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Any advice for commission burnout? [Prices revised! Thoughts?]

RayFloret

Active Member
Hello! I hope this is the right category to post this in!

I've worked on commissions pretty consistently from February to late May. Several commissions a week, from Monday to Thursday -- usually working from lunchtime to late evening or early in the night (I'm a slow worker who struggles with perfectionism). Here's what I offer and prices for reference: [EDIT - NEW PRICES HERE. Any suggestions?]

It went well enough at first, but starting early May, the tension from drawing and having to juggle the attention of clients and friends became completely overwhelming. Even with a Friday to Sunday break, I couldn't really look forward to starting up again.

I have been taking a break from commissions from late May to now, but clients have been pressuring me for commissions during that time and I only feel like my anxiety has grown since the "break." :( A part of me wants to quit commissions altogether because I have a hard time finding joy in drawing anymore. But commissions are really the only thing that keeps me drawing, so I feel a piece of me will be lost if I just quit.

Any advice from people who have been in a similar position? I've also been told that my prices are too low which may be attracting all the impatient clients. Does anyone else hold this opinion?

TL;DR - I'm burnt out from commissions and not ready to go back even after a month break. Told I should raise prices. Thoughts?

Thanks so much for reading!
 
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Punkedsolar

Never say never
A piece of useful advice is - price your commissions to where they are worth doing for YOU. You'll reduce the number and your stress, and make it more worth it. I'd consider at least doubling your prices. Put away enough money that you can treat yourself. You do sound burnt out. When was the last time you did art for yourself?
 

TyraWadman

The Silent Observer
Honestly, I feel like you deserve more than what you're charging.
Make your chibi sketch the same price as non? You're putting just as much detail into it, by the looks of it.
I would also charge extra if there is a background that you have to put any effort into.

I would recommend taking a break though. Even if it is just to explore other hobbies, or perhaps you can take this time to try something new with your art?
 

RayFloret

Active Member
@Punkedsolar Thank you a lot for that. ❤ I feel like a lot of the struggle kinda lies there. For how long I work, I feel like I should charge more, but I guess I also feel like my art isn't worth that much money? I know it's a silly thought since I'm the one working so long on the pieces and determining the prices. I blame the perfectionism, I'm trying harder to be fair to myself though! Honestly, I barely draw for myself anymore unless it's something super simple or silly so I won't get hung up on details and whatnot. Just hoping I can eventually get through this so drawing can be fun again!

@TyraWadman I appreciate the feedback, thank you very much! I've honestly really been enjoying my time away from art, which makes me both happy and sad. Hoping after a nice, long break I can pick up the tablet & pen again and make something I'll like. :)
 

Sir Thaikard

GOTTA WRITE FAST.
I'm a writer who does commissions so take what I say with a grain of salt. But when I start to get consistently overwhelmed with work I just bump my prices up a little bit. If everyone stays on (which rarely happens) that's great, I'm now making a substantial amount more money.

But what usually happens is that things calm down a little bit and my clientele also get a bit better too. I can't give advice on how much to increase by because again, I'm a writer so I wouldn't know what's appropriate for an artist.

Though the last time I increased my prices my queue doubled. So uh, first world problems I guess.
 

Minerva_Minx

CDC predicts zombies...
I would pay you double on your asking price, easily, for the quality.

You are really, really good and worth it alas, not a chibi person, but yes, your quality is extraordinary for being priced that low.

I have similar feelings about self worth on myself. It's painful and gnaws a little at me. I think what you'll find is what has already been stated- the clientele may decrease, but even their quality will improve.
 

RayFloret

Active Member
@Sir Thaikard Ah, I've been doing that, too! Though I can't say it's been working well...I've only been bumping sketches up by a dollar and more complicated pieces by 5 dollars. It's a bit of a learning experience to be sure! Thank you, and best of luck with your writing!

@Minerva_Minx I deeply appreciate that, geez I almost got teary! That honestly means so much. ❤ I'm sorry you also struggle with self-worth; it's a constant challenge but one I believe we can overcome slowly but surely. I try to remind myself to treat or talk to myself like I would a loved one. : ) Again, thanks so much!
 

Sir Thaikard

GOTTA WRITE FAST.
@Sir Thaikard Ah, I've been doing that, too! Though I can't say it's been working well...I've only been bumping sketches up by a dollar and more complicated pieces by 5 dollars. It's a bit of a learning experience to be sure! Thank you, and best of luck with your writing!

