In response to these, I’ve decided to create a journal designed to help you (yes you, reader) understand that your work has value and how you should price your work as a result. It also might shed light on a pretty widespread problem online of people who undercharge for their work unknowingly and the epidemic of people who wish to take advantage of these people, often swarming these artists unfairly in an attempt to leverage the insanely low prices to their advantage at the disadvantage of the artist.
A bit of background
Art as a medium is pretty different than it was 10 to 15 years ago. The accessibility to art and art programs, as well as the ability for people to create art has expanded tremendously with the creation of cheaper tools, more options, more artists, etc. There are more artists now than there have ever been before, especially as deviantArt has grown. While activity on deviantart might have slowed, the options for art, people to follow, and outlets to view the art have all increased.
That sounds pretty intimidating if you’re an artist who wants to do commission work. Almost equally so if you are someone looking to get art for yourself. With all these artists, and all these options, is your work worth anything?
While the approachability of art is steadily increasing, its often really easy to overlook your own artistic value, especially when you’re often surrounded by people you might interpret as superior to you. Regardless, your hard work in creating art, especially for someone else, is important to recognize! YOU are worth something, and you’re undoubtedly worth more than you think, as our own self-perception often devalues our own work. If you are considering opening commissions, modifying your prices, or scouting for art commissions to order, here are a few things to consider.
A problem in the Community
Have you ever seen an artist on deviantArt that has huge amounts of demand for their work because of how cheap it is? 99% of you will answer yes. More often than not, these artists are undervaluing their work either unknowingly or knowingly (but under the impression that they are not worth more).
I know of one particular artist (and I won’t use names for the sake of respect), who has very complicated and valuable commissions for 8$. The value of this work if done as freelance industry work would easily exceed 400$, yet they were not aware of their under-pricing. As a result, hundreds of people flocked to this person in hopes of scoring a sweetheart deal on their art without realizing that the pieces in question could take upwards of a month to complete (for 8$ mind you). Do you think these people thought that the artist would benefit from this in any way?
Deviantart has a bit of an issue with the devaluation of digital and traditional art works purely because of their online format. There is a huge fallacy that ‘because it’s on Deviantart that the work is my its nature worth less’.
This causes a few problems that impact a great number of groups:
:bulletred: Artists undercutting themselves unknowingly are hurting income potential.
Artists will then try to undercut the lower prices to hike demand, driving overall work price and value in the community down.
The result is hours of work by very skilled artists for less than fast-food wages, often going under 1$/hour of work, work that is specially tailored to the buyer performed by skilled individuals!
So how should we price?
How should you price your art? There’s a few steps.
First step? (Time to wrap your noodle around this big one) YOUR ART IS WORTH SOMETHING! Holy crap! Yes, your art, regardless of who you are, is worth something, and a pretty decent something, too. Spend hours on a drawing, even a sketch? That’s hours of your own time refining your craft. Drawing for someone else? You are making something special for someone else with your time and your resources and your signature creativity! YOU HAVE VALUE, YOU ALWAYS HAVE VALUE!
Crazy huh? Well it shouldn’t be. In fact, if you’ve drawn anything in your life before, you’ll know that drawing and art takes a lot of time and effort. Drawing for others? Even more so! It’s the most important aspect to consider when pricing and evaluating your own work.
Second step? Let’s consider the following:
In the United States (which we are using as the standard in this case because of deviantArt’s centralization in California), the minimum wage is $7.25. That means the lowest you can legally be paid for doing employed work is $7.25, which is usually fast-food job wages.
So assuming it takes you 2 hours to sketch a drawing for someone: If we are going by the minimum wage rate, that’s:
2 hours * 7.25 = $15 for a 2 hour sketch. Seems reasonable right? Sadly, most artists on deviantart charge LESS THAN 10$ for a sketch that might take as long as 4 hours! What if it takes longer?
Let’s also consider this: Artistry is a specialty skill. While anyone can learn art, it takes time, patience, and effort, and not everyone has the same style. Art is something unique to everyone, and that makes it very valuable. Do you consider something that unique to be worth minimum wage?
So assuming that we raise the per/hour cost a bit to say, 10$/hr. That 2 hour sketch is now worth 20$. Now we’re getting somewhere.
So as an artist, what does that mean for me?
It means you should do the following:
• Estimate how long various artistic processes take you to complete. For many people, doing a full drawing with color and one character takes between 5-7 hours (I personally take way way longer than that to work, but we’ll use this range as an example). Assuming minimum wage:
5-7 hours * 7.25$ = $36.25 - $50.75
Now this might vary depending on skill, but this is a good starting place. Now assuming you work at lets say 10$/hr. That becomes
5-7 hours * 10$hr = $50-$70 for a full colored 1 character commission.
