What should you charge for your work?

We talk to agent Olivia Triggs, photographer David Ryle, and director, illustrator and animator Katy Wang for advice on costing up projects, negotiating fees and deciding how much to charge for your time

Working out what to charge clients can be a confusing process. Even experienced creatives often struggle with costing up their work, and some prefer to leave discussions about fees and budgets to their agents. But if you want to avoid underselling your skills, or losing out on a job because you’ve charged too much, then it helps to have a good idea of what your time and skills are worth.

Director, illustrator and animator Katy Wang has learned the hard way how important it is to negotiate a decent fee, after agreeing a fixed rate upfront for her first project, which turned out to be a much bigger job than she was expecting. “It was a mammoth amount of work for how much I got paid and how little time I had to do it. By the end of the job, I worked out how much I’d actually been paid per hour from the flat fee I received, and it was shockingly low – lower than minimum wage,” she says. “Having that realisation that I probably should have been paid more for the time and energy I spent on the job made me really determined to try and get paid properly for future jobs.”

Wang now avoids giving fixed fees upfront, unless she’s working as an illustrator or animator on a project headed up by someone else. “For this, I charge around £250 to £300 as an animator and £300 as an illustrator/designer,” she explains. Since signing to Blinkink in 2019, she has spent most of her time working on directing jobs, and tends to receive a fee of around 10% of the overall budget for a project for direction, with extra work such as animation, design or storyboarding charged at an additional day rate. “When I started, 10% didn’t sound like much, but then I learnt that commercial budgets are usually in the tens of thousands of pounds, even hundreds of thousands sometimes,” she adds.

Having representation means Wang no longer has to negotiate fees directly with clients for directing jobs, and can ensure she is paid “proper industry rates” for her time. But for everything else, she admits there’s still no easy answer to the question of what should you charge.