@Minerva_Minx I deeply appreciate that, geez I almost got teary! That honestly means so much. ❤ I'm sorry you also struggle with self-worth; it's a constant challenge but one I believe we can overcome slowly but surely. I try to remind myself to treat or talk to myself like I would a loved one. : ) Again, thanks so much!

It just means you're not bumping it up high enough. Trust me, almost everyone worries if they're going to get any new clients or even maintain their current ones when they increase their prices. But it is super validating though when fresh faces come in more than happy to give you their money at your new rates.
 

Punkedsolar

Never say never
Burnout can be a real thing. I burned out for over ten years - I actually existed here prior to this incarnation and can't remember any of my login details or anything. I was too Quarantine-tired to get the Admins to merge accounts (if that's even possible).

(From a whole bunch of comments and deletions it looks like a nice person actually reported a whole bunch of my work as copied from my other me - they would have been trying to protect me, so it's actually rather sweet!)

I think my artwork has actually improved for the long break. A break of several months may make you want to draw again, but mostly I agree with Sir Thaikard above - bump the prices up to the point where your list is manageable - and rewarding.
 

Olivitree

Local Bizartist
Righty so, short version, your prices are too low, your quality looks better than what you're charging. To deal with the burn out, make sure you don't just focus on one, having the example piece you used to advertise your work open will help, you only need to at least MATCH that and you're done, I know sounds a bit weird, but that is what they paid for, they didn't pay for a BETTER piece. Make sure you're not over working yourself, drawing for you, and making SET social times and work times, no work bleed, you get to X o'clock and you clock off and its relaxation time, treat this as a job, you don't bring your work home from a retail job.

Long version (ha, I know the short version was long.)
When pricing your work, you want to ensure you're not paying yourself below minimum wage per hour, I know drawing can take a long time which can rack up the cost but you are putting your effort in, your years of experience in drawing and your time and money spent educating yourself to get where you are, plus resources put in.
Estimate your hours then go from there, if you go over that length of time because your'e faffing around, getting drinks, talking to people, petting a cat, that isn't time they should pay for, but you should get paid for the hours you are actually drawing.
So, roughly
(Estimated time*chosen wage) + resources cost + awkward customer charge (you will want to consider this if you have repeat pains in the butt) = price of the piece

With burn out, its a bit harder, I don't tend to burn out these days, although I don't tend to get as much joy out of commissions as I do personal work, I treat it like a job, a job I love doing, but its still a job it doesn't matter how boring I might find a piece I have been hired to make it.
To avoid burning out I make sure to do a personal piece I enjoy, I also don't stick to just one commission piece, while I'm waiting for feedback on one, I will do work on another, I tend to hop through my entire queue multiple times moving each piece up a stage if I can, depending on how quickly people get back to me. If you'd like a visual insight on it you can have a look at my commission queue here Trello each is numbered, but that only corresponds to who ordered their commission first, second, third, etc. How fast they go through my queue depends on how quickly the commissioner gets back to me and how complex the piece is.
Always, ALWAYS make sure you have some time for you, your personal work, and time to relax and socialise or do what ever you like to do in your down time. If you don't commissions will become a chore. I literally mean have a schedule, and schedule down time into it, and STICK to it, don't allow yourself to go into over time on a piece, you don't get paid extra for overtime.

With the anxiety and stress caused by it, I can only say, don't stop while you have commissions there, people will get impatient, it doesn't really matter how much you charge, if you aren't providing regular updates on work people will start to get twitchy about it because unfortunately theres some bad eggs out there who take on commissions then don't deliver and run off with the money, so people are a bit on edge when artists stop communicating. Ultimately this'll create tension around the commission, that if you just got it done, would not be a problem at all, all issues would go away on its completion. You also NEED to finish pieces, or you wont get that reward buzz for completing something, us human being types like to finish projects, it gives us a nice little boost, which is important to keep you going through commission work.
Key things to avoid this is:
  • Keep working while you have work, if you need a break, stop taking on new commissions, finish what you have, then take a break. in a normal job we have to wait for our booked holidays to come through before we can take time off, work it the same here.
  • Regularly update your customers, even if you haven't done any work, simply say "hi, Just letting you know I'm still here things in life have got a little busy bare with me I'll get you an update soon!" Something as simple as that, can ward off any impatient messages.
  • While you are working on someones piece, give them regular progress updates, send them each new stage as you finish it, they'll feel like they're still in the loop and will relax (also means you don't have to do any major changes at the end if they spot a problem).
  • If you find you're not able to get a break, set a limit on how many slots you're prepared to fill, I stop actively looking for work if I get around 10 commissions just so I can work through what I've got.
Thats just how I work, I hope some of it may be helpful to you, good luck! I hope you can find a way that works for you.

