The surface design industry is growing and new artists are entering the space from all parts of the world, so it would be a complete disservice to you if all I ever discussed was surface design from my own perspective living in the US.
It’s one of the reasons we started the monthly Designer Spotlight series, to highlight the voices of artists working around the world.
But I wondered what I could do to bring a more global approach to other aspects of the industry that I teach about, especially pricing because there are new artists discovering surface design each year from all over the world.
Luckily surface design is such an incredibly welcoming & supportive community, so I just reached out to several veteran artists I admire from different parts of the world to ask if they’d be willing to their perspectives with me… and they all said OF COURSE!
Which meant I jumped on a Zoom call last month with each of these four incredible women to chat about negotiating pricing and contracts and today I wanted to share their answers to one particular question I asked all of them…
My Question: What’s one piece of pricing advice you wished you’d been told at the beginning of your career?
I know you’ll appreciate their candid answers – enjoy!
Brook is an artist, pattern designer and illustrator from Australia who makes colourful, feel-good designs for local and global brands including Godiva Chocolates, Greetabl, Trader Joes, Sainsbury’s and many more.
“There’s no need for one flat rate, pricing for the one design may vary depending on the intended use, duration, and size of the business you are licensing to. Don’t limit yourself by putting a roof on your rates.”
Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Stephanie is an illustrator and licensed artist living in the US. She’s illustrated dozens of children’s books and worked with clients like Caterpillar Books, Hallmark, HarperCollins, Mudpuppy, and Walker Books.
“At the beginning of my career, I wish I’d been more confident in negotiating for higher fees. At this point in my career, I know that there’s almost always more money in the budget and that negotiation is an expected part of the process. I’ve always said that I was a bad negotiator, but really I lacked confidence.
Now, I appreciate that my work has value and I’m not afraid to ask for a higher fee. The worst thing that can happen is being told there isn’t any more money in the budget and in that case, I can happily say ‘no thanks’ if the fee won’t work for me. You never know unless you ask!”
An English artist & designer who now lives in Italy, Victoria has over 24 years of experience working with many leading U.K. and U.S. retailers, including Anthropologie, Papyrus, Gap, Ralph Lauren, and Hallmark.
“If you’re not happy or sure about anything, don’t be afraid to ask the client questions. It won’t make you look stupid or unprofessional and it won’t offend anyone or make you ‘lose the deal’. You need to understand and agree to every word of a deal/contract and it’s okay to make sure you do by asking for clarification.”
Zoe is a US-based artist with over 20 years of expertise in creating bespoke commissioned and licensed surface designs working for companies such as Anthropologie, Pottery Barn Kids, Dixie, and Target.
“Your social network is your pricing safety net. Build up your contacts in the industry and with other designers as quickly as possible. When you get a new potential client you can use them for advice and industry feedback allowing you to make smart pricing decisions.”
I couldn’t agree more with their advice and want to THANK them all for taking time out of their busy schedules to chat with me. These ladies have a combined 60+ years of experience and it was truly a privilege to interview them and ask questions like:
Do you have a price floor for your art and if so, what is it?
Have you seen differences in price between US and non-US-based companies?
Are there “industry standard” rates in the children’s book industry?
What contract terms for you are non-negotiable?
And I’m excited to say that the entire conversations of all four 30+ minute interviews will be included as a special bonus inside my Artful Pricing course.
Because just like I said at the top of this post – it’s SO important to bring a varied & global perspective to the surface design industry and I aim to do just that here AND inside all my classes, to give my students and our community as holistic a viewpoint as possible.