On The Increasingly Agitating Subject Of Pricing Your Art

Discussion in 'Art Sales and Auctions' started by TheKyleIsHere, Aug 25, 2009.

  1. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    Many great and powerful artists accept commissions, and any artist aspiring to a professional level of art wants to know the answer to a big question: How much do you charge for your art?

    There are many things to take into consideration when pricing your art, especially when doing small character commissions.
    If you have ever had a job in the real world, you know one thing, time=money, and if you've worked your way up the job ladder like any good young'n, you know that minimum wage sucks, ALWAYS.
    This is the first wall to jump in the obstacle course of pricing your art. How much time does your art take, and how much do you value that time?

    As stated before, you know that minimum wage is horrible. You've got the worst hours, and the least amount of pay in the whole building. Not to mention, your manager treats you like crap until you've been there long enough to take his job, and you intend to. So minimum wage or less is out the window.
    You can't subject yourself to that level of stress on something you love to do, or you will soon grow to hate it. Ideally, you should like to charge no less than what would equate to $10 an hour, as that is entrance level pay at any company that treats its employees well.

    Get a clear range of time vs money, $10 to $20 an hour is advisable for any new professional. From here, you may start to think about the products you are offering, this is the fun part.
    What level of completeness, and what dimensions of art will you offer? Obviously, art that is incomplete, or of smaller size will be cheaper.
    Time yourself on your art, or get an average on how long it takes you to complete a work of art. A good sketch shouldn't take more than an hour, so $5 to $10 is good starting point, size doesn't matter, it's a sketch, it is quick and messy and best of all, easy.

    A drawing, distinct from a sketch, is the finished pencil work. The lines are solid and readable, the form and shape are readily apparent. The sketch is your skeleton, but the drawing contains all of your vital organs, it is your heart and lungs. You spent hours on your drawing, your blood, sweat and tears went into this, and you damn well know it. You cannot sell yourself short here, the drawing is the epitome of time=money. For every minute you spend on a drawing, you should charge accordingly.
    It is hard on potential clients if your art pricing fluctuates, so you have to find a mean. On average, how much time does a finished drawing take? Personally, my own drawings stand at around 2 hours (for my largest images) which almost automatically rockets my prices up to around $50, which is cheap as far as quality work goes. I reiterate, DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT HERE.
    Now comes time to complete, and if you are fast, this takes an extra hour or two, which is fine, tack it on to your price.

    Now that you understand your time taken and money charged, you can vary your prices for sizes based on your own imaginary price chart. Make a list of all of your products, prices and examples to show potential clients. Of course this is not the be-all-end-all, you want to remain at least a little flexible, but you should ALWAYS refer back to this list when trying to earn a client.

    Remember, you are the artist, and your time means something to you. Your art currently is a culmination of all the years you've spent improving, and you must sell yourself accordingly if you are ever to make yourself in to a force of art.

    (p.s. I would greatly appreciate it if this was stickied for future references)
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2009
    Nitsko, Kydashing, Huglust and 6 others like this.
  2. Keroysha

    Keroysha Member

    Awesome post!
    But you know I have this problem, sometimes I think, when i sell it for too much (i know im quite cheap) noone will buy anything,because I quite never get comissioned,and I want at least to earn something, i thought about rising the prices real slow, according to the "popularity" of my comissions. You know what I mean?
  3. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    The unfortunate problem is that a large number of artists try that, and as a result, potential clients expect low prices, which causes further problems. Ideally, there should be no minimum wage artists, would you take a job where you have to pay more than you earn?