This video may help you, big fan of Adam Duff, he's always had very helpful advice for me!
 

RayFloret

Active Member
@Sir Thaikard I know some of my old clients are gonna be really disappointed, but I just can't just keep things as they are now! It's gonna drive me nuts! Thank you again for the advice; I really look forward to less stress and a bit more cash in my pockets when I reopen. :' )

@Punkedsolar Oh man, that's such a long time to be burnt out! I'm not sure how you got through that for that long! But I'm happy that the break you took help to revitalize your artwork! Your bird paintings are wonderful! ❤ (And I hope it's possible to get your accounts merged eventually!)

@Olivitree Thank you so much for offering so much advice! Thankfully, I feel like I'm pretty good at sticking with a schedule (for the most part!) and having good communication with clients. I hate the thought of keeping my clients waiting so I'm always sure to finish pieces before I take extended breaks. Pricing is one of my bigger problems as I'm a pretty slow worker. If I'm charging $10 an hour, I'd be charging $40 - $50 for something as simple as a flat-color sketch. I agree that I should be charging more than I am now, but it's difficult justifying it in my mind since I'm perfectionistic and feel like my art isn't really worth that much (I'm trying to work on that).
I admit I am rather guilty of being a bit of a pushover -- especially the client-turned-friends. Sometimes I feel a bit pressured to work a few more hours on a piece just to finish it earlier for them. Or going the extra mile to add in a little something extra they wanted, or quick doodles of their characters because they asked. It's uncomfortable at times but I'm not sure if they're overstepping or if I'm being too suspicious that I'm being used. I enjoy talking to them, but sometimes I feel like I'm only kept around because I'm a cheap option. I hope I'm wrong.:( Anyhow, thank you again for sharing with me how you handle your commissions, as well as the advice and video! It really means a lot!
 

RoxyHana

Princess Bunny ♥
I am suffering the same isue right now actually. I would say if you have commissioners in line, raise your prices and you will have less work to do and still earn enough money. I've been working full time on commissions for a year, at first... yes it's fun, but it ends up being very overwhelming to deal with so many clients, different deadlines, people asking when when when wips wips wips. I understand.

In my case, I have closed commissions and the only way to get art from me is through my Patreon. I will also take a break next month or in august, not sure, but once I finish all the commissions I have in line, I will take some vacations.

We will see what happens after that u.u
 

ConorHyena

nazi hunter
My suggestion in such situation is always to take a holiday. Close the queue, finish your last stuff and then just take a 2-week (or more) holiday. This can also be communicated to your clients, and if anyone's pissed or buggy that your taking time off, you should tell them to bugger off. Every person who's working is entitled to their holidays (that's why things as workplace protections usually exist)
 

RayFloret

Active Member
@RoxyHana Aw man, I'm sorry you're kind of going through the same thing right now. :[ I hope you continue to take some time off and give yourself the break you need! While I don't think my art is in high enough demand for me to make a Patreon, I'll definitely work on more reasonable prices so I won't be so overworked. Thank you, and rest well!

@ConorHyena Man, I've taken a month-long holiday and that alone really did wonders on my perspective (and overall well-being, thank goodness!). It makes me really glad I put my foot down and just lived for a while. Thank you for the support!
 

ConorHyena

nazi hunter
I'm taking two days off work as we speak to improve on my mental health, so it's definitly tried and tested advice. Enjoy your holiday!
 

Raever

Chaotic Neutral Wreckage
Hello! I hope this is the right category to post this in!

I've worked on commissions pretty consistently from February to late May. Several commissions a week, from Monday to Thursday -- usually working from lunchtime to late evening or early in the night (I'm a slow worker who struggles with perfectionism). Here's what I offer and prices for reference: Commissions


It went well enough at first, but starting early May, the tension from drawing and having to juggle the attention of clients and friends became completely overwhelming. Even with a Friday to Sunday break, I couldn't really look forward to starting up again.

