & Terms: You have to include the terms you expect to be included in the contract, written in plain English. The clients might add their own terms or ask you to modify some of yours. This is all healthy for the process.
  • BIO: You might close your proposal with a small bio. In the bio you can tell the client why you are the best artist to partner with, and you can propose the official communication channels. A professional bio at the end of the proposal document helps give a face to the dry jargon above and reminds the client about the creative human they’re going to team up with.

I’m a freelance digital artist & illustrator based in Khobar, Saudi Arabia | www.alhyari.art