Day in the Life


Tuesday January 8th

6:30 am Wake up and get ready. Why do I wake up so early on my day off?

7 am Write blog post

8 am Go to Max’s for coffee and cinnamon bun

8:15 am Admin work

9:00 Laundry

11:00 Go to Small Victory on Granville street. Get a breakfast sandwich and latte. Good food but no WiFi

12:15 Work on some ideas for postcard mailer, do some sketching.

1:00 Wander around Chapters

2:00 Go to Trees Organic Coffee in search of WiFi and write blog post

2:50 Head home and browse in shops on the way

4:30 Arrive home & do more admin stuff

5:00 Post blog post, and shortly after this will call it a day.

I don’t always work a whole lot on my freelance days; I think this day totals about half a day of actual work. I tend to work in short bursts with lots of breaks in-between, but this works for me.


Entrepreneurship & Drawing

Entrepreneurship and owning your own business is a lot like drawing and making art. It is constant trial and error. You are always evaluating and correcting your course or path.

When you draw, you make a mark, or shape, or series of marks on the page. Then you look at what you are trying to draw. You look back at your drawing and go, “Hmmm, this line or shape doesn’t look quite right.” So you erase the line and make another, improved mark. You repeat this process again and again, constantly correcting, until you feel the drawing is finished. By nature of the process, the artist is constantly adjusting and changing course.

The same is true in business. You try one marketing strategy. It doesn’t work as well as you had hoped. So you try something else. Your new strategy sort of works, so you adjust, and try to improve your strategy. You repeat this process again and again, constantly trying to improve your product or income.

I thought about this after making my goals for 2019. I evaluated my marketing from 2018, and tried to improve or change it. My physical mailer worked, so I am increasing the frequency this year. My Etsy shop is sort of working, but could be a lot better. So I am trying a physical space this year.

Evaluate and adjust.

2018 Review and Goals for 2019

December was a planning month for my business. I did an evaluation of 2018, what worked, what didn’t work. I split my business into three parts: Illustration, Gallery Work, and Products/Etsy Shop.

Illustration – Postcard mailer was successful. Got two repeat clients out of it. Financially was so-so, I broke even on my marketing costs. For 2019 I plan to increase my mailer frequency to at least twice a year for editorial clients. I also plan to send a mailer to book publishers in 2019.

I also did an evaluation of my marketing costs. I added up the numbers, and one postcard mailer costs roughly $300. This cost could be lower depending on what items I get printed. The coasters I made were the most expensive to print.

Marketing plan for Illustration – I plan to send out a postcard mailer in the first quarter and third quarter. I also plan to research book publishers, and develop a mailing list that I can mail a promo postcard to.

Gallery Work – My group show at Dundarave was well attended. Didn’t make any sales from the November show, but I did have sales from the gallery in the summer and fall. Overall, Dundarave has been good for me both developing as a printmaker, and selling my art.

There are three all member group shows at Dundarave in 2019. I also would like to work towards a solo show proposal for 2020. There is a printmaking residency in Milan, Italy that I plan to apply for. It is a month long residency, and they pay for your rent and also give you spending money for travel, food etc. I also plan on keeping an eye out for the Vancouver Art Gallery Art Rental program application.

Products/Etsy Shop – I have had lots of positive feedback for my blog, so that is encouraging, that people read it and enjoy it. I have had sales from sending product announcements via e-mail. So e-mail marketing for my shop has been successful. Also the notebook I designed was pretty popular, so I will definitely make more notebooks.

Pacific Market is a new Vancouver based artist shop that just opened in December. You can rent space for four weeks at a time. It’s in a good location (Broadway and Granville area) and priced reasonably. I plan to apply for space in the second quarter, and give it a go for four weeks. In 2019 I also plan to research licensing your artwork, as a way to earn passive income.

I also need to upgrade my computer and software in 2019, so that will be a big expense. I am planning to buy a MacBook Pro, this way my computer will be more portable, and I can do more work in coffee shops, which I really enjoy. My Photoshop is WAY out of date, and keeps crashing on me. So I worked backwards – to update Photoshop I need a new operating system. To update to a new operating system, my hardware is too old. So, new computer it is! My computer is pretty old anyway (8-ish years). Plus I think it would be nice to have a laptop, and be able to do more of my work in coffee shops.

So that’s what I have in the works for 2019! What are your goals for 2019?



Photo Documentation

If you create traditional artwork, and have physical pieces, it is important to photo document your work, so you have a digital copy. When applying for art exhibitions, often the gallery will want digital samples (usually JPEGs) of your work. Digital images are also handy for images for your website. Having these digital images ready makes it easier to apply for shows or residencies when opportunities come up. I had some photo documentation done for some of my etchings. I recently found out about a printmaking residency in Italy, and am planning to apply for it online using the photos of my etchings.

I chose photography over scanning because my scanner is too small, and professional scanning is expensive. I hired a co-worker of mine who has professional photography equipment. It’s good to do the photography in batches; once you set up for one artwork, it is fairly easy to swap out the art and keep photographing. We did about 10 images in an hour.

I outsourced the photography because I do not own a good quality camera, and I do not have the photography skills to light artwork properly, etc. A camera is not worth the investment for me, considering I do not need a high quality camera that often. I make do with the camera on my cell phone. This is one area of my business where I am happy to pay someone else for their skills.

Pricing Part Two – Licensing and Editorial Illustration

In this post I will be going over licensing and how it affects your prices. I will also talk about my experiences and pay with editorial illustration.

