I received a question recently about prices, and felt like sharing my ideas here, so more people might find it useful. If pricing work has ever been a pain for you, or you really just feel overwhelmed in figuring out how to set up your commission page, read on! And just a quick note before we begin, these are just my opinions on the matter. They are not the only methods that work, they are just the best methods I have found for my own work.
MYSELF AS AN EXAMPLE
Price is a pretty big topic, and the "right answer" is very elusive, because price is pretty much up to what you can convince people to pay. If you are looking for a golden standard, than let me share a secret with you: It doesn't exist. But I'd be happy to share what I know, if it helps! Goodness knows I had my fair share of frustration with trying to figure the "right price" for my work. Here's my Commission Info page:
Feel free to copy/paste any of that you think would be useful, the format, or whatever! A few people have already, and it makes me happy that people are finding my format useful.
Here's a couple tips on why I price things this way:
- Don't give a ton of options. You aren't Walmart or the grocery store. You don't need to put everything on the shelf, because chances are big that your client already knows what they want from you. In fact, too many options can scare people way. So give a price for characters and for background work. Add a rate for extra details, like armor, tattoos, weapons, etc. Learn to give final prices individually, on the negotiation table. Give your basic prices, sure, but be prepared to negotiate with each client.
- Be careful about distinguishing between busts or full bodies or half body works in your commission options: The reason being that having these options up front tends to make the commission more about price than the art being created. Does it really take you less time to do a knee-up shot or a bust than a full body? In my experience, it seldom does. My advice is leave this up to negotiations. Decide on a case by case basis, after the art has been described to you. This makes pricing easier and it also gives you more creative freedom when actually coming up with a sketch. This, of course, applies more to scenes, but use your own discretion. When I draw just a bust, I am focusing way more on adding more details to that bust, so it takes just about the same amount of time to create as a full body does. What's more, how many times have you felt limited because you are trying to fit a whole body into a scene that would be better seen from knee up? This is why I give a basic price per character. In the end, it brings forth your best work. In the end, this is a personal call. If you feel that you can do a bust in less time, then charge less. But agonizing over the amount of body parts you are showing in a drawing can seriously limit the art, especially in full scenes. Remember, at least for full scenes, the canvas needs to be filled, either way!
- Don't charge less for more characters. More characters means more work, and it's actually harder to get two characters to interact than to have one character by themselves. I actually charge more if the characters are interacting, because of the difficulty. I don't know why artists charge less for more characters. Treat your art like a bargain discount store, and you will get customers who are looking for bargains and discounts. It's a recipe for stress. Yard sales are where the most haggling exists, trust me. Be more like a fine jewelry store, where your customers come to find excellence, not discounts.
- Charge more for extra details. This is an important thing to clarify, which makes your negotiations easier. Let's face it. Drawing a girl in a bikini is much easier than drawing a girl in the same bikini with tribal tattoos, wings, a crazy weapon, and all that. There should be a fee for these sorts of extra details. Same goes for backgrounds, too. The more you do, the more you will get a feel for how long it will take you, and how much you can charge for it.
MINIMUM LIVABLE WAGE
If you are new to taking commissions, you may be wondering where to start? My advice is that you shouldn't charge less than at least a minimum livable wage. You can figure that out, yourself. Here's how:
Let's say you need $1500 a month to survive. Then lets say you can work about 6 hours a day on art, Monday through Friday. That's 30 hours a week, and about 120 hours a month. So divide your total monthly needs by the hours you can work, and that's your minimum livable wage. In this scenario, that would be $12.50 an hour. You need to make $12.50 an hour at 6 hours a day, Monday through Friday, to make a living. I chose 6 hours a day instead of the standard 8, because you need a few hours a day to contact clients, and market yourself online.
So how do we apply that price to your art? This takes knowing how long an art piece will take. It's a lot of estimation, but experience will give you a good idea. Remember to time yourself with your art! So, let's say a general, no-frills character takes you about 3 hours. that means that you should charge AT LEAST $37.50 for that drawing. Round it up to $40 for good measure, which helps accommodate any potential delays or communication issues with the client. AGAIN, this should be your bare minimum price. You should be moving up from there. But whatever you do, don't charge less than your minimum wage! It's impossible to make a living below your minimum livable wage. that's why it's a minimum livable wage
. You only have so much time, after all.
Now, if you aren't getting work at that price, it means that you need to raise the VALUE of your work. Either do that by marketing yourself better (which I will cover in future journals) or increase your skill as an artist, or both.
Using the above mentioned format, some of my last commissions were well over a thousand dollars, due to detailed background work and multiple characters. I wouldn't say they are "going rates" because, in my opinion, most artists drastically undercharge for their work. It's fine to start low and incrementally raise your prices, but most people just start low and stay low, too afraid to rock the boat. I was that way too, until my Patreon's success gave me the courage to try raising my prices. But you don't need a strong Patreon to test the waters. You just need courage, and that's what Patreon did for me (among other things).
The trick to raising prices is to start somewhat low, and every time you open, raise the prices 10-20 dollars. You will ALWAYS get people that complain. But those aren't the sort you want to work with. And the higher your prices rise, the more you will run into clients that want to work with you BECAUSE of your high prices. There's a value tied to the number, for some people, I have found. Sort of like how some people prefer to buy name brand clothing over generic, simply for the name that's tied to the item. And, of course, quality is an important factor. You need to be able to deliver not only quality content, but quality service during the creation and delivery process.
Think of it this way: You are an artist. A specialist trained in a luxury craft. You aren't selling bread and milk, pharmaceuticals or any other necessary item. You aren't holding some key to life over someone's head. You are selling a luxury. So because of this, you should be charging luxury rates for your work. If you are a great artist, you have something that no one else can offer, and so it's special. It's rare. It's worth more than a $20 bill, for sure! Your end game prices will depend on how popular your work is and how much demand you are able to raise for your work... Which is something I would like to cover in another journal.
Things I'd like to go over, in the future:
- Prices: Bid vs Hourly rates
- The importance of Quality and Consistency, and how it applies to a client's decision to hire you
- Tips and tricks for making the Commission Process stress free
- Scheduling work
- Word-for-Word example: commission negotiaton between artist and client
- Self Marketing for artists on DA
- Setting goals
- ...and more as I think of them!
Ok, I hope that helps someone out there! It's a struggle, but keep fighting! Keep educating yourself, learn to value yourself, and bring your best work forward! I super believe in you!