30 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN AN ILLUSTRATION REP

(Reposted from Luc Latullipe)

“I don’t think illustrators necessarily need representation. I’ve said before: An illustrator without a rep is STILL an illustrator. But a rep without illustrators is just someone with nice business cards. (I sound like a big jerk there, and I’m sorry. If you’re a rep I’m sure I’ll hear from you and that’s totally cool.)

My biggest piece of advice when interviewing a rep is to ask as many questions as you can think of regarding how he runs his business. Here’s a list to start with, in no particular order:

  1. Make sure the contract includes a trial period (usually 3-6 months) so you can see if this is a good fit. (Following this trial period, if you wish to discontinue working together, it should be a clean, no-strings break.)
  2. How much commission does she take? It’s usually 25% (which for the record I believe is too high; 10-15% seems more reasonable to me), but I’ve heard some artists give up to 30% to their reps. Ouch! That’s 1/3 of your revenue!
  3. What does she provide in return that commission? How much of her own overhead is spent on marketing (A) the agency, and (B) you?
  4. Does he want you to hand over your existing client list? Why?
  5. What happens to clients you’ve worked with prior to signing up with the rep?
  6. Does she take a reduced commission (or none at all) when clients wish to go through you, rather than her? If no, why not? Does your contract allow this?
  7. Does he expect you to pay an additional fee simply to be represented?
  8. Will she actively contact new clients you’ve declared you’d like to work with?
  9. Are you allowed to experiment with new styles and change your artistic direction as you see fit?
  10. Does she insist on you spending a fixed sum of money for advertising and marketing?
  11. Does she let you choose where you’ll spend your marketing budget?
  12. Does she insist you get listed in any illustration directories? (They’re quite expensive, usually around $1500/page.)
  13. Does he expect you to pay to be on his website? — If the answer is “Yes,” you should seriously question this. A rep’s website is part of THEIR overhead. Not yours. You (and probably another 30-40 artists) already give them 25% of your revenue. If 30 artists each earn $25,000/year, that amounts to $187,500 going to the rep. If $40,000, that’s $300,000 for the rep. Plenty there for them to hire a good web designer.
  14. Can you quickly and easily edit your own listing on his website?
  15. Does he include a link to your website from his website? If no, why not?
  16. What are things she does to increase business and actively reach out to new clients? The word “actively” is key here; I’m talking cold-calling, and meeting art directors in person. Not just passive stuff like sending out emails or taking out ads in Communication Arts magazine.
  17. Are you free to express yourself however you wish on your own blog? Facebook? Twitter? If no, then what are the rules?
  18. Does she also want to act as an art director for your work?
  19. Does she have any accreditation in art or design?
  20. Does he insist that all communications between you and a client go only through him?
  21. Does he intervene between you and the client (in rare cases when there’s a problem)?
  22. What happens when a job drags out longer than planned, and the client refuses to increase payment to reflect this?
  23. How does she handle unpaid invoices from a client?
  24. Does she (A) let you bill the client directly or (B) does she bill on your behalf? (There are advantages to both.)
  25. If (B), how soon does she pay you after a client has sent her the payment?
  26. Does she insist clients pay a late-fee if they’re behind? How does she enforce that?
  27. Is he open to asking for more money on a job, if you feel that job isn’t paying enough? Is he willing to negotiate with the client for more money? (You both benefit after all.)
  28. Are you able to turn down work without fear of ramifications?
  29. How does she feel about work-for-hire and spec jobs?
  30. What’s expected of YOU in this relationship?”
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