    The sooner everyone reads this post, and adheres to it, the sooner clients will learn to respect the artists and their work. You lower your prices when you are popular, thusly, increasing your client base and portfolio. You don't hurt the market this way, you only help it.
    Fall, Kydashing and Raddy Fox like this.
  4. Keroysha

    Keroysha Member

    ill try raising some prizes in the future, and thanks for this post, it helps alot of people. and some money gets around too. :]
  5. DArtJunkie

    DArtJunkie Member

    I agree, but think there is a fundamental problem w/ this theory in the furry fandom. Which is quite simply.....furries expect art to be small, custom, and above all...cheap. This is NOT to say furries are cheap, or rude, or mean, or out to screw artists. It's simply that the fandom has a small handful of 'big name', popular artists who price themselves like a normal artist would, and the rest are scrambling trying to get as many commissions as possible to pay their bills and gain the popularity/notoriety of the big guns. Added to this is the fact that it seems like fully half the people in the fandom are artists, or at least offer commissions of some sort, and you've got an overage of supply, and not enough demand. People want art or their characters. They want the best art they can get, for the least amount of money, because this allows them to get MORE art, from multiple artists. It becomes an addiction, like collecting Magic cards.

    I totally agree with the "pricing things super low is hurting us all, because then people come to expect it and it brings the normal market price crashing down into pennies on the dollar." Unfortunately, then you're trying to make sure the rent/electric/etc bills are paid, and don't have other work, it seems like a good idea to offer just a few cheap commissions to bring in what money you can.

    I broke my own rule and did a few 2$ digital scribbles. In retrospect, the hour plus I spend on each is not worth the payout. I fell into the "Well, I'm bored, and can't sculpt at the moment, so scribbling on the tablet and getting paid SOMTHING is better than sitting around." But you're right. That sort of thinking only encourages more of the same, and before you know it, you're busting your butt doing art for less than minimum wage in Guam. And art is a skilled trade, damnit! Mechanics and doctors get paid very well for their time, and so should we. Contrary to some people's belief, Art is 'real' job, of you treat it as such and act professionally.

    Thank you for the reminder. ;3
  6. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    It is like a cycle though... the only reason clients expect to pay so little is because so many artists charge as little as they do. As soon as artists realize that they can charge more, clients will pay more.

    I understand that artists have bills to pay, I've struggled this whole summer trying to buy food. Luckily, my day job managed to cover rent, but that is all it covered. I managed to survive the summer by the good graces of a few clients who understood fully well the "you get what you pay for" doctrine.

    I have however, been growing in popularity, and even though it's been a hard summer, my own popularity has almost quintupled in only 3 months. I have not dropped so far below my price range that I've done any irreparable damage. I hate to be big-headed, but I'm proof that pricing yourself properly is the way to go. Now that the summer is over, my hours at work are increasing, and I'll have an easier time, but less of it. My prices will go up very shortly, and I don't expect business to drop.

    If you can manage it, raise your prices, and remain diligent in trying to get jobs. Only about 1 in 10 jobs I apply to pay out, but it happens quickly enough that I remain mostly steady. Soon enough I will no longer be proof, but an example of how artists should go about these forums.
  7. Azerane

    Azerane CAT!

    I feel the same was as Keyosha, in the regard, that I worry if I charge any more, I won't get any commissions at all, I have been trying like crazy recently to get even a single commission. I know I'm not the greatest artist, I didn't study art at University but I've been drawing consistantly as a hobby for 7 years so my art is decent. I've been trying to interact more with various communities and upload more frequently to get noticed, but still nothing. I guess it's just something that I have to keep working towards, but it had me wondering if my prices were too high (not too high in regards to how much time I spend on my art, especially the coloured works) but as too my abilities or something. I dunno.

    You do have very sound advice on the matter, but I just can't see myself raising up prices that much when I'm not getting any commissions in the first place. It sucks =P
  8. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    If your commissioned works are few and far between, then it makes the few you get so much less worth it. I only get about one a month, but because of my prices, they are worth the effort, and help out a lot more than they would if I charged less.
  9. Azerane

    Azerane CAT!

    That makes sense, curse you for having so many good arguments about raising prices =P lol
  10. DArtJunkie

    DArtJunkie Member

    I actually had a very wise friend once tell me I needed to double what I was currently (at the time) charging for commissions. When I spluttered that I'd lose half of my commissioners, her response was simple.

