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Art & Design Education

Writing an independent illustration proposal for a client

Illustrators do not always have to wait for clients for work. A good entrepreneur looks for his/her own opportunities in the market. At the WdKA we encourage our students to learn to iniate personal projects for clients they would like to work for. Creating your own proposal does not imply that you’re a fine artist. You can approach commercial clients with practical ‘applied’ solutions as well. Writing an applied-art proposal can be challenging. Mark Schotman is tutor in the WdKA business station, and co-author of the publication (http://creativebusinessmap.com). He suggests to focus on 6 points: personal information, approach, value, fee, you’re your conditions, and 6 the client confirmation.

  1. Personal information

With any document you send to a client it should be clear who is sending it.Start with your contact information; how can this client reach you? What is your website and what is your; company/business about? It’s very basic information, but make sure it can be easily found in your document.

  1. Approach

One of the key aspects in a written client-proposal is a clear description of what you are offering the client. Be clear about what you are going to be do for the client, and describe the products that they can expect. An important aspect of your approach is your ‘tone of voice’. It’s difficult to learn; because each client may have its own preferences. It is good to write with confidence; show the client you know what you have to offer, and clarify to them why your product will be beneficial to them.

  1. Value

Every illustrator/designer is responsible for defining the ‘value’ of their work. The job of an illustrator is (unfortuanately) ‘unprotected’, this means anybody without any training can offer illustration work. There are different approaches in how to establish your value:

  • Based on a formula (see: Price- and fee brochure for designers by BNO (Union of Dutch Designer)
  • Based on what the client is willing to offer
  • Based on what the illustrator feel he is worth
  • Based on the time you are willing to spend

Clients often like to bargain and negotiate on fees in the illustration market. In the negotiation with clients we recommend illustrators to use personal principals. For example only accept a lower offer if:

  • It will help you getting other work
  • You love working for this client for personal reasons
  • You’re interested in the experience when working for this client.
  • The client is willing to promote your work through their channels

These principals don’t mean you have to except a lower fee. We recommend to specify your principals and place them in your written agreement of the project. Personal intentions by clients are often easy forgotten once the project is finished. By clarifying in your principals in the written proposal you bring more clarity to the client of your fee.

  1. Fee

Be clear towards the client what your expectations are related in the fee of your project.There are different ways; hour rate/lump sum or anything in between. We recommend illustrators to use different rates for different tasks. For example;

  • Concept fee = highest per hour (40,- p/h)
  • Design fee = little lower (30,- p/h)
  • Correction fee = lowest (20,- ph.)

You can also use a ‘fixed price’. This implies you don’t calculate hours. It is often easier for clients like this; but we recommend only to use this for small projects that you’ve done before.

We recommend not to add VAT (21%) in your project-calculation of the fee, because VAT is not paid for by the client. A financial offer is often described as: VAT excl (excluded). The reason not to add VAT in de proposal is because it gives the client an impression of high costs.

  1. Conditions

It is important to keep in mind that every project can lead to new opportunities. By clarifying the conditions in which you want to work you can prevent future confrontations with your client. By law you the ownership (copyright & user right) are always yours.  If a client asks you to ‘give up’ your rights of your work, you have a risk of missing out on  future possibilities of making money with your work. Clients sometimes ask illustrator’s to give up the right; because they don’t want to pay again, when they wish to use your work again. It’s important to think ahead, and how you feel about the ‘re-use’ of your work. Some famous designers never earned a lot of money because they did not protect the rights of their work.

  1. Confirmation

Make sure to have your client sign, or give a written confirmation on your written proposal. By doing so you have created a written agreement between you and your client. During the project you can always refer back to this document. It takes time and effort to write a good written proposal, but once you have your clients confirmation on it, it will be very useful during the project.

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