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Freelance Artist Average Salaries

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Being a freelance artist is a challenging career, but it can also be an interesting one -- especially for the artist who can count business acumen and web development skills anong his creative abilities. Many professional artists combine freelance commercial work with a career exhibiting, curating, or teaching art in schools.

Rate Structure

Freelance artists usually bill their clients one of two ways -- by the hour, or by the project. Extensive, open-ended projects with many facets are most suited to billing by the hour -- such as an ongoing project to create new branding for a company, or to illustrate several magazines. Projects with a limited scope, even if they're large, are most suited to billing by the project -- for instance, designing a new website.

Hourly and Project-Based Rates and Equivalent Salary

Hourly rates for freelance artists vary widely, depending on their level of experience, past projects, and additional skills. A college student doing some freelance design work may charge only $25 per hour, while a professional artist who's done extensive commercial work for clients may charge $150 an hour or above. Annually, this can amount to the equivalent of a salary between $20,000 and over $100,000. The average salary for an artist is $46,000.


Most professional freelance artists have a degree in graphic design or fine art. They can either study at an accredited college of art, or at a larger college or university that offers Bachelor's of Fine Arts degrees. Universities can offer a broader general education, while colleges of art offer more concentrated studies in art, including the opportunity to work with a greater range of working artists. In addition to their art degrees, many artists may have training in web development, which can be either in the form of additional college credits, or noncredit training.

Additional Skills

A knowledge of basic design software, such as Illustrator and Photoshop, is essential for any artist doing commercial work. Freelance artists who bring web development skills to the table have the best options as to the type of work they can take on, and the fees they can command. These web development skills can range from simple knowledge of platforms such as Drupal or WordPress, to extensive experience with web design software, such as Dreamweaver, or the ability to create Flash animations.