    "So...you lose 1/2 the customers, but because of the price increase, you're also doing 1/2 the work and ending up making roughly the same amount of money to pay your bills....whiiiiich leaves you time to do YOUR art, and work on improving things you need to/work on ideas you have but haven't had the time for, etc."

    She had a point. ;3
  11. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    Well, there just aren't any counter-arguments that can't be countered themselves.

    She most certainly did.
  12. Kayla-La

    Kayla-La Depth perception is for losers

    Thank you for this. I was about to stop reading these forums entirely because I got so sick of the '1 dollar yiff pics!11' threads and, even worse, the ones by commissioners daring to come in here and go 'I want this complicated 2 character picture, but I'm not willing to pay more than 5 bucks for it!'. It's taken a lot of willpower to not get on these people for being so disrespectful to artists. But it's even more disheartening when I watch artists FIGHT to undercut each other over that stupid 5 dollar commission. Have some respect for YOURSELVES!

    I hope this gets stickied. Please?
  13. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    I refuse to undercut anyone, myself included. My prices are my prices, my art is worth more than I ask for it. You can't go into a shop of any kind and make up your own prices. "Hmmm, I think this candy bar is only worth about 25 cents. I'm only going to pay 25 cents, one dollar is too much for this candy bar." You will be asked to leave the store, immediately.
  14. mif_maf

    mif_maf New Member

    I think it's also important that people factor in time spent communicating with the client. That time is still spent on their work because it can't be used on other paying jobs. The pricing would be negligible for most works but highly complex scenes with several steps of approval should cost appropriately more as a result of time communicating.

    If a piece only takes an hour to draw but you spent 3 hours talking with the person about it you just wasted 4 hours and only got paid for 1.
  15. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    And it is exactly this kind of thought that most artists forget to implement. You're right, the moment you start talking with a client, you are essentially on contract. You are doing business, and business is what you should be getting payed for.

    I doubt any artists are going to see any commissions that drawn out here in the forums, but when it comes to big jobs, you are absolutely correct.
  16. Tenaciousmug

    Tenaciousmug Digital Chibi Artist

    I agree. I don't even have the motivation to complete one request for $4 at all. I think art needs to be more respected.
    I put around 3-4 hours into each of my work and don't even make one hour of minimum wage. I only get paid $4 per commission. It's impossible to get commissions at that price. I don't understand why. And I can't take the time to put 3 hours of work into it and I don't even get paid an hour of minimum wage.

    The more commissions I get, the less I'm motivated. I haven't even completed my first one because just thinking about how much money I get.

    I work as an artist on Palawind as a Persona artist and get paid around 80 dollars a week. Now that I make that much on that site, I don't even find my commissions worth opening unless I charge more even though no one will order.
  17. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    People will order, albeit at a much slower rate, but the pay makes up for the lack of orders. It is simply not worth it to do commissions for any less than $10.
  18. talakestreal

    talakestreal The Laconic Draconic

    I can understand what you're saying here. :)

    I get a lot of sketch commissions. These don't take me long. I draw while watching tv, while relaxing after work, or on my day's off. I do small art. I'm not trying to make a living as an artist yet, just trying to get my name out there.

    Because of my sketch commissions, my art has improved. Thus, recently I closed my $1 sketches and raised them to 3. Raised all of my prices by a few dollars.

    I very very rarely do highly detailed artwork. When I do, I charge accordingly. $20 for a very small oil painting. $10 for a single character watercolor. It's not a matter of time spent, to me. I do as something I truly enjoy, even with commissions. That's why I sell cheap.

    If I needed to do art to make a living, to pay bills, I'd probably have a very different opinion, and a very different way of doing art.
  19. Dip

    Dip Member

    Thank you for writing this. It serves as a solid guideline as well as an inspiration to artists. I do well on sketch commissions, ref commissions etc. But really is all about popularity.

