Ranked as one of the least answered questions in the art community, and when answers do come, they are usually unsatisfying.
That question is: How much do I charge for my artwork?
to fine artists - you're on your own, I'm talking about the entertainment industry.
I’m going to attempt to shed some light on why this is so hard to answer while also trying to give something to students they can actually grab a hold of.
I am not squeamish about talking about money, and neither should you. It’s just business. At the end of the day, whether I enjoy my work has no bearing on what I charge, cuz it’s still a lot of work. If I have a service someone wants, they will have to pay me for it, and fairly. So when I say, I don’t work for less than “X” amount, I mean it.
First of all, artists (in my opinion) don’t usually like to talk about money because they don’t want to put their business out there, it can make it difficult to charge more in the future. Maybe they don’t want to embarrass themselves or shame others. Second, each artist is as variable as art itself. How do you give a standard rate to a profession that is so inconsistent? The most frustrating inconsistency for both parties is speed. Some artists can do in a day what takes me a week, yet, I don’t know what they are charging per hour (or per year). Maybe this other artist charges $200 per hour but can knock out amazing work in 5 hours. If I charge $100 per hour but I take 20 hours to do a similar quality in art, then it would seem that I’m over charging. So I have a couple comments on this. 1.) Don’t compare yourself to others, (you’re going to anyway, just check it at the door when talking money 2). The entertainment industry by nature wants things fast and cheap, so always work on getting faster, but don’t stress, you’re not a robot, and robots can’t do what you do……yet.
The answer I hear most is,” it depends”. It depends on the industry, the size of the studio and their budget. How much for commission work? How much for freelance? How much for a studio job? Is it thumbnails, or fully rendered? Is it hourly (weekly, annually) or by size? How soon do they need it? Is their a set style or am I free to do my style? Should I ask for benefits? What are their expectations? What are my copyrights, or does the contract even grant me any? This is true, it does depend on a variety of factors.
Here is the answer, and you probably won’t like it - Pick a number. Think like the game battleship, you’re going to miss, but keep playing the game, and you’ll home in on your target. The sweet spot you’re going for is the price. Some of you, will be able to get away with charging a very nice amount, others will feel they get rejected no matter how little they charge.
So I’ll tell you a little bit about me.
My first (and only) in house studio job was Disney interactive. It was a full time position with no benefits at $16 per hour. That’s pathetic, but it’s a start. I asked a friend working there how much they made and it was six figures, but that person had something like 6 or so years of experience and I had 0. They called me an intern, but for legal reasons that wasn’t the position on paper. I won’t say how much I get for freelance work, it ranges. But I will say that range is from $20-$100 per hour. I’ve turned down an in-house Facebook job because their offer was incredibly low for San Francisco. I think it was $17 an hour for 3 months. For tiny studios and individuals trying to get their indie game made is at the lower end, and big studios and companies are at the higher end. Some artists will scoff (the ones who lack humility at least) at that price range and some will ponder to themselves,” wouldn’t it be nice”. My answer to students, no less than $20 per hour unless you’re getting your foot in the door like I did and no less than $30,000 per year at a studio especially if there are no benefits (unless the area the studio is located in is super cheap). There, I said it. You can disagree with me, but at least you have a ballpark. I believe that some transparency in this industry will help artists as a whole. Don’t be afraid to talk about money, it’s not rude, it’s a necessity.
Side note: all of this completely changes if you are represented by an agent or a union. Typically they are able to garner much higher rates. I am not represented by either.
-Ryan M. Winch