Probably should have just learned how to draw when I was younger...
July 16, 2011 8:03 PM   Subscribe

How much should I expect to spend on this little piece of freelance graphic work?

I'm thinking of starting a web site that will feature writing from various authors, each of whom are simply pseudonyms for myself and other various contracted writers. To sell the idea that these are coming from different people, I'd like to feature icons/ graphics of the "authors" in question. I would provide very basic information - "the character is a white female in her mid 20s, background of urban environment behind her" - but other than that, the artist would have considerable leeway in the design. I would like to have 8-12 of these done, and they would adorn the "about our authors" page of the site as well as pages whose content would be from the point of view of that character. Size would probably be in the 250x350px range, and in a style I can best describe as "cartoony."

Where can I go to find people looking for short term graphic work of this nature, and how much can I expect to pay someone for reasonable work? I did some initial Googling, but didn't know how well some of those sites could be trusted.
posted by Golfhaus to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might be able to find someone to do it for free. This sounds like the sort of thing people do for forum icons for fun all the time. Try deviantart? The local college? craigslist? Otherwise, I would say $5 a pop at a maximum, though I'm not an artist of any sort. I paid $30 to a friend for a notebook sized watercolour of pretty impressive detail and complexity.
posted by Jacen at 8:36 PM on July 16, 2011

As a recommendation for a place to look, try Fiverr. It's a marketplace for people to buy and sell simple services for $5. I've used it a few times as a buyer with success. There are quite a few people who will do basic artworks to spec.
posted by wackybrit at 9:07 PM on July 16, 2011

Jesus Christ people. You are talking about actual labor, something that would take a few hours to get right. $5 a piece? WTF.

Paying someone $30 for something that probably took them a long time to conceptualize and produce (not to even mention the skills involved in making in) is not something to be proud of.

If you were to get actual skilled graphic design, including a normal review process where you can approve and comment during the artistic process, at least pay the designer living wages ($100- 150/hour for skilled professionals, half as much for someone just starting out). Good, professional work should cost you about ~$1,000 total.
posted by halogen at 9:17 PM on July 16, 2011 [20 favorites]
posted by Jacen at 9:30 PM on July 16, 2011

If they're small color illustrations, you should be paying a minumum $30 each. Add at least $10 for every round of revisions.

Black and white, you could knock a little off that.

Incidentally, these are amateur rates, and the artwork would reflect that. This is what you'd pay a college kid who you find through Tumblr or DeviantArt, who would knock out the artwork in a couple of hours.

Halogen is pretty much on the money.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:36 PM on July 16, 2011

I disagree with the people who say you can get this work done for free. It IS actual labor and artists should be compensated for their work. It's hard to give a specific price for this kind of work because it depends so much on the artist.
posted by starpoint at 9:39 PM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

For this situation, a couple hundred would be reasonable. $1k would be corporate money for these simple web icons. But $5 is simply free, and man, good luck w that.
posted by artdrectr at 9:47 PM on July 16, 2011

What can you "expect" to spend? It depends on who you hire. An artistic nephew might do it for free while a world-class illustrator might charge several thousand dollars. For example, Mark Summers does most of the portrait artwork for Barnes and Noble. If you were to hire him then I would expect you to pay more than five dollars an illustration. But there's no amount of money that doesn't correspond to some illustrator, somewhere. You should expect a difference in quality between $5 work and $500 work, but the final product isn't the only place where the difference shows. The experience of working with the illustrator to realize your vision will change depending on whether you're working directly with a professional or contracting through an anonymous website. For example, a professional will be able to work with you to visually narrow down what "cartoony" actually means in the context of this job.

The way this would normally work is that the designer (or design firm) that you hired to design your website would have had a particular illustrator in mind that would be right for the project. Otherwise they wouldn't have specified that style.
posted by Jeff Howard at 10:13 PM on July 16, 2011

yeah, also cartoony is also way too vague. If you can collect material of the kind of cartoony you mean and the sort of look/personality you are going for, that will greatly aid whoever draws yours stuff. In addition maybe compile some notes on the sort of people you want drawn (their visual look) to go along with their background details. While it sounds very open to say the artist can have creative leeway in drawing things, leeway means shit unless it's within prescribed boundaries. After all their prerogative is to make the art decently enough to fit into some standard and get paid, not exercise their personal creativity as if it were their own project. (They'd save that for their own work) Also consider how much detail you want in these author avatars. Details take more time and should be compensated accordingly.

And while you might not have 300+ sitting around to pay someone for this, please do the decent thing and try and pay as much as you can to whatever self-undervalued amateur you'll probably go with. I say this in as realistic and non-sarcastic a manner as possible. Springing for a professional is probably out of your budget. But at least an amateur will get something for their trouble which is more than I can say for most of those preyed upon deviantart teenagers who think 10 for a drawing is decent money.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 11:09 PM on July 16, 2011

If you aren't willing to pay the sorts of money people are talking about here, you could use one of the many sites that let you put together a cartoon avatar by choosing from limited selections of e.g. face shape, hair, eyes, etc. Kind of like an identikit drawing.
posted by lollusc at 1:59 AM on July 17, 2011

If you want to do this on the cheap, rather than paying some poor starving artist $5 each, you might want to try somewhere like istockphoto -- there are many cartoony pictures there as well as pictures of actual people that you could use or modify.
posted by mmoncur at 3:21 AM on July 17, 2011

I think it's funny that people have no problem paying good money for services that they are not skilled in (mechanic, electrician, doctor, hairdresser, etc. etc.) often totally undervalue the labor that goes into art and graphic design. Please think of this as a job, that the person you hire will spend some hours on, and takes training and skill. OP- your question does not reflect that kind of thinking, but some of the answers you received do. There is definitely a range that you could spend, but budget for a few hundred dollars minimum for an amateur- to around 1000 for a professional, halogen's post is correct.
posted by catrae at 6:18 AM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

…half as much for someone just starting out…

actually, no. someone just starting out is not going to be making $50/hr. someone first starting out is going to be making about $25-30/hr. that said, if you don't have a huge budget, i would check with art school career bulletins as well. it's not going to be free or an insulting $5, but you will get some good work for a little less than someone who's already working professionally.
posted by violetk at 9:38 AM on July 17, 2011

Paying someone $30 for something that probably took them a long time to conceptualize and produce (not to even mention the skills involved in making in) is not something to be proud of.

What piffle. "Proud of"? These are people choosing to sell their time in a certain way in order to build up a portfolio or to earn some extra bucks on the side. Is buying a book for 99¢ at a thrift store something to not be "proud of" too, especially considering the author makes nothing on the resale?

There is no reason, moral or otherwise, to spend more money than is necessary to both receive a job well done and for both parties to be happy with the transaction. If there were, I hope you're paying $20 per t-shirt and $10 a gallon for your milk given the raw deal people in those industries get in return for cheap produce.
posted by wackybrit at 7:07 PM on July 18, 2011

A lot of different opinions here, thanks. As a writer, I feel a little bit of the artists' struggle with people who don't place much value on their efforts... "it's just writing, anyone can do that!", etc.

That being said, budget considerations are a concern, so I'll explore some of the cheaper options suggested here, and if things work out, upgrade to some of the more professional opportunities down the road.

Thanks again, all!
posted by Golfhaus at 8:23 PM on July 18, 2011

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