    I do not have much to say on this matter but sometimes I struggle to get a few commissions, not due to price but because I am not "popular" or well known. I charge around $20-$40 a ref and $15 for sketches... but really commissions are what keep me going and to pay some bills as well as college funds. Working 7+ hours on a commission to perfect it and to put my entire heart into it is what I guess makes people admire work, but stresses me out as well as a great number of artists. They will work all night on something that probably only gave them $8.

    Most are just receiving endless commissions trying to make the bare minimum which I find quite sad. But its pure blood sweat and tears that makes you popular. Some take a little longer than others to blossom. I dunno, mainly ranting here.
  20. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    Pretty soon here, I'll have the hours to make up more than enough to afford bills. But I can't imagine lowering my prices. By selling cheap, simply because you can, you only hurt the market for everyone else. You're not going to nab every commission there is to get, but potential clients will come to expect low prices, they have come to expect low prices.

    By selling cheap, you set a precedent that is hard to break, you won't be able to ever sell high. You become part of the problem.
  21. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    Even when I'm not doing commissions, I'm eating, sleep and breathing art. It is my life. My life is worth more than a few cents an hour.
  22. Dip

    Dip Member

    Likewise. I chose not to go cheap because I feel its demeaning, if no one commissions you, wait and improve and learn new things. People will come to you when they see talent. Artists can charge $120 a full digital commission and people will buy it immediately because of years of practice and development. Just goes to show you, the more desperate you seem, the more people will avoid you.
  23. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    Quite true! I can't even count the number of times I've said I'm taking commissions and gotten nothing for it. Great artists can charge upwards of $200 without fear of losing client base.
  24. Raineyangel81

    Raineyangel81 Member

    I actually agree with putting an hourly rate on commissions, but would that include thinking time or actual pen to paper or stylus to pad time?
    I can think of a lot of things while I'm walking a dog, but focus only comes during the actual training time.
    I've only commissioned one person that did an hourly rate and he was an awesome artist, but only valued himself at $6/hour. Actual pen to paper time was 3 hours, but he took 3 days to do it, because he said that he put a lot of thought into the pose and how it was going to look. Going by that standard, I don't think it is fair to artists to only get paid for the hours they put in with the pen on the paper. But thought time could be jumbled up in so many ideas on other people's works too.

    What we ended up figuring was that for each style (sketch, lineart or full color) he would decide a base line fee for it. Then add in the hourly rate on top of the base fee.
    We came out with a good, solid price that worked for both of us.

    What I don't like is artists that take their commission prices from doing auctions. If you're doing a real bidding war auction, you're not going to find that buy price that the average consumer is looking for. Granted, professional artists are offering high end services, so it's not like you're selling a machine manufactured poster. It is a custom designed piece of work. What I was told recently in a marketing seminar, is that you as a professional artist (budding out into the existence of art sales). You want to be as expensive as the top line folks, but not the top of the top. And of course, you don't want to lower your prices. Of course, we were talking about dog training and not artists, but I see it as the same thing. You also want to figure out who you are targeting.
    You all are targeting to people in a fandom. How much, does the average person have to spend and that person will try and figure out what they can spend their money on.
    The people that spit out good, but not great work and for cheap, will be the most likely to be picked up because that means that the buyer can buy ten of those commissions for the price of one of yours.
    Except several die hard commissioners that will spend upwards of a thousand on a single piece of art ^.^ (but we're not the norm)

    But anyway. If I don't like your price (meaning if it's too low) I'll always give you more to chalk it up to what I think you should be paid.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  25. TheKyleIsHere

    TheKyleIsHere His Sideburns Can Smite You!

    I was really hoping to see people who tend to buy more art than they sell. Glad to see the client's side of the story (especially a client who understand the demands of the artist)

    It's not practical to chalk up every hour that work is being done, the prices become exorbitant. I take my average work time, which from start to finish, is about 5 hours. This way, I can keep my prices consistent, and barring any highly complex work, 5 hours remains my norm. If anything gets too crazy, I will charge extra of course (multiple revisions, more detail than necessary, redo's)

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