Rosie Johnson Illustrates
Freelance illustrator

Notes from the studio (it’s a shed)

Replying to the customer who thinks you're too expensive

Dear potential (but unlikely) customer,


Thank you for your interest in pricing up a watercolour portrait of you, your husband, your 4 children, 2 dogs, 1 cat and a hamster. I'm sorry that you found my quote 'a bit expensive.' You're right, hamsters ARE only small. (I would have painted it as a giant, terrifying one, just so you got your money's worth.)

And yes, too true, there are £3 apps available which turn your photo into a watercolour picture on your phone. 

No doubt your second cousin Terry HAS got a Blue Peter badge for a colouring competition he won in 1986. He could probably nail it for half the price.

I hear there are sachets of powder that you can rehydrate which taste like real food too.

And why not stick posters of Bali on all four walls of your bedroom and pretend you're on holiday. It's basically the same and loaaaads cheaper.


Rosie I-want-to-swear-at-you Johnson


I know, I know, the customer's always right. But potential customers are often annoying as hell. That's also a well-known saying. Definitely.

If you've ever sold anything you've made with your own fair hands/ wizened claws you'll be familiar this phenomenon. 

It's tough enough summoning up the courage to ask for money for something you've created without having that sum questioned. It assumes a lack of worth for your work and instantly invites self-doubt. Would anyone pay that? Have I got the nerve to ask? Is it good enough?

Ask anyone you know who creates stuff: cake makers, carpenters, artists- I guarantee they've undercharged. At least when they first started.

It's relatively easy to work out costs for materials, utility charges and the like. But the problem with charging for your own work is that you have to get confident and grow a pair (of ovaries, naturally.) Your work is valuable. It's good enough. YOU are good enough. It's taken you ages and you are allowed to expect payment for it. Just because you're the one setting your salary, doesn't mean you don't deserve one. 

The stupid thing is 99% of customers ARE expecting to pay appropriately for a skill they might not possess or for the time they might not be able to spare. They understand the hours and hours of perfecting a recipe, a table leg, a sketch. They CHOSE you and your work because they actually want it! They like it. You're not a charity case, you're providing something unique and worthwhile. Valuable. It's ok to be paid properly for that. So why do we let the comments of the 1% get to us? Because they speak to our insecurities and niggle away at that all too fragile confidence in our abilities.

There's some great advice out there on just this subject, such as this from the Design Trust 

A wise woman told me that not everyone is my customer. I cannot please them all and nor should I strive to. If I make work that makes me feel proud and excited, that's where the real worth lies. 


Ok, I'm ready to rewrite my letter.


Dear Mrs X,

Thank you so much for your enquiry. I'm sorry that my work is outside your price bracket. I hear the App Store has a sale on,


Rosie worth-every-penny-thanks Johnson