I was in the audience during the discussion. I made the comment about cookie cutter art. The problem, which I brought up to some of the guys on the panel after it was over, is it doesn't take into account globalization and digital technology. Now, people living in Bangladesh are competing with people living in New York. You can't have a pay standard any more without a digital equivalent to tariffs. A company can and will hire without penalty someone cheap from another country because they can.
People raised in this environment treat illustration not as a middle class profession but a hobby that gives them beer money. People don't respect what they do and therefore don't charge accordingly. More than ever young artists are willing to copy other peoples style to work which allows them to be replaced by the next artist who undercuts them the way the previous artist did to get work. Companies don't want quality art they want replaceable art and that is why they don't pay for it and why rates have stayed the same or dropped over the last 25 years.
technology, which are many. Though we are not there, I predict that we will eventually
be a global economy and technology will facilitate where companies can pick and choose
workers from around the world.
There are tax breaks that companies can receive for keeping jobs in the US, but not
sure if those breaks are good enough to entice companies to keep work on their home
Yet, it is great that a community of artist are banding together to come up with a solutions
to combat/protect their industry. It will take new and innovative ways to survive...
I think the only sure-fire way a person can ensure their place in the illustration world, is to have a style that cannot be reproduced easily. And perhaps to keep re-defining one's work/style?
I hear what you're saying dpaint, and that's pretty depressing for people trying to come up in the industry right now.
Thanks for sharing, Charlie D
I've always been curious as to how much the self-perpetuated competition and
mass slaughter in the ranks of commercial art, is to blame. When you have dudes
like these bitching about the pay, it means something. To me it means that when
they looked at a cover, that inspired them to be an artist, but were also told to
be better than the artist they admired, to get his job, they were practically being
brainwashed into demeaning their own future pay.
This is why I've always felt frustration with the lack of info about the business part
of being a commercial artist. In such discussions you have various wise-asses who
address these discussions with irony and without adding anything useful, as if the
IRS is stalking to see if these guys make a mistake and give out info about the money
they make in this business. This is the norm, but there are exceptions. And yea it's
good to be careful but dumb comments like "don't be an artist for money" and "you
gotta work to learn about the pay" or "get X book and calculate your pay" etc isn't
quite the same as saying 'painting X, costs the publisher Y for these rights' and
'better painting Z, cost 2 times more for the same rights'
On the contrary, there's an abundance of info on how to pay and how much for
education and art books, useful or not useful. And while these are the nuts of our
craft, why the hell would I be interested in learning how to spend 100 work hours
on making an awesome work of art, and not want to learn how much I should also
expect or demand to be paid? Avoiding getting suckered into receiving 1/10th of
what artists got 40 years ago, for art that took 1/5th the time to produce, is the
bolts of our craft.
In my mind, much of it is the high end artists' fault. We're not the ones working on
that cover for the next best seller, but somehow conned ourselves into working on
it 5 times more and for 2 times less pay. They are. We're not the ones not educating
the newer artists that pay for say, a comic page, in the 80's was $100 (I don't know
how much it cost, I'm just saying) and most art was (by comparison) horrible, so there
is no reason a comic page with 10 times better art shouldn't cost more. It's them. And
although I understand that all this costs time, I find no reason for an artist who
preaches about the love of the craft and all this BS, treating this important info like
a business and then saying they don't have time to explain (unless you pay them) etc.
Now, it's not the immediate fault of the artists of this generations, they were
born in this, but they perpetuate it every day. And although Dpaint has a point, and
it's a very very important one, it didn't exist 25 years ago did it? It's maybe something
that's been going on the past 10 years MAX.
That info has always been around and if you've read anything I've posted here in the last 3 years you've heard me say time after time to respect the craft and profession, never work for free, ever. Younger artists are wh0res for peanuts; they undercut themselves, they disrespect the profession, they're too lazy to learn to draw and paint, they're too lazy to even shoot their own reference. Their so lazy they spend all their time on here asking, how do I learn how to learn, how do i hold a pencil, how do I read a book.
They don't want to pay for anything, they want it free, like big babies looking for a tit.
People have always paid for information and knowledge. What changed in the last 25 years is people too lazy to work their way up to a professional level, instead they use tech to offer an inferior product for free or next to free. They didn't want to reach a professional level, they just wanted to be famous. Even if that fame meant destroying a middle class industry. So now you have all your free crap, and you give away everything you do and 90 % of you on this site will never make a living as an artist. Enjoy your lives in the service industry, you've earned it.
