Starting out with character design can be a tough place to be in. There’s so much that goes into designs, not to mention finding clients or people to buy premade designs. One of the most terrifying parts of it all is trying to decide how much to charge for these designs.
Because cartoon character jobs vary in complexity and requirements, first determine your hourly rate, then charge for how many hours the specific job will take. If there are any material costs involved, be sure to add that to the overall cost as well or risk operating at a loss.
It can be tempting to undercharge in hopes of building a client base and then increasing costs later. However, that model is detrimental to the artist and causes frustration on the client side. Never go for less than what it’s worth no matter the stigma involved with artistic work. Keep reading for tips on how to price cartoon character designs.
Average Designer Pricing
Character design falls under the Graphic Design umbrella and is a good place to start when looking at pricing. It’s also typically a good freelancer sort of position, with character design being able to slip into more sites than it seems possible. However, many people attempt to undercharge themselves since there is a bit of a stigma surrounding artistic work as something that should be done for free out of passion. It’s a skill and should be treated as such.
Here are some average rates for graphic designers at an annual level:
|Annual Salary (in USD)
It might take some time to build up enough of a client base to reach these sorts of numbers, but they are definitely things to shoot for. There’s no point in attempting to undercharge and let clients take advantage of appropriate wages just to get a foot in the door. With a little luck, a full position might be available and these numbers can help determine if the company pays fairly.
Determine Hourly Rates
There are two ways to go about pricing art, including character designs. One is to go by a flat rate, and one is to go by an hourly rate. Regardless of which option is chosen, it is useful to build an hourly rate to start from. How long does cartoon character design usually take to complete from start to finish? Start with that and then round up to account for client back and forth.
Graphic designers get anywhere from $15-150 USD per hour with an average of $31.25 USD per hour. Take that into consideration when assessing personal skill level. Fresh off the block might be suitable to start with $15 USD per hour, but if there’s some experience or a niche to fill under the belt, bring it up. Art is a skill, and if it’s at the point where it can be a viable source of income, it should be treated as such.
Decide on Additional Fees
Character design typically isn’t a one and done sort of deal with nothing but time at stake. Anything past the actual designing portion can accrue additional fees and that should be considered when deciding on a rate. This is especially true if there is going to be any tangible product in the end.
Here are some additional fees to consider building into the rate for a cartoon character design:
- Editing: Something that takes a few moments to edit like flipping the image or swapping a single color might not need to accrue an additional fee, but anything significant that will take more than that deserves to get additional costs tacked onto the end. This is especially true if a client wants to nitpick throughout the whole process.
- Material Costs: If there is to be a tangible product at the end, work in how much materials cost in the final rate. This includes any printing, traditional art supplies, shipping, or other costs involved with materials.
Not including these fees can lead to some terrible communication issues, artist burnout, and unhappiness all around. A little secret is to also build in shipping costs to the material cost instead of charging a shipping fee. Just pick what it would typically cost to ship and list as Free Shipping. Since they won’t be paying an additional shipping fee, it will look more appealing while also not having the designer footing the cost.
Clients can Make or Break Everything
Of course when dipping into design the point is to find clients. Pricing too high will push potential buyers away, while pricing too low will attract some of the scummier clientele. It’s important to price somewhere in the middle so that there are still plenty of buyers, while also discouraging those looking to squeeze out more than they deserve.
While it is fine to offer discounts from time to time, don’t let clients bully their way into it. Additionally, don’t let the nitpicky clients get away with making more work than they’re paying for. Learn when to draw the line on free edit requests and be clear up front how many are acceptable.
Art is notorious for being undercharged. There’s a social perception that it should be free due to most artists doing it out of passion. However, it is a skill that deserves to be paid for just like any other skill. Clients might try to bully into lower rates, threatening to go somewhere it is cheaper to obtain similar work, but anyone who is mindful of the work that goes into character design will likely trust that the prices are appropriate to the artist and be happy to pay them.
The need for character design can appear in unexpected places, but regardless of where it is, appropriate wages should be charged. Start by determining your hourly rate, then charging for how many hours the job takes, and don’t forget to work in any additional fees that might be required. Don’t let clients be the reason for burnout and charge appropriately. Time is money after all.