Hey Illustrator! How Much Do You Charge?

Ever Heard, “Hey Illustrator! How Much Do You Charge?” This is a question that I have asked certain people in the past and guess what… they never gave me an answer. I just saw this lingering, blank stare on their face that told me, I was in Paris at a really expensive restaurant with no prices on the menu.

Hence, the answer was,

“Heh,… uhhh, you can’t afford me?”

Well, for the longest time I did not understand why I could not get a straight answer from certain illustrators I met whom I wanted to illustrate my book. 

Shouldn’t the answer be simple?

Of course it’s simple, but sometimes people in this industry have a difficult time “breaking it down.” Money is a sensitive topic sometimes.

Well, good news people, I found out the deets. (Yes… I just used that word.)

Illustrators are not bad people.  The miscommunication ties into the fact that writers and illustrators connect to the publisher in different ways.  Even though it is true that illustrators are freelancers who work for themselves, they typically work with a publishing house if they want professional manuscripts brought to them.  

This is where the disconnect lies.  I’ve met many women who want to write a children’s book and they often think that they are responsible to find the illustrator.  So, they approach the nearest illustrator with the dreaded, money question.

Tread gently, illustrators.  I think the first thing an illustrator ought to say to a “wannabe-children’s-book writer” is: 

“It is normally recommended that aspiring writers, such as yourself, obtain a literary agent who will find a publisher for you who usually has a handful of professional illustrators that they match with your book. The publisher pays the illustrator— so you don’t have to.” 

However, the writer may be persistent.  She* may love your work.  With that,  an illustrator could also add more information such as:

“If you’re self-publishing and you want me to illustrate your story, it’s an investment. It usually takes between 4-6 months to complete all 32 or more pages of a picture book project. I require a (generous; typical, substantial; non-negotiable; or [insert exact amount here];… ) monthly (or upfront) salary that pays me during that time. If you’re ready to make that investment, contact me and we’ll discuss this further.” (Hand them your card.) 

Or… to avoid badly-written manuscripts that probably have not been edited, they could simply say:

“I apologize, I only work through agencies (or publishing houses).”

Very simple. This might help the writer to start thinking of illustrators as high-end artists as well as understanding that illustrators are typically not editors.  Perhaps this will help them to trust the publisher better as well. 

I think many unpublished people assume that offering $3000 to illustrate a picture book is a great offer, but if you consider a four to six-month salary, it’s offensive. (By the way, four to six months is only a rough estimate as some illustrators may take less time or longer.)

However, don’t blame the writers for their low offer. They are asking for clarification, but not getting it.

It’s okay to help people to understand that professional illustrators are not meant to be starving artists. 

Are you ready to get your book illustrated? Try my service.

Are you a budding illustrator who would like to learn more about accepting jobs, try this class and get 2 months of a free premium membership at SkillShare.


A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. ~Proverbs 18:20 KJV  

*Using she is referencing the women I’ve heard express a desire to write children’s books.

Using Format