5.4 Copyright in the UK

The purpose of this exercise was to research UK copyright law and think about how to charge clients for work.

Key words from the brief:

  • Find out about copyright laws in your country.
  • How much would you charge a client for your time? Think about how you go about working this out. You may want to research into what other illustrators charge for their work.


Whilst there is some high-level information in reference books I have about illustration, such as Illustration – A Theoretical & Contextual Perspective (Alan Male, 2007 p198), the most current and easy to use information I could find is on the Association of Illustrators (AOI) website.

I’ve used this as my reference point, and rather than reproduce information here which will go out of date, I’ve added links to relevant pages on the AOI website.

When I do pitch for or get commissioned for work I will also use my contacts with practicing illustrators to get their advice on pricing and contracts.

Copyright in the UK

There is excellent plain English information about UK copyright law (and some information about how this applies in other regions) on the AOI website here: https://theaoi.com/resources/professional-practice/what-is-copyright/

There is also an section about licensing.


The AOI website has a lot of information about pricing here: https://theaoi.com/resources/pricing/ as well as a pricing calculator.

At the time of writing, the AOI are running a ‘Price It Right’ campaign to help ensure that freelance illustrators get a fair price for their work.

AOI members also get access to bespoke pricing advice. Information about this can be found here: https://theaoi.com/membership/

Exercise to calculate a fee for a piece of work

Imaginary brief

The brief is to paint a large piece of street art/mural on an 8m x 3.5m wall that will form part of the refurbishment of a London restaurant and bar.

  • I estimate the work will require:
    • 2-days research and design (including client meetings)
    • 2-days to do the work
    • Materials @ £200
    • Expenses (travel and sustenance) @ £30
  • This is a very site specific work so there will be no reuse.
  • The area/territory is UK only
  • The duration is really difficult to specify. It will be until there is another interior redesign of the location.
  • Client profile: Small business (under 10 employees)

The suggested inclusive fee (using the AOI pricing calculator), that includes the budget to do the work and the license is between £1,764 and £2,646.

If I was to do this piece of work it would be the first time I’d worked in this area so I would be willing to accept towards the lower end of the fee if necessary.

Another interesting consideration is social media presence and the additional value that might attract for the client.

If I was to successfully negotiate an acceptable fee to do this work, the AOI website also contains information about contracts including samples and templates.

Working for free

The section on the AOI website about pricing has a warning about working for free: “Illustration has a value, that’s why it’s commissioned – to draw in consumers, to generate interest, to illuminate text. For someone who wants or requires an illustration to ask for it for nothing is exploitative and undermines our profession”.

It lists a number of different scenarios where working for free maybe requested by a client and what the illustrator’s response should be.

This is a tricky area for me. Clearly working at below market rate or for free cheapens the whole market for all illustrators. The dilemma for new and aspiring illustrators is how to get the real life experience to strengthen their portfolios and generate more commissions in the first place.


It was interesting going through the process of costing up an imaginary project using the AOI resources to see what the considerations are and the range of suggested fees especially in the light of Assignment 5 – Self directed project that I did for no fee.


Association of Illustrators website (2020) At: https://theaoi.com/ (Accessed: 11.04.20)






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