I have never actually figured out how much I spend on commissions in a given year
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.
I believe that is where the differences lay.See, I don't think that this is the case. To me, my art is simply not good enough yet to be worth more than what I sell it for. Starting out low is a good thing, because as I improve, so too will my prices. No one has complained at me thus far about what I charge. I explain very clearly that what they get is what they pay for.
I've long been of the opinion that every person is entitled to at least one decent cheap picture of their fursona. That's why folks like me sell for cheap as well. Not to make a few bucks, which while that is nice, it's also not the point of the art, but to create for other people.
For me, being an artist is a passion. Mayhaps one day I will be good enough to demand hundreds for my art. I actually HAVE been paid hundreds for art before, and while the feeling is a nice one, it's not the point at all for me. I create because I can. I draw for other people because some people can't draw for themselves, or simply like to see what exists in the heads of other artists.
I tend to spend the money I get for commissions on two things: art supplies, or commissions from other artists. I support other artists with the money I make from my own art. It's circular for me. I'm not hurting the market in any way by charging what I charge.
I don't think every artist thinks they have to start out low. I think it really depends on who your target audience is.But every artist thinks they have to start out low, hence why clients expect to pay so little. It still only hurts those who place value on their time.
I was recently talking with an artist on Gaia who sells her paintings for $150-$250 each. She spends an average of 40-60 hours painting a commission. For most of her work she earns less than minimum wage. I asked her why and she said that commissions were rare for her art, so its just a hobby she does on the side.
To be frank, art is a luxury like jewelry or going out to eat. I'm not saying that your years of training are worth any less than that of a trained doctor, however, the value that society holds on it is much less. It is one of the first things that goes during economic struggle and that is why people do not want to pay a lot of money for artwork.
Personally, I rate my prices on demand, not on time. I want a steady workflow that will fit into my schedule. If the demand is more than I can handle then I raise my prices. If there is a bear market and things are slow then I lower my prices. Since I don't rely on it as my only source of income I'm not worried about how much I'm actually earning as long as I'm getting the experience and enjoying what I do.
This is not to say that my way of pricing is better or worse, but it is an alternative suggestion. Pricing on an hourly scale is important for people who use it as their only source of income, but, imho, if you do that then you might as well work for a company instead. Companies pay artists better than most freelance work can and you don't have to worry about self promotion.
On a side note, perhaps a forum or thread to assist with art pricing might be useful?
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
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.