How do cartoonists calculate their fees? Deciding what to charge

How much do cartoonists charge? How are the fees calculated?

What presents itself as a beautifully simple cartoon ‘squiggle’ in some cases with a catchy cartoon gag line may look like it took minutes not hours and days and perhaps even weeks to create, and in terms of that single image you might be right. However, the speed of its creation from brief to completion is very far off a few minutes.

The cartoon design process begins with ‘what the client wants’

The client wants a cartoon that is funny, niche; the client wants the cartoon to reflect the companies political and ethical viewpoint and to be wary of feelings of certain groups. The client wants a specific demographic targeted for the humour ..

What the client wants can in itself take a substantial amount of time to gleam .. as much of the detail is by them ‘assumed’. It is assumed the cartoonist knows all this already. The cartoonist is not just an artist, they are a mind-reader extraordinaire. I am not being flippant it really is the case and astonishingly in many cases, that’s exactly what we cartoonists are … mind readers. We can indeed rapidly catch on to exactly what the client wants from a few brief discussions and exchanges of emails.

But what if the client wants something that as professional a cartoonist feels isn’t the best option? Myself, I am bold and I present the alternative option and the clients option and I politely argue my case . Experience has also taught me that the client may need to see both cartoon options executed in order to themselves ‘see’ the benefits and shortfalls of each idea. This dear cartoonist is parr for the course, to be expected and to be costed into fees.

Next up .. the research … ‘what no cartoon drawing yet’??

The target market and their preferences need to be researched.

Gags which may offend need to be known.

What’s been done already ? Cartoonists don’t want to risk replication … though researching through hundreds of thousands of image files that show up in Google searches isn’t practical so thecartoonist  does what they can.

Finding the Funny‘what still no cartoon’ …???

The nature of the clients niche needs to be fully understood in order to find the humor in situations which are generally only known by those in that niche. THIS is a rare talent and those that charge for funny gag cartoons charge for their genius in dreaming up excellent gags at a quick fire pace. I can’t do it myself … it’s not my forte, but for those that do, they are worth their weight in gold and yes they should be paid accordingly. HUMOUR does not come cheap. People who write jokes for comedians charge a handsome rate, writing funny gags for cartoons is no different. The gag cartoonist is creating original (we hope) jokes to entertain your readers, that is a mighty talent and it costs.

If you need an excellent gag cartoon and you yourself DO NOT already have the gag (I can illustrate it if you do) then I know a man who can … so just ask away. I know many funny gag cartoonists who are natural comedians. I tremble in their magnificence and can but dream …

This process of ‘thinking ‘ can take hours, days, weeks, it certainly never takes seconds. If you find a cartoonist who can do all this in hours with a result you are very happy with, you have a gem indeed… please don’t seek to only pay for the time it took to create that cartoon squiggle from the moment the pen hit the paper. The process started long before that stage was reached and you are paying for a substantial amount of cartoonists talent and skill.

Of course if the client has a magnificently detailed brief including a funny gag line .. time is cut considerably down because then the cartoonist can do what they do best … illustrate it. Bring the clients vision to life … easy right?   Wrong

At last … pen to paper

“I don’t like this first cartoon drawing … my money is wasted :(

If as a client you’ve done your homework and looked through the cartoonists portfolio, you know what they are capable of. So permit them time to deliver something equally pleasing for you.

Our appreciation of art across the world is wide is varied. How are cartoonists to know what a single person’s aesthetic is? Many cartoon design projects will go through various stages of revision. This is normal and needs to be factored into any pricing structure. The time one spends on any project must be taken into consideration. If you as a client have a trade, your labour costs as well as parts make up your final fee. With cartoon art it is no different. The ‘time’ a cartoonist or any artist spends thinking about, researching, drafting’ must be considered and given proper credit in addition to the final beautifully executed result.

For example:

It is not unusual for me to have no less than about 40 separate image files for a single cartoon mascot creation. These files will be a combination of various stages of the process as well as different versions of the brief, revisions of the brief, different sized files, different resolutions and so on. Those files did not create themselves, they exist because I have laboured on each and every one of them.

Paper draft drawings can also run into the ‘tens’ for a single mascot or logo creation. I get through a lot of Sharpies!

Let’s talk results …

Art is indeed a gifted talent, but it takes practice and a considerable amount of ‘learned’ skill to be proficient enough to meet the needs of a commercial market. Digital art and the technical know-how takes time, skill, apprenticeship whether one self-teaches or studies via a college, university etc. The fee includes the skill and knowledge of the artist, much like any other profession.

The brand ‘household name’ cartoonists

Some cartoonists have reached the dizzy heights of being very well-known in the industry, they are a brand in their own right. As is the case with all top brands, you can expect to pay more for the services of famous cartoonists. That’s the way it is.

I hope after reading this you as a client have a better understanding of exactly what you are paying for. Any questions … just ask :)

It's good to talk....