Dear Freelance Creative…


If you’re reading this, most likely you have found yourself staring down the gun barrel of a commission/project estimate. You are probably nervous and afraid that you are going to overcharge and scare away a client.

I’m going to do my best to explain how I determine estimates, and hopefully you will find this information useful!

Artist’s Guilt

Before I get into estimating, I want to address what a lot of people have dubbed “artist’s guilt”. This feeling is very common among creatives and it is basically the side effect of doing something you love to do as a profession. Not only do you feel awkward/guilty for charging for something that you’ve probably done since you were a toddler, you also have to explain the value of your work to someone that may view your profession as childish or easy.

When you start feeling the twinges of guilt, remember that you are a professional. You have the right to enjoy your work and to be paid (properly) for it. You create and design what in most cases is the identity of a product. If you are a character artist in the game industry, your character designs will be what initially catches someone’s eye and those players will recognize the product based solely on you or your team’s designs. That has very real and tangible value!

If you design logos for companies/products, you are literally creating their brand. That’s insanely valuable and extremely important!

Artists are important, you are important.

Remember, if you don’t properly value your work then you cannot expect a client to value it either.



Whether you are doing commissions on the side or you are a full-time freelancer, estimating your commissions/rates should be treated in the same manner. Expenses like electricity, equipment, health insurance MUST be considered. Your clients won’t be covering any of this stuff, so it is all on you.

Keep in mind that these expenses aren’t luxuries, they are necessary for you to accomplish your task(s). It is your right to have access to all of that and you should never feel bad about considering them when doing your estimates.


To determine your rates, a solid starting point would be to use sites like or to see what people in your area and in your given field are making on average, and then adjust based on your own experience, keeping in mind that these salaries are taken from people that are working at companies that provide health insurance, electricity, equipment etc. Your hourly rates/estimates will be a bit higher for that reason.

If you live in a rural area, estimate based on the nearest and biggest city and then meet somewhere in middle, since the cost to live is most likely a bit lower in rural towns.


Just like most things in life, educating yourself is key. Not only will you be able to confidently make estimates, you will be able to explain your cost with confidence to clients that may not readily understand the value of what you do. Remember we live in a world where most people think that “the starving artist” is reality, and anyone that lives outside of that bubble has less passion for what they do.

No pay/low pay ≠ passion. That way of thinking is just dumb and irresponsible, it also devalues the actual work required to create things.

Anyway, I hope this helps someone out there!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via twitter: @coltavara


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