Professional Artists – How to Get Paid for Your Artwork

If your an professional artist chances are you’ve had more than one occasion when getting paid for client artwork was a challenge.

There are countless cartoons and videos on the plight of the undervalued artist and designer in the eyes of the client.

Tattoo artists face the same challenges. How about the client of the new tattoo artists and being told “this is a honor for you to create your art on my arm, think about all the people who will see it… and who knows maybe you will get work from this.” For professionals this doesn’t fly.


The first step in getting paid for your art, is your mindset. How do you value your work?

Giving your work away and services trade – Don’t get in the habit of it!
As beginners most professional artists have faced the client wanting the work for free or in exchange for another service. This is ok a few times. We all need a place to start and the experience. However, before you give your work away, think twice. I had an interesting experience several years back with a services trade for counseling services. When the therapist I was meeting with found out I was a artist, he wanted to trade his counseling services for mine of illustrating images for a book we was writing. At the time I was flattered. But also stressed and anxious about it. Sorta defeated the purpose of working on anxiety issues when this ‘trade’ was causing more anxiety.

It’s flattering for artists to be noticed and for others to praise their work. I think many artists thrive on this flattery, it’s like the child in us saying “look at me.”

However for artists to make a living at art they have to take a business mindset or hire a person with a business mind set to represent them so they don’t get ripped off.

Taking on the business mindset and getting paid for your work – Starts with having a process!
The words business and artist are usually seen as diametrically opposed. Aren’t artists free and not confined by rules? Isn’t business all about rules? For an artist or designer your business needs to have a process. Your process. How does working with you… work? It needs to be defined. We know how subjective art and design is. However you can and NEED TO wrap a process around it.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Project milestones: Say your doing an illustration for an author. Would your first milestone be sketched concepts or final art? Have it all clear so that when you reach the milestone you can bill your client based on this milestone. I have learned from experience to never make the end of the project the time you get paid. YOU might have all your ducks in a row and meeting the deliverable, but what if your client is the hold up?

Have at least 2 milestones that result in payment.

2. What does the end of the project look like – the deliverable? Is it based on hours, concepts, final art? How many revisions does your client get? Do they get full out ownership of the art for any reproductions? Be sure and write all the details and always ask questions. Keep all your communications clear and upfront so if need be you can remind your client what you agreed on.

3. How much is your work worth? As your portfolio grows, your endorsements grow, the demand of your work grows… you will charge more. I’ve found specific online groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogs that have helped me with pricing. I also research the norm on pricing. I still struggle with pricing my design work. Crowd sourcing for art and design has made it even more challenging in this industry.

Working in visual arts for a career can be rewarding. It’s an ongoing learning process. The entry point is your talent and skill. Some think this is all it takes. Your ability to communicate, work well with clients, market yourself and price your services is crucial and as a professional you need to always be professional.

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