How to Hire an Artist

Bob Ostrom of Bob Ostrom Studio showing off marker collectionHow to Hire an Artist: Tips for Hiring an Outstanding Illustrator for your Next Project:

Finding the right illustrator can be a challenge. Whether you decide to use Bob Ostrom Studio or someone else it pays to know what you’re looking for. If you’ve never had the opportunity to hire a professional before here are a few tips that will help you find the best possible artist for your project.

Know What you are looking for.
Every artist has his or her own style. Many artists are versatile but no artist works in every style. Look for the artist who specializes in the type of art you are looking for. There are many artists and styles to choose from so be patient and make sure you leave yourself enough time to find the right one for your job.

Try starting with a simple Google search. Check out a few artists websites. Notice that no two are alike. Some are very professional with a highly focused direction, while others may choose to show a broader spectrum. Regardless as you begin to move away from the top ranking sites  you may also begin to see a drop in quality. Being a professional artist is an extremely competitive field. Artists work hard to make sure they are seen. There is a reason those sites are at the top of the search.

Some artists work with representatives and some are independent. Generally the better the quality the higher the price you will pay whether you are dealing with an art rep or an independent. Remember though that with higher quality artists you are not only paying for a more appealing image you are also paying for experience, but more on that later.

Determining a Style
Before you contact an illustrator take a few minutes to determine what you are looking for.

Who is your target audience and what is your demographic?
Determining who your potential audience is and what appeals to them is a great first step for helping you chose the proper illustrator. Here are a few tips to help narrow things down:

Describe your customer.

  • Are they male, female or both?
  • How old are they?
  • What kind of things do they like or pay attention to,
  • What kind of things do their peers like or pay attention to?
  • Where can you find them?
  • How do they find you?
  • What is their income bracket?

Crating a detailed profile on your potential customer will help give you a better idea where to begin. Once you’ve determined who your market is take a look around. See what else is out there.


What is your competition doing?

This your chance to really stand out and get noticed. Instead of putting something out there that looks like everyone else consider trying something a little different that’ll get you noticed. Finding the right artist will help.


Shop around

Visit an artist’s website. Look at their style and level of presentation. You can tell a lot about an artist by the way he or she presents their work. Take a look around and see what type art they are displaying. How long have they been an artist? How successful are they? Do they have recommendations, a recognizable client list, have they received any awards.
Experience is the name of the game.

Most artist’s would love to illustrate a picture book but that doesn’t mean you should hire them. Do a little homework first to make sure you are choosing the right artist. Can they draw or create the style you are looking for consistently? Does their portfolio contain the right art for your demographic or is it scattered and lacking direction? Has your artist been published, if so where? Try searching their name on Google, LinkedIn or Amazon to find out more about them and their level of expertise.
Hiring the wrong artist for the wrong  job can be time consuming and expensive. Your project is no place for on the job training so be sure to hire someone with the highest level of expertise you can afford. Always check out who your artist has worked for and examples of jobs they have done. A good artist will be proud to display their work and answer any questions you might have about past experience.

You get what you pay for.
Why do some artists charge so much more than others? Without a doubt experience is worth paying for. The art you display will directly affect the perception of your company or business. This is no time for bargain shopping, always hire the best artist you can afford. It is better to spend a little more and get the best quality possible rather than trying to save a few dollars and ending up with something you can’t use.

Successful artists are not just good at making pretty pictures they also know their market and understand production. They know the difference between file formats and what will work best for your project. They can talk to your printer and help give you exactly what you need saving you time, money and aggravation.

If you’re not sure about the difference between vector or bitmap art and which one you need ask your artist. He should be able to explain in simple terms explaining the pros and cons of each. Do you need a jpeg, tiff or png? RGB or CMYK format? An experienced artist will know which one to use for your particular project and why. Even if your artist works in traditional media the art will still need to be scanned and translated into a digital format at some point. If your artist doesn’t understand these simple requirements you might want to shop for some one else who does. The proper format is crucial and could mean the difference between your project looking great and becoming a costly disaster.

Questions your artist may ask

Here are a few questions your artist might ask. Feel free to copy this section so you are prepared when you speak with your artist. It’s best to be descriptive and include as much information up front as possible. The clearer you are with your artist the better chance you have of getting back exactly what you’re looking for.

Always start by describing your project in detail.

The more information you can provide the more accurate your illustrator can be. Don’t be afraid to include your illustrator in your creative process or as a part of your creative team as well. A good experienced illustrator will often be able to help you with creative suggestions or finding great new approaches to your project you may not have even considered.

Here are a few questions (in no particular order) you will want to think about before you begin.

  • What is the artwork being used for?
    • Who is your target audience?
    • What is your goal?
    • What style you are looking for?
    • Are there certain color preferences or other considerations?
  • Production
    • How many illustrations will you need?
    • What is the size(s) and or format?
    • Where will you be using the art?
    • What is your deadline ?
    • What is your budget?
    • Who is your printer do they have a person you can talk to if you need help?
  • Contact information
    • Who is the main person in charge of the project ?
    • What is the best way to reach that person or people?
      • Email?
      • Phone
      • Other

What is the artwork being used for?
Different uses mean different file requirements. Knowing who your audience is and where your piece will be used makes a big difference in style and approach. What might work well for one audience might not work well for another. Do you have a goal?

