The market price for architectural renderings has a wide range, just like anything else. Just as a pair of jeans can be either very cheap or very expensive, the cost of an architectural rendering can vary greatly.
Would you buy a car for $50 and then use it to drive your kid to school? Probably not. When a car is being sold for a ridiculously low price, you know something stinks. Maybe the engine is rotten, or the police are looking for it. You know you get what you pay for, and a $50 car is probably a bad idea.
Some clients do think that architectural renderings are a commodity. Some think that all illustrators do the same job. We know that’s not the case at all.
Personally, I have a niche. I live and breathe architectural renderings. I have been in architecture for 25 years. Working within a niche means that I only work with clients in architecture. When I work on these projects and with my clients, I have increased my value for other clients in that same niche in the future.
I am always trying to improve my skills. Too many people stop improving on their technical skills as soon as they finish school. Do you think you know all of the shortcuts in Photoshop? Do you even know if Photoshop is the most efficient tool for you? Have you tried Sketch?
By investing time in improving my technical skills, I can get stuff done faster, which means a more profitable project. Even better, it means improved results.
I try and innovate my process. That’s right, innovation is not only for companies like Apple, it’s also something I do. What I mean by innovation is simply trying new ways of working, all the time. A new ways to send proposals, I try new workflows, I try running my meetings differently. The point of innovation is to find a better way to do the things I already do. By investing time in trying new and better ways to work, I can save a lot of hours and make myself more profitable. Trying new things takes time. Not every idea I have improved my workflow right away, but I consider this an investment that will pay off in the long run.
The architectural illustrator who charges too little, in a few weeks into the project, they will inevitably realize that they hadn’t priced the project correctly. They would then start suffering. The low-priced illustrators would lose all motivation and become hostile to their client, because they knew that they were losing money. The client would have no clue why, that they weren't nice anymore, and the project would stop being fun for both.
One of the biggest questions I am asked is, "how much do you charge for a rendering?". After 25 years of doing architectural renderings, I am still confused by this question. An example would be to call your local real estate agent and ask how much does a house cost. There are many questions to get answered before a price can be given.
First, I would need to see the plans and elevations. Each project is unique and each project has its own obstacles and challenges.
Also, doing something I love and find meaningful is a major part of why I chose to be in this business in the first place. And some clients have more exciting projects to work on than others. To be totally transparent, As a rule, if I’m not that excited about a project, I always charge more. By doing so, I make it worth my time to work on something that’s probably going to bore me. It also makes it possible for me to take on more interesting, but less profitable projects as well. On the other hand, if I’m super interested, I might not push the price too high, to increase my chances of getting the project.
Every project I take on is another part of my career journey. It will have an effect on my future. Understanding the long-term effect a certain project might have will help me to understand the true value of the project, and therefore how to price it correctly.