Illustration Biz: Billing for Beginners

Original illustration from The Gangster Series by © Brandon Malone, 2011 KU grad.

Let people know you are an illustrator. Do not be shy. Somebody you know will ask you to create a picture for their business, band, or website. When it happens for the first time students often contact me with this seemingly simple question: How much should I charge?

Here are my thoughts: First ask the client: “What is your budget?” If they know, that helps a lot. They may toss it back to you again asking, what is your rate? Rule of thumb, even as a student, you should charge at least 3 times minimum wage at the start of your career. Remember, you have a skill set and tools that most people don’t. Pennyslvania’s 2011 minimum wage is $7.25, so around here, that would be about $22 dollars per hour.

In my opinion once the work is done to the satisfaction of the client, billing should end. For example, you show the client the artwork that took you five hours; they love it. Bill them $110, and look for the next job. You, however, might have a higher standard and work another five hours tweeking the art. I’d argue the clock stops at five hours because that earlier image, even if it is somewhat inferior, satisfied the client. Again, this is just my opinion, to be used as you see fit.

Obviously, if you are doing artwork for a family member, or a favorite charity you might charge less. However, even if you work for free, (sometimes called “pro bono ” meaning for the public good) it is reasonable to bill for your materials. Also if you work for free, you ought to get a clear printed credit,  and copies for your portfolio.

On a practical note, below you will find the info you need for simple illustrator’s invoice. I hope it comes in handy sometime soon. The illustrations on this blog are by recent KU grad Brandon Malone, winner of the 2011 Terry Boyle Award for most improved illustrator. Brandon shoots his own photo-reference and is meticulous in his inking. To see more of his work visit his site.

Another image from The Gangster series © 2011 Brandon Malone



Artist Name: (Studio Name if applicable.) Address, telephone, email, web address. (Most of this can be on your letterhead.)

Invoice # 301 (Don’t use single digits, start at 101 or higher.) Maybe use a code based on the date, like # 050511 for May 5 2011.


To: Rodale Press      Attn: Jane Smith, Art Director

Backpacker Magazine, 111 Main St, Emmaus, PA

From:  J. Artist                          

Social Security/taxpayer I.D: 000-00-0000 (Always include S.S. number, or payment may be delayed, buyer needs this for tax records.)

For services rendered as described below:

Three (3) pen and ink illustrations on the subject of sports medicine.

One time use only. Reprint and other rights revert to the artist. (If possible, do this to retain future rights.)

Total due: $350.Three hundred and fifty dollars. (Use numerals and words)

Payable to: Important! Best to use your given name. If you call yourself  “AJAX Illustration Studio,” but haven’t really got a checking account and a DBA (Doing Business As) form filed with the state, you may have trouble cashing the check.

Terms: Return of original artwork and payment due within 30 days of delivery.


If you live in PA, look at this website  which will help you with the forms to get your “Doing Business As”, so you can get a really cool name for your studio. In other states you might have to Google the agency. Some states call it a “fictitious” business name. You should not need a lawyer to do this. Someone at your local bank can explain the process, since the bank needs the state registration in order to open an account under a fictitious business name.

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