I have been taking a break from commissions from late May to now, but clients have been pressuring me for commissions during that time and I only feel like my anxiety has grown since the "break." :( A part of me wants to quit commissions altogether because I have a hard time finding joy in drawing anymore. But commissions are really the only thing that keeps me drawing, so I feel a piece of me will be lost if I just quit.

Any advice from people who have been in a similar position? I've also been told that my prices are too low which may be attracting all the impatient clients. Does anyone else hold this opinion?

TL;DR - I'm burnt out from commissions and not ready to go back even after a month break. Told I should raise prices. Thoughts?

Thanks so much for reading!

Here are a few things I've found helped my artist buddies get things together...

1. Know your limits
- Make a monthly slot queue and stick to it (be it one, five, ten, or twenty; find your balance with coms and don't take anymore until the following month)

2. Keep track and help commissioners feel involved
- Commissioners are less likely to bug you when they can see where they are in your list as well as where others are

- Trello is GREAT for ensuring customers stay updated, understand what's going on, and see how much you're doing without you needing to individually message everyone

3. Draw for three days, stop for four
- This may seem counterproductive but your mental health is more important than drawing and humans need time to recuperate and recharge, plus that extra fourth day will really help you balance your interpersonal relationships

4. Make sure your work and wait times are realistic
- Ensure customers are prepared to wait at least a month for their piece
- Don't rush yourself and do not feel bad for taking longer to finish
- Keep customers informed with Trello including sketch fixes and perfectionism induced moments so that they know where you are with your piece and are willing to wait for it without bugging you

5. Take care of yourself even on work days and schedule breaks so you don't drown in work
- Go outside if you can
- Schedule quality time with a loved one
- Watch something nostalgic
- Eat something delicious
- Take a hot shower

6. Have artist friends look at the piece with you since they'll have fresh eyes for it
 

RayFloret

Active Member
@ConorHyena Thank you, you enjoy your break, as well!

@Raever Thanks so much for sharing! I may look into drawing for three days and resting for four if things don't improve after reopening with new prices. I try to keep my clients up-to-date with the drawing process and thankfully most are more patient with me than I am with myself! I end up skipping a lot of breaks because my thought process often sounds like "I'm only at Point B when I should be at Point D by now." Feels dumb getting guilt-tripped by my own brain, but I'm trying to be better about that and take little breaks when I start getting tense. Again, I appreciate all the tips!
 

RayFloret

Active Member
So I've taken the advice of a lot of you guys and bumped up the prices. I'm still getting the hang of pricing things so if anything looks iffy, please don't hesitate to offer suggestions or advice. I appreciate all of the feedback so far very much! ❤
 
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PercyD

Lover of Beasty Baes
So I've taken the advice of a lot of you guys and bumped up the prices. I'm still getting the hang of pricing things so if anything looks iffy, please don't hesitate to offer suggestions or advice. I appreciate all of the feedback so far very much! ❤
I dunno what you had before, but I'm happy that you bumped up your prices! So many artists undercharge and then struggle~. This is a great start.

I charge as much as $25 for each additional change myself. However, I give them 3 chances to look over the art before I finalize it. It makes people pay attention~.

In the meantime, how was your vacation?
 

RayFloret

Active Member
@PercyD Oh, these were the old prices! (Edit: Deleted old prices and placed new ones into effect. :)) It definitely feels like a step in the right direction, thank you for your feedback and for telling me how you go about things!

My vacation is a bit extended because I'm helping foster some kittens, hehe! Thank you for asking, have a wonderful week! :)
 
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PercyD

Lover of Beasty Baes
@PercyD Oh, these were the old prices! It definitely feels like a step in the right direction, thank you for your feedback and for telling me how you go about things!

My vacation is a bit extended because I'm helping foster some kittens, hehe! Thank you for asking, have a wonderful week! :)
Oh no~. Those prices were really low! The new ones are much better.
Also your art is very cute! c:

A bushel of kittens does do wonders for mental health. Thats science.
 

RayFloret

Active Member
@PercyD I'm happy you think the price increase was reasonable! And thank you very much for the kind words! <3 I quite enjoy your painterly style, as well! :D
 

zenimalice

Member
Just calculate your countries minimum wage and adjust based on the time required to complete the piece. Some designs require extra work so +- adjust the time required to finish the piece.

The modified prices are good. I’d raise the price for sticker designs, but I guess you can reach more people with lower cost options.

Good luck:)
 
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