When you’re first starting out as a professional illustrator or when projects are thin on the ground, it’s easy to just take whatever you’re offered…
Agreeing to work for peanuts, serving less-than-ideal clients who clearly don’t value what you do and ultimately, compromising on your values seem to be necessary evils to do what it takes to survive when your business is struggling.
But if you want to thrive – not just survive – there’s a harsh lesson in doing this, which I’ve learned previously and am still learning:
If you don’t value what you do and fight your corner, why should anyone else?
If you’re not happy with what’s on the table, say so.
There is almost always flexibility with clients when it comes to deadlines and budgets – but if you never ask, a client is unlikely to offer more of either.
I know this is tricky – especially if you, like me, hate confrontation. I recently asked a client, with whom I’m about to start a sizable Illustration project, for more time and a higher fee – and guess what?
They were flexible on both counts with an additional quarter of the original fee added to the budget and a few more weeks added to the deadline.
Was I nervous about asking for more time and money? Yes but it also taught me a valuable lesson too – if I believe in the value of my work, so will clients.
So how do you ask for more?
- Ask yourself, what fee you would be happy working for? If you ask for more and they say no, you need to be ready to turn the project down or find other compromises to agree upon.You’ll find it difficult to produce your best work if you’re feeling negative and resentful about a project or client.
- State your case honestly and politely. Don’t be demanding. Show you’re human and have financial responsibilities just like they do – if necessary break down the project into approximate hours and how the fee would translate into an hourly rate. However, watch your tone and avoid sounding whiny – this won’t get you anywhere.
- Be sensitive to the client’s needs too. Their hands may be tied and their margins may be very tight. They are running a business too. If there really isn’t any wiggle room in the budget area, consider what else would lighten the load from your perspective.Maybe you have part of an old Illustration that they would allow you to re-use in their project to lighten the workload? Find a compromise which works for everyone.
- Be prepared to walk away from the project. You have a choice. If you accept it this time, you’ll find it very difficult to ask for a higher fee next time with the same client – they will likely now know that you’ll accept what’s offered (they are a business too remember, if they can protect their margins, they will).
I don’t say all of the above lightly – I find it hard to do too – but thanks to Lea encouraging me to see the value that I bring to projects and believe in the value of my own work, I’m learning to stand up for myself – and so should you.