Less is not always more, especially in illustration

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I have noticed a serious decline with budgets in illustration lately and I firmly believe it’s not always the client’s fault. I mean it would be a whole lot easier to blame them but I have other ideas. Yes, we could always blame the economy or the Republicans for that matter. Personally I point my finger at the illustrators themselves.

Yes, even though this is not probably the most popular stance for me to take it is what I think. I believe that if we were really honest about it, the illustrators themselves would have to take most of the blame.

Recently, I quoted on an illustration for an advertising campaign that was quite big. I was dealing with one of the largest advertising agencies in the USA and the usage for the illustration was unlimited usage, all media for one year, internationally. So of course I quoted accordingly. I found out that my quote was the highest. The other two illustrators in the bid quoted 50% less then me. I am a by the book kind of gal and often refer to the Graphic Artists Guild Pricing & Ethical Guidelines for “inspiration”. Obviously this was not the case for the other two illustrators involved. I mean of course there is always a difference in quotes when quoting on a large job but I can assure you that the price that the other’s quoted was pathetically low. Even the art buyer in her confidence to me was quite surprise buy the other numbers. Since the agency was supplying the quotes with the pitch, the decision as to who was going to be selected for the mandate was strongly influenced by the cost. Remember that the client had no budget to give and asked all of us quoting to come up with a price. Had we all quote numbers that better reflected the value of the job then that is what would have been presented to the client. But no, if my illustrators had any chance at all at getting the job I would have to give in. I had to do something that I hate doing and that was lower my price. Yes, to stay in the game I did lower it a bit but not to the extent of the others. In the end we got the contract, but I am confident that we could have gotten a much bigger budget had the others not low balled it. To protect the client, I would prefer to not go into detail. This is not about them but about us. Had the others quoted the real value of the job and not under cut the budget then whoever got it would have been paid rewarded accordingly. If we had all quoted the real value of the job then the art buyer would have presented all the budgets to the client and the client would have chosen the illustrator that that they prefer and without only looking at the numbers.

This is why I blame the illustrators.Another reason for the drop in budget is of course Stock Illustration or Royalty Free Illustration. Well who do you think supplied these stock houses in the first place? Illustrators have to start taking the blame and responsibility for what is happening to our industry. They are also the ones that could make things change. When you quote on a job remember to respect yourself and the work you are doing and put a real value on that. Please don’t under quote. If you have a rep that is quoting on your behalf then encourage them to do the same. Market value is market value and we are the ones determining that value. If you don’t already have a good pricing guide to refer to then get one and try to stick to the budgets that are suggested. They are pretty flexible and will give you a good idea what to charge for your work. Remember that in the end you are only cheating yourself. If you keep bidding lower and lower then the budgets will effectively get smaller and smaller. If you are sick and tire of the big monster stock houses eating away at your profits then stop selling your work to them. You never know when you might be quoting against one of them.

In ending, I was approached by a very talented illustrator not to long ago that I was very enthusiastic about representing. She had told me that several years back she had sold many of her illustrations to a very small and un-intimidating stock agency when she was just starting out and needed some money. It turned out that several years later that very small stock house was bought up by a larger stock house that was later bought by one of the biggest stock houses in the world today. She told me she sold outright for a minimum fee at the time since the stock house was very small and she didn’t think it would be a problem. Well before taking her on, I Googled her name and found her work all over there web in stock and royalty free sites. It goes against AGM’s policy to take on anyone who has sold their images to these company and therefore, there was no way that I could take her on . She never imagine that by selling her illustrations to that small agency it could have snowballed like it did. When you sign over your rights to someone else, they own them and therefore can sell them over and over again.

The moral of the story, Respect yourself, respect your work and never sell your illustrations for less than their value. The more we all do that, the more we can ask and the more we will get.

Anna Goodson is president of Anna Goodson Management, an innovative, boutique-style agency serving the global marketing needs of the visual arts community. Drawing on a proven track record of vision, insight and ingenuity. AGM represents some of the most celebrated illustrators from around the world. For more information visit – www.agoodson.com