It's supply and demand...you're never going to win against that...except by being good enough or unique enough to be in demand. You don't actually hear the high end guys bitching too much. Personally I don't have much sympathy for people willing to work so far below a reasonable wage. Just say no thanks...my rate is my rate. No one says you have to do that work.
I won't disagree on your point there dpaint, but at the same time don't you think that
the overabundance of artists out there who work for free, or for peanuts, may in fact
be people who are uneducated in this matter? The way I see it, even if you give no help
on how to hold a pencil (and I agree that is nerve busting) this thing is important, because
ultimately, you're looking after yourself, trying to keep those who are living in countries
like the ones you mentioned, from undervaluing themselves. I mean let's face it, an artist
in Bangladesh who's just as good as you, and could get the same work you're getting,
could be crazy to offer doing it for 1/10th the price, if he knew he could get full price
(or close to it).
So, what I'm saying is that there isn't enough info and preaching on this. I feel that every
other thread or post, or article, should be higher artists, better artists, the guys who know
are driving the business, telling people not to sell themselves short. When this isn't
happening, and I complain some day, even once, I'm bitching...like the banks who
make billions, steal billions, and want more cause the price of yachts went up. Only I
won't be guilty of stealing.
Then, there's what Jeff says, and he's got a point also, the mental principal of not
undervaluing ones' self being superceded by more supply, and excused by the fact that
you gotta bring food on the table. I feel that this comes from education, constant brainwashing
as to how to be a pro, what to charge, and how to stand your ground. I'm sure that
most people, just like me, have been asked to do work cheaply, or do test art. I'm
crazy so even tho I might not have much money in the bank account, and have no
work for a given time, I'll say no to test art to a prospective job, cause I'm thinking
about the profession at that time much more than my own ass.
The logic of demeaning one's pay, even if one doesn't realize it at the time, is something
that's been happening in all professions, not just ours. And even tho I'm not naive to
think that the best and most unique won't get the top money, at the same time I do
realize that, the love and passion to draw and paint must be coupled with making the
right amount of money for it, and whoever is good enough to make it, does so...if not,
it's just as well, at least those of us who don't aren't chipping away and your salary.
There's more to this problem of course, but I feel that this is the largest part.
Re: globalization - Artists in other countries are already able to absolutely spank most of us price-wise. The fact that companies haven't completely outsourced their art production already seems to suggest that there are other benefits of hiring domestic artists. What these benefits are I don't have the expertise to say, but I'm assuming that language barriers, quality of work, and possibly even a smidge of xenophobia all play a part.
Let's say a Bangladesh-based artist is charging $50 and a New York-based artist is charging $500, and still getting the job (I don't think this is uncommon). I think it's worth setting aside the notion of competing on price with artists in developing countries (because we already aren't, and will never be able to) and instead start looking at whether that $500 represents fair pay, and if it doesn't, how to inform artists and companies of the fact.
If a client is willing to shell out the additional $450 for [insert whatever factors drew them to the US artist in the first place], shouldn't they be able to handle another $75 to cover a living wage for the artist? The amount that will spell financial ruin for a large company is going to be significantly higher than the amount that will ruin an individual artist - and right now it seems that the artists are the ones taking the hit.
I think the Client Toolkit service the panel is discussing is an awesome idea - some awareness within the industry of current rates would at least prevent new artists from unwittingly undercutting prices out of ignorance. I know that a ton of the early jobs I did were for abysmally low rates, and it wasn't out of any sort of competitive business savvy, it was because I was an idiot - I simply had no idea what an illustration was supposed to cost, and no idea where to find that information, coupled with the assumption that *surely* a client couldn't offer me 20% of the standard rate with a straight face. If industry pricing is treated like some arcane piece of knowledge that must be guarded from the unworthy, everyone is going to get screwed over.
The fallacy in the arguments here are basic math. You charge what it costs to pay rent , phone and internet, utilities, taxes, groceries, gas, insurance and supplies. That's a basic rate. From there you work to improve your lifestyle by raising your rate. This isn't just for art, its for any job you do in your life. You learn this- oh I don't know- after you move out of your parents house. The fact in the last 3 years I've answered this question about 1000 times exactly like this shows that people don't even consider these things.
Artist A lives in a rural area, has no children, shares their expenses with their spouse, uses dial-up. Artist B pays rent alone in a major city, likes their groceries organic, has high-speed internet and two kids, etc etc. Just because one of them can charge half as much as the other and still cover their expenses, should they? If the companies hiring artists get in the habit of basing their overall pay rates on Artist A's subsistence-level fees, won't it be to the detriment of other artists (and no major benefit to Artist A, who could just as easily be charging as much as Artist B, either)?