A piece of art that needs to be many different sizes will require a different solution then one that will be printed at a specific size. The demands for the web are completely different from print. Knowing the different places your art will be used will help me determine the best format(s).
How many illustrations will you need?
What is your budget?
Most illustrators charge by the project not on an hourly basis. One size does not fit all. Many artists will charge you different rates for different types of usage. They may charge less for limited usage then they will for a total buyout because once the copyright is sold the artist no longer has the potential to make money from that image. Determine which usage works best for you and be sure to negotiate the rights with your artist up front at the beginning of each project so there no surprises later on.

I prefer to charge by the project and am happy to give you a quote before we begin. If you have a limited budget that’s okay chances are we can find a creative solution to fit your needs.

Can I talk to your Printer/ web designer?
Why on earth would an illustrator want to talk to a printer. Simple, every printer has certain requirements when it comes to artwork depending on what type of equipment he is using. He can tell the artist what type of file will work best for his machinery. Similarly a web designer may also have certain requirements for artwork and file format.

I’ve worked with many printers over the years and I speak their language. If you have any questions about the process just let me know and I will be happy to explain.

What are your deadlines?
It is very important to spell out your needs and plan a schedule at the beginning of the project. Most artists work in stages and will submit artwork to you within a certain time frame. A typical schedule will start with sketches and proceed from there. It is important to be realistic about your needs. Be sure to provide you provide enough time for the best job possible. Some artists may ask for an additional rush fee if your project’s deadlines are unrealistic. Different artists work at different rates, if you’re uncertain how long it takes just ask.

I am very efficient with my deadlines but too little time will probably mean having to make a few compromises. Art takes time. Always think ahead and make sure to leave plenty of time for your project. Leaving extra time will assure you always receive the best quality.

How would you like the art delivered?
An experienced artist will make arrangements for delivery at the beginning of each project. Digital artwork is great because it is so easy to work with. Some programs can produce rather large file sizes though. If you have an FTP site or another preferred method of delivery let your artist know. If you don’t chances are your artist will have a quick efficient way to deliver files that are too large for email. Most artists have experience in this area and have worked out a delivery method that should be easy to use and eliminate headaches.
Make sure to resolve this issue as early as possible so you don’t run into any problems on your due date. I have several methods of deliver I use based on costumer preference.

Who or how many people are involved in the decision making process?
The more people involved in the approval process, the higher the potential for miscommunication. Pick a leader or point person for your project and be sure to have all direction go through that one project leader. If it absolutely must be a committee decision make sure everyone involved in the decision making process signs off on direction before you involve the artist.

Conference calls are fine as long as it doesn’t waste everyone’s time. Be clear and decisive and do not leave big decisions unresolved. Ambiguous direction will be costly.

If you do not have a contract or written agreement, ask the artist to provide one for you. Do not hire an artist without something in writing. Be sure to spell out all the details of your project including delivery schedule, usage, copyrights, payment schedule and any other important information that might effect the outcome of your project.
You may also want to include a kill fee in your contract spelling out what happens if the project is cancelled for any reason before completion. This will protect both you and the artist by allowing you to understand ahead of time what happens if for any reason the project needs to be terminated.
Most artists or representatives will be happy to provide an agreement if you need one.

Enjoy the process
Working with an illustrator should be a fun and rewarding experience. Hiring the right illustrator will not only make you look great but will add great value and marketability to your project. If you have not worked with an illustrator in the past or need a little help organizing your project please feel free to contact me. Whether you plan to hire me for your next project or someone else I am always happy to answer any questions you might have about how to improve your project, hiring an artist or other any other art related questions.

For more information on hiring Bob Ostrom Studio for your project please contact my rep or visit my contact page. 

4 Replies to “How to Hire an Artist”

  1. I have a question regarding the rights to the artwork once a project is complete. I would like to hire an artist for a project, but have it known that the rights will become and stay mine. The artist will have the right to use it in their portfolio and will be given credit for the work, however it will be a one time fee. I want to avoid the possible royalties type of situation if the product sells well, but I also don’t want to be unfair to the artist. I don’t know if this makes sense or not, but I hope you can provide some insight.

    1. Thanks for your question. What you are asking about is commonly referred to as a buyout, or work for hire where an artist transfers all copyrights to the buyer upon completion of the job. It’s fairly common and is something you will want to negotiate with your artist up front. Some artists may ask for a little more on a buyout or a work for hire job. Again, make sure to discuss it with you artist before any work begins and also make sure it’s stated in the terms of your written contact or agreement.

  2. Thank you for your help. I appreciate the response back. Oh, and regarding the contract, I have heard that many artist either provide one when doing work-to-hire type jobs or you may ask them to provide one with the terms previously discussed. Is this true or should I present one myself?

    1. Most professional artists will be able to provide a contract. If they don’t it will be up to you come up with something. Make sure you always have a signed written agreement between you and the person you hire before any work is done, that way both parties know what is expected of them.

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