It’s Called Freelancing – Part 2

Missed the first installment of this article series? Read it here.

The majority of independent employers/collaborators who are seeking comic book artists do not know the first thing about making a comic. Some do, but most don’t. They don’t understand that a single page of professional quality art can easily take days to produce, and are sometimes produced by multiple people. A lot of people seem to think that they are doing you a favor by offering to allow you to work on their comic, and as a result they don’t have to pay fair wages. They seem to think that all you have to do is sit down at your drawing table (or screen), snap your fingers, and a masterpiece will materialize before your eyes. To these people I say – DO 5 MINUTES OF BASIC RESEARCH! Producing well-drawn comic art is no easy feat, and those of us who do it for a living have been practicing nearly our entire lives to refine our skills. Artists have to eat and pay bills like everyone else, so we deserve to be paid for our work. Just because it’s a creative field does not mean we work for free. Our skills are a trade just like any other. Would you ask a plumber to spend all day working on your toilet only to offer them $10 once it’s fixed? I seriously hope not.

[Tweet “”…a single page of professional quality art can easily take days to produce.” @MichaelYakutis”]


Ok, so there are in fact a lot of honest people out there who need artists but can’t afford to pay a high page rate, and sometimes can’t pay anything at all unless the project makes profits. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as things are fair. There are Underdog members who are in this very boat, and I can say for certainty that they are great people. So long as the relationship is a collaborative one, rather than an employer/employee relationship, I think great things can come of it. I don’t know how others do things in these situations, but I personally feel that any artist who is working on a project and not getting paid a page rate is automatically entitled to 50% of everything, including intellectual properties and potential profits. Artists should also be allowed to interpret things however they see fit so long as they adhere to the instructions found in the script. My frustration, however, is brought on when employers simply don’t understand or appreciate the amount of time that goes into producing comic art, and take advantage of the artist. I’ve been taken advantage of many times in the past, and I do my best to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This is why I no longer do jobs that pay on the back end. It’s too risky and most of the time the client drops the ball after I have finished the work and the project never makes a dime. Naturally, there are countless exceptions to this for other collaborators, but I’m speaking from my personal experiences here.

And yeah, ok, so there are a lot of artists out there who just draw for fun and only ask for a couple bucks per commission. The problem here is that it creates a standard in the industry for inexperienced people (both employers and artists) to assume that these rates are fair. They are not. These artists are usually just hobbyists and their rates are much lower than any industry standard. I’d like to see these artists increase their rates to a fair number. Or, more importantly, I’d like to see more people realize that these rates are not working wages. They are hobby wages.

[Tweet “These artists are usually just hobbyists and their rates are much lower than any industry standard. @MichaelYakutis”]

When talking to a potential client about a future project, one thing I hear a lot is, “This other guy said he can do the pages for $50 each, do you think you could lower your rates some?” The answer should always be, “No.” Personally, I feel that it’s unprofessional for an employer to pit artists against each other in this way. I don’t care what that other guy charges, because the rate I gave you is what I charge and what I think is fair for the work I do. If you don’t like it, hire the other guy. Seriously. If you’re a freelancer and you get put in this position, don’t back down. The fact is, the employer obviously likes your work. If they don’t respect what your time is worth to you, they don’t deserve to work with you.

[Tweet “If they don’t respect what your time is worth to you, they don’t deserve to work with you. @MichaelYakutis”]

Artists – you may not be aware of it, but you have the upper hand here. You are offering something unique to the world that no one else can do. You are offering your art. Your unique vision. What are the clients offering? Money and maybe some publicity if they are good at promotion. You can get these things from someone else – you just have to go look for it. Heck, you can get these things on your own if you successfully self publish, be it online or in print. A lot of potential clients will make the argument that they are not a big company and they are not looking for a well known artist. So what? It’s not your fault that they are not a big company, and the quality of your work has nothing to do with your popularity in this regard. The truth is, they need you as much as you need them. I see way too many overly-modest artists out there who are terrified to stand up for themselves. I’m not saying that all low-paying employers are trying to take advantage of artists, and I’m not saying that they have nothing creative to offer to the world. But if they want professional quality artwork they need to be willing to pay professional rates, or close to them.

So what are professional rates? Find out in the next installment!

It’s Called Freelancing – Part 3

By Michael Yakutis, Making Comics (dotCom) Community Liaison. 


8 Responses to “It’s Called Freelancing – Part 2”

  1. Kirsty

    “This other guy said he can do the pages for $50 each, do you think you could lower your rates some?” The answer should always be, “No.”

    I agree. BUT how do you explain? “My work’s better than his” might be true, but might not be tactful to say so (especially if it is an artist they are already using.)

    • Fish

      Well, you should only play the “Divide And Conquer” game if you know what you do 🙂
      Negotiating can be useful, if you win most of the time, or if the final deal is well balanced… But most of the time it’s not the case, and that’s why you shouldn’t enter in a competition every time a potential client ask you to.
      Nowadays clients can commission whoever they want, thanks to the internet, but they don’t choose randomly (if you think otherwise, then think twice). Most of them won’t tell you everything about how they selected you, but if they take the time to approach you, it’s because your art is right for their projects.

      • Michael Yakutis

        Precisely, Fish! If a client reaches out to you asking for more info it’s a good sign. It shows that they like your work enough to hire you. After that it’s a matter of negotiation. Clients are under no obligation to tell you why they’re interested in your work, what they think of your rates, or why they pass on you (if they do). But if they open up a conversation with you, that is proof enough that you are headed in a good direction.

    • Michael Yakutis

      True. When a potential client tries to get you to lower your rates by saying that another artist is willing to work for less, the last thing you want to do is say “My work is better than his/hers.” Really…how you would even know?? Plus, “better” is a matter of opinion.

      The best thing to do is politely tell the client that you can’t lower your rates any further. Yes, sometimes the client will choose the other artist over you. But not always. By not backing down it shows that you know your own value – a lot of employers respect this kind of strength in someone they are hiring.

  2. mc

    the explanation is simple: 50$ for a page means an hourly rate so low I’d better go work at walmart – I’m a qualified person, I’ve worked on my skills for decades, if you choose me it’s because you see that quality, pay for it

    • Michael Yakutis

      How about get a job at Walmart and hide out in the back of the stockroom all day drawing comics, lol?

  3. Kasey Quevedo

    Great article. All these things become more readily apparent when you’re paying bills, and supporting a family. Also when you break down the amount of time you’re spending, and break it down by hour, you should ask yourself if you are happy earning X$ an hour? I know sometimes there is honest intention in trying to give the artist something even if it’s a small amount. Having self published, I totally get it when printing is such a significant cost. I’m sure sometimes a candidate will see the overall dollar amount, like if someone throws out $500 for a 22 page book. Depending on how long it takes the artist to do the work, or even if the publisher wants pencils, inks, AND colors, it can breakdown to a couple dollars an hour. A lot of times I look at it as valuable time away from family, yet not supporting them as well as I should be.

    • Michael Yakutis

      Exactly. Most clients/employers are good people. It’s not like they’re out there trying to think of how they can intentionally short-change an artist. But many inexperienced people see all hobby artists who work for next to nothing and set this as precedent for those of us who make a living from doing art. It’s a complicated situation and most of it stems from a lack of understanding on how much time an artist puts into a page in relation to what they need to survive financially.

      And yeah – watch out for projects that seemingly pay a lot of money in total, but there are a lot of pages to produce. Do the math and make sure the page rate is worth your time before taking on a $3,000 project for an entire colored graphic novel.


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