One of the points from the panel that was really compelling was that over the last X years minimum wage has increased a dozen times, but artists (who are presumably putting in just as many hours per piece if not more) are still being offered the same rates as they were in the mid 90's. The increase in cost of living over that time period is enormous. If it's as simple as dividing up your monthly expenses amongst your monthly jobs, why haven't artists' rates increased to reflect that?
Dpaint, it's to your credit that you have been giving those guidelines. I've seen it repeated
many times. But, is it enough?
As Wylielise said, it shouldn't be the basis. If your recommendation that is the case, then there
is no basis for complaint over the globolization is there? It just happnes that the guy in
Bangladesh is just as good an artist, but can get a lot more with $20 over there, than you
and I can where we live. So, your recipe, one I've seen repeated many times, even tho it
is logical, is not enough. Period. Unless we move to Bangladesh...
Now, globolization is a major concern, but I feel it's one of the past decade only for freelance
artists (because animators felt this decades ago). How many supergood, supercheap artists
based in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Argentina or Panama did any one ever know of, illustrating
stuff for Wizards of the Coast, or Blizzard 20-25 years ago? Maybe there were some. Maybe they
were based there but got their start in the UK or USA after studying there or living there for a
time, I don't know. But they certainly weren't the majority. Now why was it, that no one in the
more, lets say industrial countries, raise their pay during that time?
eLance and Guru.com are one of the worst offenders I've seen and I would never recommend anyone trying their hand on them. These are what's causing the price gap and encouraging clients to open up projects are are nearly 'on spec' or literally of that nature. There were some jobs that described INSANE descriptions for such low offers on quick turnarounds or over many changes to make without adding a fee.
$50.00 for a major job sounds about right on those sites, but the problem is that Guru or eLance does'nt enforce clientele taking unfair exploitation over the freelancers, although they do have an escrow system, which is one step they took. So, again, these sites are just ONE aspect of the globalization issue that caused this problem since the expansion of the internet. It is rare to see clients be willing to pay up to $500 or more on illustration gigs there.
Yeah, but the problem with not knowing is, YOU DON'T KNOW. You don't even know what it is you don't know. So people THINK they know the market and what would be a good rate - but they don't. And if nobody is around to tell them, it can take a long time before they even find out that they don't know. Even worse if the information they're getting is from friends who also don't know, but think they do.
Sure it's easy enough to find out what you need to know IF you know that there's something there that you need to know, but a lot of art school grads don't even know THAT.
I was lucky in that my dad was a freelancer, so I had some inkling of how things worked and had a starting point from which I could ask people things and look things up... And also I was lucky in that my school at least attempted to teach "Professional Practices", so I knew what it was I should be learning about even though my teacher wasn't very good. But not everybody knows these things. For a lot of people, they only know as far as "get a job, boss pays you" - the art of freelancing is totally mysterious. (And looking at prices in a gallery only works if you're doing fine art... Finding out how to charge as a freelancer takes rather more research.)
I suppose I was lucky too...we had a design club in our graphic design program, we had professors who were professionals and shared their knowledge, toured graphic design firms, had visiting designers and illustrators speak to us, etc. We also had a library at our university. I had subscribed for years to Communication Arts as well where I'm sure I learned a great deal about the design, illustration and photography professions.
You would be AMAZED at what some art school grads don't know.
All I'm saying is that schools would do well to foster some awareness of how the market works... Not all do, which is kind of a problem, because then you get a lot of people entering the market with no clue and undercutting everyone else.
Also, if you lack experience, you don't know that your friends lack experience, and you get situations like the place I used to work where the CEO knew nothing about bookkeeping and hired a series of clueless bookkeepers because he honestly thought they knew what they were doing... So THAT'S a common problem. I suppose the best cure for that is for people who have a clue to spread it around as much as possible in the hopes that the clueless will find it eventually.
(And yes, it is totally possible to be so completely unaware of things that you don't even know to research them. As for instance, I didn't even know there WAS such a thing as "concept art" until I was close to graduation, and nothing and no-one that I'd come in contact with gave me any clue that such an industry existed - if I'd known earlier, darn tootin' I would have tried to find out about it. But you can't try to find out about things unless you're at least aware of their existence. Let's just say I did a lot of last-minute scrambling and re-evaluating come senior portfolio time...)
