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Getting Paid as a Children's book Illustrator: It's Okay to Ask

Darlee Urbiztondo, known as Happylee, a cheerful children's book illustrator, gives a friendly OK-sign while working at her laptop adorned with creative stickers, accompanied by a relaxed Shih Tzu dog, in a serene outdoor workspace surrounded by lush greenery and natural light.

This Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to talk about something that causes a lot of stress for artists: asking for payment. I've struggled with this myself as a self-taught artist and freelance graphic designer. You're not alone in feeling this way. I want to share my experiences and some tips that helped me deal with this problem. Let's get through this together.

Jumping into making your passion into a career and for me as a children's book illustrator was a big leap. It's exciting but can also make you feel nervous, especially when it's time to ask for money. Trust me, I've been there. Even now, sometimes I feel a bit shy about it. But I've learned and accepted that feeling this way is normal, and being brave enough to ask for payment nicely and professionally is important.

Feeling Nervous? You're Not Alone

If you're new to art and feel worried about asking for money, I get it. Putting your illustrations out there is already a big step, and wanting to get paid for it just adds to the pressure. But here's a little secret: you need to find a bit of courage. You don't have to be super bold all at once, just kind and clear about getting paid for your hard work.

Learning the Hard Way

When I first started as a children's book illustrator, there were projects I didn't ask for money upfront because I thought people would pay me after seeing my work. But sometimes, they didn't, and that was tough. It taught me to speak up about my work's value from the start, of course politely and professionally.

How to Ask Nicely

Asking for payment starts with believing in your art's worth. Talk about your prices openly when someone is interested in your work. It might feel weird at first, but it gets easier. As for my experience, I normally ask first what is their budget, and get to know more details about their book, like their inspiration and thanking them for noticing my art. Writing down your prices and when you expect to be paid helps too, making things clear for everyone.

Your Art and YOU Matter

Asking for payment doesn't mean you care less about your art. It means you're serious about making it part of your life. It's okay to still feel a bit unsure sometimes. The main thing is to keep going, value your work, and remember it's okay to get paid for it. Just like any other job, your creative services require time, effort, and skill. Your illustrations didn’t fall from the sky, you worked for it, and you deserve to be compensated.

A Friendly Tip

To all the artists feeling shy about this, remember, your work is important. Making art is not just about creating; it's also about sharing something special with the world. So, take a deep breath, believe in your skill, and don't be afraid to ask for what you deserve.

Remember, making art is amazing, and so is getting paid for it. Be gentle with yourself, stay true to your art, and don't hesitate to ask for payment. Your art is worth it, and so are you.

Quick Tips:

  • How do I make sure I get paid? Start by asking for some payment before you begin working, use a clear contract, and keep talking to your client as you work.

  • Is it okay to do free work to show what I can do? Doing free work can help build your portfolio, but choose wisely. Make sure it's worth your time and helps both you and the person you're helping. Though I understand if you’re new to this line of work, you’ll probably do it anyway, I know I did, but over time I learned to say no professionally. You can also make sure to have enough samples of your work on your website or profile where they can browse and see your skills and specialization.

  • How can I get more people to see my work? Make a good website, be active on social media(instagram, Facebook and behance), use relevant hashtags, join monthly challenges, and join online groups related to what you do. Showing your work and what you know can attract new clients.

This blog is inspired from my own experience working as a freelance children's book illustrator since 2021, I am still learning as well as I go on. If you’re a fellow illustrator and have suggestions regarding the topic, please feel free to share them, or if you have other questions, I’ll be happy to assist.

Remember, every step forward is progress, and overcoming challenges not only makes your art better—it builds a career that's truly your own.


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Thanks for being with me on this journey. Let’s keep making and sharing. 💖


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