In my previous post I talked about hourly rates. Another thing to think about when deciding on your hourly rate, is billable hours. You may be working 40 hours a week at your business, but not all of those hours are billable to the client. Administrative work like writing contracts, invoicing, updating your website, etc. are not billable. So you have to factor in the work to run your business, as well as your billable hours. For example you might work 40 hours a week, but can only bill 30 hours to the client.

Another factor in pricing for illustration work is licensing. How is your client going to use the illustration? Is it a logo? Is it a short time use, like an editorial illustration for a magazine? Pricing for a logo vs. an editorial illustration would be very different, based on the license extended to the client.

I use the Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines when I am figuring out licensing, because otherwise it hurts my brain. For logos, the client needs all rights, so they can use the image in any media, for an unlimited time, because it is their brand, so they will be using the image for the life of the company. For all rights usage I charge an additional 50-100% of my fee. For example, if I charge $800 for a logo, it would be an additional $400-800 for the rights. So a total of $1200 – $1600. For small companies I include all rights in my fee, so I would only charge them for the hours worked (usually around $800), which is low for a logo. I don’t do branding packages, which cost a lot more (in the thousands).

For other short-term projects, the price would be lower, because the licensing does not cover as much. For example, when giving an estimate for a custom greeting card illustration recently, I calculated the flat rate, for example 5 hours x $80/hour is $400. In this price I included a limited license of 3 years, for printed greeting cards only. After the 3 years, the rights of the image revert back to me. If the client wanted to purchase additional licensing (or a longer license) the fee would increase.

Editorial pricing is a different ball game. In my experience so far, the magazine determines the price for the illustration. They will offer an assignment to you, for X amount of illustrations, and they will give you their budget of $X. The magazine determines the price, not you. Larger magazines have bigger budgets, therefore you get paid more. Smaller magazines or non-profit magazines have small budgets, so you get paid less. Which is kind of unfortunate, because the illustration is the same amount of work either way. But that’s how the industry works. So far in my experience, I have worked mostly with smaller magazines or non-profit magazines, which pay anywhere from $0 – $200 for one or more illustrations. I have done a couple illustrations for mid-size magazines, and have been paid $500 – $600 for doing one or two illustrations. My goal is to do more work for larger magazines, so I can make bigger bucks.

Thanks for reading! Hope these posts were helpful in shedding some light on the complicated world of pricing.



Pricing Part One – Hourly Rates

This post got kind of long, so I am splitting it into two parts. Part One is on hourly rates, price estimates, and revisions. Part Two will be on licensing and editorial illustration.

This post is inspired by a recent conversation with an artist friend about how to price for jobs. I thought I would go over my experiences and try to be transparent about pricing because it is hard to find straightforward advice on the subject.

I charge by the project, meaning I give the client a flat rate, so they know exactly what they will be paying you. When I first started out doing freelance graphic design, I charged by the hour, but ran into problems with that. I had one project that went over the estimated hours, and got some pushback when I tried to collect payment. So after that experience I started charging by the project.

How I figure out my price estimate is pretty simple. I estimate how many hours the project will take and multiply that by my hourly rate. This gives me the project price. For example, if my hourly rate is $80/hour, and I estimate the project will take 10 hours, my estimate to the client would be $800. To use this method you have to be pretty good at figuring out how long the different steps of your process take you. If you’re not sure, start by tracking your time when you are working on a project. Use your time tracking as a guideline.

How do you figure out your hourly rate? I use the Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines as a reference when figuring out pricing. They list median hourly rates for different professions. For example for graphic design, the hourly rate ranges from $65-80/hour. Creative Director is listed at $100/hour. I don’t know how accurate these rates are in real life, but they are good to use as a guideline. When in school I asked an instructor about hourly rates, and they suggested me to start at $60/hour for illustration. So that was my hourly rate when I started, and I have since raised it to $80/hour. You should give yourself a raise of 2-5% a year (or more if you feel like you deserve it, you are your own boss, after all).

Also factor in revisions into your pricing. Decide how you will price them, and how many revisions you will include in your flat price. I include 3 revisions in my prices, and any revisions over 3 will be billed at my hourly rate, with a minimum charge of one hour (so minimum charge of $80, even if the revision takes me half an hour). This is one way to deter hundreds of revisions from your client. You are setting boundaries and respect for your time.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week for Part Two.


Day in the Life


Another day in my freelance illustrator life. Very busy these past few weeks, and it will continue to be busy until the end of September. Illustration deadline looming, plus my parents are visiting!

Wednesday Sept 12

7:00 am Wake up and have breakfast and coffee

7:30 am E-mail and admin. Received feedback from Georgia Straight regarding my mailer – cool!

8:15 am Work on roughs for Broken Pencil magazine. Find reference images for final illustrations.

8:45 am Create jpegs of new work for update to website.

9:15 am Read Being Boss

10:30 am Personal appointment

11:45 am Lunch at Johnny Rockets

12:30 pm Arrive home

12:45 pm Start work on drawings and final illustrations for Broken Pencil. Carve lino blocks.

2:45 pm Take a break. Walk to Tandem Bike Café and get a smoothie.

3:20 pm Arrive home. Continue carving lino blocks.

4:25 pm Print lino blocks.

4:45 pm – 5:45 pm Scan prints. Listen to Being Boss podcast.

6:20 pm After getting this blog post ready, call it a day. Phew!