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How to Hire an Illustrator

Sonal Panse,

Illustrators are creative consultants who specialize in visual problem-solving. Publications and businesses hire illustrators to create specific images to attract attention, to impart information, to balance written content, and to entertain. Think of the number of times you've noticed, better understood, liked, or purchased an item because you found it visually appealing. Do you see? Illustration is really an excellent way of getting your point across, and you may want to consider it for your business.

If you do decide to commission an artist, it will help to have a clear idea about what you want. Do take the time to consider the purpose and usage, and do research the field to find out about illustration styles, media, prices, copyright, printing, and so on. The more knowledgeable you are, the better chance you will have of finding an illustrator that is exactly right for your needs.

On the personal front, since I get many inquiries about it, let me say that I'll be happy to assist you if I can, and, hopefully, develop a long and mutually rewarding relationship. Here's what you should know about working with me -

Please visit the illustration section on my website and take a look at my illustration work samples. This should give you an idea of the kind of work I do and if it will suit your expectations. If you still want a sample, we will need to negotiate terms and payment for it. We have a 'No Spec' policy here.

The next step is to contact me. You will find my email in the Contact Us section, and also in the right-hand side column. Please remember to use my name when you write. I like my name, and I like to be addressed by it. Professionalism and courtesy are what you are going to get from me, and I expect the same in return.

In your email, please provide the following information (Which I ask to save time, yours and mine) -

  • What is the project about – Project scope and image usage (web, print, other).

  • Who is the company/publisher – A side-note to writers: most traditional publishers prefer to select the illustrator themselves, and it is in your best interest to submit only your manuscript to them. Of course, if they do decide to publish it, you can mention what a phenomenal illustrator I am and that you absolutely must have me – you're not going to let them publish your masterpiece otherwise.

  • The number of illustrations required and their size formats

  • B/W or color illustrations – Color illustrations are generally priced higher than B/W ones.

  • Any preferred media – I work in water-color, acrylic, oil, pastel, charcoal, pencil, ink, collage, and digital media.

  • Any preferred style – From the variety on my site, that is. Please don't send me links to some other artist's work and tell me you want 'this exact style'. If that is the case, it will be better to just contact that artist and pay them their well-deserved fee; if the artist is no longer around, it still would be unethical to copy their work for commercial use.

  • Rights required – I do not work on a 'Work for Hire' clause as I prefer to retain the copyright to my creations. What I do is license the artwork for limited use for a specified purpose for a specific duration. For instance, if the illustrations are for a book, there will have to be a separate payment negotiation for using them for stickers, cards, CDs, interactive games, etc., and the publishing rights will be for three to ten years, as decided, after which they will revert back and the contract will have to be renegotiated for any further use.

  • Time-frame for completion – I'll appreciate a reasonable margin, and I'll make every effort to give you a quick turnaround.

  • Budget – Please have one, and please be aware that commissioning an illustration will not be inexpensive. It takes time and skill to make a good illustration, and the work will be priced accordingly, taking into consideration scope and usage. If your budget is small and the project is interesting, I may be willing to make adjustments, but charge I will.

    You should know that I do this for a living – to make money to support myself, that is. So, while I appreciate that -

    a. You've written your book as a hobby and only mean to distribute it amongst friends and families.

    b. You have a 'sure thing' that's going to make the big guns take notice and fight each other for the publication, film, and licensing rights.

    c. Your Charity/NGO is all set to make the world a better place.

    – you really mustn't expect complete cuts in price and royalties.

    And, no, don't tell me you are ill with something incurable. I've had people tell me this, and it's not always possible to verify it. So, barring special cases, as sorry and heart-broken as I am for you, it makes more sense to think about my own health and make monetary arrangements for the rough days.

    It is also not a good idea to ask me to make exceptions in my pricing because you're giving the work to the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, or the Royal Family. That's just encouraging me to charge seven times more.

    Don't try to lure me either with the thought of credit and publicity. I take those as my due, after I'm paid my dues.

    Yes, I'm money-minded. It allows me to have those high artistic thoughts that stave off harsh realities and keep me afloat in the sublime ether.

  • Payment method – I accept payment by Paypal, Cheque, and Bank Transfer. I generally require 50% payment upfront before I begin the work, 25% on delivery of sketches, and 25% before submitting final work. If payment is not made in full, grant of usage is canceled.

If we agree to work together, we will have to sign a written work contract detailing all the above and any other relevant details like number of revisions (I offer four free revisions, and charge for any subsequent ones), cancellation fees (if we decide not to work with each other after a significant amount of work has been done), and file delivery (FTP, email, CD). I will send you two signed copies of the work contract. You read it, sign both, and return one copy to me. Please know that it is my business policy to only commence work after a contract has been agreed upon and signed.

So, I hope that's clear then? Great! Get in touch and we'll work together.