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Negotiating sometimes can feel so daunting that you would prefer to just give away your art and simply be paid with the knowledge that someone else appreciates your work. However, part of being a successful illustrator is getting fair compensation. here are tips on making sure you get fees and terms commensurate with your worth.
Have a positive mindset.
As an illustrator you are both an artist and a business-person. Learn to be adept at switching gears as both aspects need to be honed for success. Don't buy into the idea that you cannot discuss money. If you believe that you handle business poorly, you will handle it poorly. You will also be poor. Take responsibility for your success and you will get positive results. You can do it!
Negotiation is best looked at as a game in which everyone is a winner. If you remember that illustration is your vocation, not an avocation, it will help you discuss your work and worth more objectively. Negotiating will only get easier the more you do it.
It is most important not to discuss fees before getting all the other information you can from the art director or art buyer because the specs will be your basis for establishing an acceptable fee. As you review the specs, listen to what is most important to your client. Listening is a powerful tool you can use to determine the direction of your bargaining.
While listening, take good notes. As we mentioned in our last article, "How to Speak with an Art Director," design a formatted list of questions with spaces for answers that will help you remember what was discussed. Some key points to note are what they are trying to convey, image description and complexity, usage, time schedule, number of sketches, kill fees, etc. Define all vague terms, i.e. "Presentation comp," "buy out," "all rights," etc.
Discuss the budget.
Ask if others are being considered for the assignment. Although this might feel a little awkward to address, a seasoned pro will ask for a different fee than a recent graduate. So it is good to know if all the contenders are of like stature. The art buyer may ask what your fee would be for the specific assignment. Throw the question back at him and ask what kind of budget he has been given. Usually by the time they call you, a budget has already been determined.
Think about the discussion.
Before offering your thought for a fee, suggest that you would like to consider all you discussed and will call back a little later. Don't feel obliged to give a spur-of-the-moment price that you may later regret. You can always come down with your fee, but can't get more once you have stated a figure. Take into consideration what you heard your client say, and then take your own needs into account:
Formulate a response
If possible, call the buyer with your estimate rather than writing it in an email. Assessing her verbal response and furthering your conversation gives you more information for negotiation. Keep your voice friendly and convey a sense of confidence. You may have been one of a few contacted because of style and/or thinking, but set yourself apart from the competition with your distinct professional attitude. Your personable demeanor should be assuring, conveying that their job is important to you, will be done on time, and on budget. Demonstrate that yours is the right attitude as well as the right artistic choice for their needs.
Always keep the art buyer on your side. It's you and the buyer versus the client. For instance, don't say "You are not offering me enough time for the finished art to be done well" but rather "Can you see if the client would consider giving me a little more time so I can do my best job for him and for you?"
Finalize the terms
Don't give a "package price" and then find there is only one illustration remaining in the "package." Don't agree to a low price offer with the promise of "more work in the future." With these scenarios, try to negotiate terms that start with a good price for the first few illustrations and then a diminished fee with each additional assignment.
Having listened to what is important to your client, assess what is important to you. Those points you are willing to forgo can be offered in trade for the money you want. If you cannot get the money you want, and you choose to acquiesce nonetheless, you can ask for "face savers," quantitative terms that you can request in lieu of the fee you would like so that you don't fee compromised:
Be able to say "Thanks, but no thanks."