For traditional, also figure in the cost of supplies it took for you to create the image, so you’d estimate the base time + cost of materials.
This leads into a rather tricky problem with the consideration of the infamous deviantArt points. The issue with deviantart points (not that they’re necessarily bad) is that 1.) its not actually currency, and to be traded back to $, deviantart takes a 20% cut and 2.) it inflates the perceived price of the work. Example:
assuming the previous reasonable prices for a 5-7 hour piece of art evaluated at 7.25$/hr:
80 points to 1 USD = 5-7 * 7.25* 80 = 2900 – 4060 points.
Someone who doesn’t run that conversion will say ‘holy crap that’s a lot of points’ and might be quicker to assume the work is ‘too expensive’. Thus, the deviantart devaluation process begins.
I often see full images ranging between 500-1200 points. While from a numeric perspective (500 and 1200 being pretty respectable numbers) running the conversion brings this to $6.25 and $15!
for a full picture….
See the problem? It’s incredibly important to realize that while deviantart currency is nice and convenient, its often a bit deceiving at evaluating your own work. Not only that, the fact that the artist only gets 80% of the monetary cut means that points can be a problem for artists who use commissions as an income source, even if they are easier. If you choose to use dA points as a pricing evaluator, just remember:
• While easier to obtain, they are worth less.
• If you are evaluating your own pricing, remember to do the 80pts to 1$USD conversion.
• When buying a commission, remember to also do the conversion, because you might be severely underpaying an artist!
There’s yet another aspect when it comes to pricing: Demand!
Time for an economics crash course. Specifically in microeconomics, there is something called a supply and demand curve. Basically, this is a representation of how supply of something, and the demand of something can drive prices of whatever the good is. Usually, if the demand is high, the supply will need to be higher to deal with this pull for demand.
Now art isn’t exactly a commodity. You can only make so much of a supply, and when you’re creating art on-the-spot for someone, that supply is usually about as fast as you’re capable of working. So what do you do if your demand is high? Increase your dang prices! If the demand for your work is crazy, then it’s a good indicator that your work has a good amount of value behind it! Remember when I said you had value? Its true! Take a look at some other artists pricing with your same demand structure to see how much you should increase. However, increasing 5$ here and there to rest the waters is a good start.
If demand is low, don’t worry! Odds are you may have fallen prey to the online art devaluation issue, or people just aren’t aware of your work. Remember the basic structure for pricing based on the minimum wage scale. If you need to feel the waters, you can slightly change the prices around that area. Another key thing to remember is that commissioners will respect it when you value your art and understand its value! While you might have people climbing all over you for super cheap deals, raising your prices only eliminates the ones taking advantage of you, and chances are that the people who still want your work and respect it’s value will still buy from you!
So what does this all mean?
Well to sum it up:
1.) YOUR ART HAS VALUE!
Never devalue yourself because you think you’re not as skilled as other people, or because of the underpricing issues on deviantart. You took time and care to make something special, whether its for you or for someone else! You and your art have value! Respect that and others will too!
2.) Estimate the time it takes to make something and build a good cost structure based on Money-per-hour estimates. If you are unsure, start at 7$/hr and play with it from there. You’ll find the sweet spot, trust me.
Here's a cash clock you can download to help estimate your prices!
3.) ART IS NOT A COMMODITY
Art is not McDonalds, it isn’t fast food! Art is something special, and it can’t be made in the blink of an eye on-demand. Art is made by people who practice, try very hard, learn, and put pencil-to-paper or stylus-to-tablet for hours, if not weeks! While most of the time you might only see the finished product, know that behind every image, there is someone who spend a lot of time and a lot of heart creating something just for you!
If you see artists that might be undercharging themselves, do them a favor and let them know respectfully! It will not only help them better value their own work, but it will boost their confidence!
When dealing with points, always ALWAYS convert to USD$ to get a better idea of the real value, not the inflated deviantart value. And remember, points are only worth 80% of their dollar counterparts!
4.) DO NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SOMEONE BECAUSE THEY HAVE LOW PRICES
Seriously, if you do, you are not only hurting and devaluing that artist, but everyone in that community because of the disrespect. While it might be an amazing deal, and the artist might be fine with the low prices, let them know if they might be charging too little. They will thank you for it and better understand their own value!
Your art has value!
Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Whether its digital art, traditional art, fanart or something completely unique. The time you take to make something and the care and emotion you create it with is worth more than any $ can determine. It’s something special to everyone.
Never forget it.