Last edited by QueenGwenevere; December 5th, 2012 at 03:25 AM.
Anyway, we're kind of off on a tangent. To get back to the topic at hand, I thought there were a few pretty interesting ideas presented in that panel discussion. I was skeptical at first....then heard the idea of a "credit rating" system for companies/clients...coupled with the ability the web allows...and thought that was interesting - it sounds good on paper - in theory. Then I thought about it in reality - in action, and I became skeptical again. I just don't see it working. The 500lb. gorillas just won't care about their rating...there is too much supply.
The only way it would work is if enough illustrators said no...we'll do X work for Y pay....and whatever rights. But that just isn't going to happen because there are too many people willing to undercut that and say yes...here, overseas - doesn't matter. The problem is the consumer end of that market doesn't care/lacks awareness so that even mediocre work is acceptable and sells.
Another solution is for illustrators to develop their own projects and IPs and find their own markets. If enough did that there may be some slight impact...they would be too busy to work for low rates and maybe the companies would have to start paying a reasonable rate again to procure their services.
Bottom line, as usual, is to be good enough to be in demand. If you're in demand you set your rate. if you're not, you take what the companies are willing to hand out...which will always be the lowest they can.
So the solution for the individual, is rather than whining about the low rates, while taking their scraps, is to develop yourself further in some manner - into a new market if necessary, in a new direction with your own IP, into galleries, etc.
IDK, my reaction to all the moaning was they were moaning about stuff they have complete control over...their own work, ability and what they choose to do with it.
If you go to the library at a school or any public one like the one at my school for example, There are tons books about being professional when come to the biz side of art. At my college we have A LOT of books on how to be a business person when it comes to your arts. People need to be reminded about their library.
What people REALLY need to be reminded about is inter-library loans. My sister's been telling me about them, they sound like a fantastic resource. All the books your local library doesn't have, accessible via your local library.
@Jeff, I think I must have run into more unbelievably ignorant people in my life than you, so call me cynical. (Watching kids on DA interact and "learn" all kinds of crazy misinformation from each other does not reinforce my confidence in the human race, either.) (Neither does the fact that we live in a country where members of the National Science Committee believe dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time...)
Back on topic, I kind of feel like the best that can be done is to educate people as much as possible about charging sensible rates... The more artists there are charging real rates, the more likely it is to become the norm. If the majority of artists cave in to the pressure of low rates for whatever excuse, it doesn't help anybody.
I'm also crossing my fingers that as more third-world countries become first-world countries, they'll start charging more and maybe everything will eventually equalize... Maybe. One can hope, anyway. Of course, it could flop the other way as the first-world countries degenerate into third-world countries...
Yeah, okay, cynical, I know.
So why not do it this way, as a rule of thumb for beginning artists. The average income for a single male is 45k a year in the USA. That's 22.50 an hour; anyone wanting to be an artist in the USA should start there. And coincidentally that is the average starting pay for artists in the games industry too. So if you work for less than 20 an hour, you're a scab and if other artists find out they have the right to beat you up, make fun of you in any way they please, and say bad things about your mommy.
Job advert from about a month ago.
Concept Artist / Matte Painter ( at least 3 years experience)
£25,000 - £35,000 per annum, negotiable, inc benefits.
Average wage in UK is 27k
Just convert to your currency the figs in thread and you are away. As you gain experience, more info, adjust rate
Last edited by Charlie D; December 6th, 2012 at 07:41 AM.
A very interesting discussion going on here.
I feel obliged to satisfy my curiosity and ask a noob question:
Going with Dpaint's system of price setting, how do you factor in skill level?
I can imagine that at the beginning of your career it will take you longer to get your product to a certain standard of quality. Thereby making you more expensive than more experienced artists, since they can do the same or better in a shorter amount of time.
So there needs to be a factor, either for artists at the start of their career to bring their prices down or for artists further down to up their prices.
Reputation for delivery is what ups your pay. That and marketplace response to your work. When you start you don't have those things either. They don't say, I like your work I'll give you twice as long to complete this assignment as Todd Lockwwod.
As dpaint pointed out, it isn't so much that you take longer to reach a certain level of quality...you must deliver the level of quality right from the start. The junior artist may require a bit more direction and will be following the leads. A more senior artist isn't necessarily faster but due to their experience they begin to manage and direct junior artists, set style, develop concept art, direct and influence tool development, production pipeline, interface with programmers, etc.