After several years out of the commercial art market, I was called, out of the blue, to bring my portfolio to a design studio 125 miles away. They had three large illustrations to assign, and it looked like a fair amount of work.

I was going to bid $1200 each, or $3600 for the trio. But when the art director asked me how much it would cost them, I asked in return what the budget was.

My usual tactic.

I was prepared for her to tell me something as low as $2500 which I would then try to squeeze up a bit before agreeing. I have never been good at guessing these things.

She told me “We have another illustrator whose work we like who has already bid twelve, but I really like your work, so it has to be in that ballpark.”

Trying not to sound huffy, I calmly ask, “Each? Or for the whole job?”

“No, twelve for all three.”

I paused. “These are worth at least nine, each,” I argued humbly… trying to get the work, but still retain my dignity and let her know I know this business.

Her eyebrows shot up. “Nine thousand each?!”

It was at that moment I realized I had just undersold myself to the point of glaring incompetence, and I said, “I really suck at negotiations.”

There was no recovering. I picked up my portfolio and left.

I drove 125 miles north, to my home, with a red face and my tail between my legs.