Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m a freelance Illustrator – I moved to London 6 years ago after I got my Master’s degree in Graphic Design and Digital art in Paris. I worked in different agencies during the first 2 years there.
After working as an in house illustrator at a creative agency called Nice and Serious, I decided to go Freelance and have been doing so ever since 🙂 Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on very varied types of project, such as packaging design, murals, creating sticker sets, working on product designs or illustrating campaigns for big brands like Spotify, Apple, Facebook, Instagram, Google, Away, Lyft, Deliveroo, etc.
You’re now represented by Jelly London (UK) and La Suite (Japan + France) but how do/did you approach negotiating with clients?
It’s definitely the hard part of working for yourself, but once you get the right rhythm, it gets much easier.
There’s usually 2 scenarios when a potential client/agency contacts me – Either they have a set budget that they give you directly, and you can quickly decide whether it’s worth the time you will spend on doing the work. The other scenarios, which is way more common, is that they contact you and you need to give them a quote for the work they want.
“Most of the time, I need more information before I can give a quote. I need to know how big the project is, how many illustrations they need, their deadline, and very important – the usage rights they need for the illustrations.”
I always split my quote in two: production time and licensing fee. I don’t give anyone a day rate or an hourly rate, I give a flat price per illustration and specify that it covers a sketch, a colour version and a couple rounds of small changes if necessary.
I always make it clear that they need to approve the sketch before I move on to colours, and any major changes during colour versions will mean extra cost. Usually, the clients I work with are pretty good at respecting that, but you want to make it clear because I’ve had a couple of experiences where the illustration is almost done and finished and the client decides they actually loved another sketch you worked on at the very beginning and want that one in colour instead.
From then on, again, there’s two scenarios: either they accept your quote and you’re ready to go, OR, and again, sometimes more common, they then reveal their actual budget, which is lower than what you quoted for.
If it’s way off – and I mean like I quoted £5K and they have £500, then usually it stops there as there will be no way to meet half way.
“If it’s a smaller gap, I will try to give another number, not far from my initial quote, explaining that it will be the lowest I would go.”
Or I tell them that their budget could work if it was for less work, or for a smaller usage coverage.
There are also other factors that can come in play, such as ‘how much do I like the sound of the project’? If the project sounds really cool, I like the message that it is putting forward and I respect the work they are trying to do, then I’ll be a little bit more incline to make some concessions in terms of pricing. Although I will still stick to my rates – you should have a bracket in mind and not go lower than the minimum price of that bracket.
“The main thing about quoting and negotiating, is to know what you are worth.”
The client have approached YOU and they want YOUR style, you shouldn’t feel like they are doing you a favour by adding more budget or paying you more than they first expected. It’s normal, if they want you then they should pay your rates.
You are great at seeing your work as a business – what are some of the most important ways you achieve this?
Thanks 🙂 I like to try and do as much as possible with my work, and I really enjoy creating new products that I can then sell online or in different shops and galleries. I also really love being a part of shows and exhibitions – I’m always up for it. It’s fun and it also means more people see my work, which can lead to new projects.
As for Instagram, I see it as my second main online portfolio and take a lot of time every week to have good content to post on there.
“It’s a good way to get business, and it’s also great to see your follower’s reaction to your newest work and projects.”
It’s a lot of work but it’s definitely worth it as I get most of my work from Instagram.
Freelance income can be precarious. How do you manage your finances? How did you learn this?
I really learned this by myself. I was annoyed at my school for not preparing us for that and not explaining us what we were worth.
Before I left my job at Nice and Serious, I first went part-time, and that made the whole transition a bit smoother. But really, the first year was really tough. I was working constantly and had to go through most of my savings to make it work.
“After that, things picked up and I got to work with bigger clients, on bigger projects.”
I very rarely turn down a project because of timing – I will work as much as I can, even if it means having a stressful months or a bit less sleep. Doing that from time to time means I save up way more and can then take some time to relax when the periods are less busy.
I play it a lot by ear, I don’t give myself a certain amount of days off for sickness of holidays, and to be honest, I usually work a little bit during all of my holidays, but I don’t really mind 🙂 It’s meant that I feel much safer and secure with money, and I still have a lot of down time where work is a bit dead to relax and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet 🙂
What percentage of your income comes from your own product sales?
“I would say it’s 85% client work and 15% product sales.”
I don’t really sell things for money, I do it because I love seeing my work made in different ways and I like the idea of people having my illustrations in their home 🙂
But in terms of money, I make most of it through client work. I would like to shift that around a bit and I’m trying to focus on creating more personal work that I can sell and live from a bit more!
How do you look after your wellbeing?
I’m like anyone, I have ups and downs. Sometimes you feel frustrated with projects, or stressed about your personal goals, but I always try and take a step back and be positive about everything that I’ve already achieved.
“It’s so easy to get wrapped up into your own things and feel like you’re not doing as well as others.”
You should always try and refocus and aim to do what you set yourself to do, without comparing yourself too much to others.
Do you think working in-house gave you a better perspective of building client relationships and the commissioning process at all?
Working in house just gave me a really good idea of how to work as part of a team, coming up with ideas, thinking of how your work will be used in the final product and what messages we wanted to give through the work 🙂
Top 3 tips for your peers?
Have fun when you’re working.
Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others and make sure that you’re going in the right direction.
“If you’re not happy with what you’ve been doing lately, change it. Being your own boss means you can do that freely, and that’s pretty great :)”