PE: Pricing Your Commissions

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Astralseed's avatar

Art In Professions

Hello everyone,
Today I'll be discussing how to price your commissions since it's a question that comes up quite often.

If you're an artist who sells commissions you're probably all too familiar with the conundrum of trying to decide what price tags to attach to your art. Perhaps you're an artist who would like to sell commissions but have been so unsure about setting up prices that you've simply avoided selling commissions completely. No matter what, this article will help you price your art in a way that can make both you and your clients happy.

First and foremost it is important to remember that doing commissions for others is considered a job/work/employment, regardless of how much you enjoy the process or how serious you are about your art.
This is your time and energy that is going into creating the art and that time and energy is precious, even if you are still young, feel your art isn't that great, or only create art as a hobby.

Once you are able to look at commissions in a light where you see and understand that it's not just drawing a pretty picture for someone, but that it is real employment, it's much easier to start looking at reasonable prices for your work.

Now that you are able to think about pricing in a reasonable way since you understand that you're essentially putting a price tag not only on your art, but also on the value of your time and energy we can start looking at good starting points for pricing. If you are not yet able to view pricing your commissions in this way, please do yourself (and other working artists) a favor and try to make this connection before actually pricing your art.

Minimum Wage:
This is a really good starting point to figure out where to, or where not to place your prices. I generally suggest that people look up their local legal minimum hourly wage. Under no circumstances do you ever want to price your art below this wage. Remember that minimum wage are poverty level wages in most places devaluing your work below that line is a slippery slope.

Hourly Wage:
If you have a pretty good idea of how long it takes you to work on a certain type of piece you'll be able to look at more of an hourly type wage. For example, if you know that you spend roughly 4 hours to complete a specific type of art you can easily base the price off of 4 hours of work at whatever hourly rate you set for yourself.

10$ an hr = 40$ for roughly 4 hours worth of work (subtract related expenses and taxes)
15$ an hr = 60$ for roughly 4 hours worth of work (subtract related expenses and taxes)

It's important to keep in mind that if you make a certain dollar amount in commissions, the income is now taxable by the government. Be sure to check your country's tax laws.
You'll also need to keep the cost of any supplies in mind (these can be tax write offs as well, but it's wise to consult a professional before assuming every art supply you buy is tax deductible). Pencils, erasers, paint, wear and tear on your graphics tablet, cost of digital art program subscriptions etc. This means that you can't simply look at a 40$ commission as 40$ of profit, instead you'll want to deduct your expenses for supplies and taxes to have a better estimate of your profit. (Starting to see why you don't want to price your commissions below minimum wage?)

Alright, so taking all of the above into consideration you can now look at what you'd like to set as your hourly wage.
Once you've decided on your hourly wage you can easily price your commissions by estimated time it takes to complete them.

Competitive Pricing:
It is always a good idea to look at other artists prices before deciding on any final numbers. This will give you a good general idea of what kind of prices are reasonable to charge.

When looking at other artists prices, it helps to find artists who's work is at the same level as yours. If you are a total novice, chances are your commissions wont sell at the same prices of an established professional artists rates will, which can often soar into the $100's and $1000's for a single commission.

Be aware that some artists do and will not charge living wage prices, and it is recommended to not consider such low pricing as a comparison to base your prices on, unless it's a comparison of what NOT to do.

Additional Fees:
If you're working on something that requires extra materials, or shipping, you can attach an extra fee to cover those costs as well. Simply calculate shipping and shipping material costs (packaging) to know how to price your additional fees.

Other common fee additions are seen when a client wants to add multiple characters or other complexities to the piece. These are easiest to be looked at on a case by case basis, and depending on complexity or amount of additions that are desired you can adjust the additional fee(s) according to how much extra work it will create for you.

Be sure to be up front with your client about any potential additional fees above the standard commission price before making a deal.

Almost done guys, one more important paragraph before you are ready to go out in the world, learn and explore and set your commission prices!

The Importance of not selling yourself short!

Above I've already touched a fair bit on the importance of not setting your prices below minimum wage but it's worth going into a bit more detail as to why this is bad practice.

Respect your time, energy and skill! If you are unable to respect yourself and your work how can a potential client? Most serious clients would prefer to spend more and know (or at least feel like) they are getting high quality, than to spend pennies and assume the product (in this case the art) will be cheap and probably sloppy.

Good Clients Will Pay More:
Studies show time and time again that if an item is under priced potential customers feel turned off from it as they worry it's not good quality. Take a look at: High Quality or Poor Value: When Do Consumers Make Different Conclusions about the Same Product?

Devaluing Art as a Whole:
When you are selling yourself short with your commission prices, you are essentially telling clients that art is only worth "this much". When those clients encounter an artist who charges even reasonable prices without undercutting themselves, there is often backlash and anger towards their "high" prices.
Naturally there will be some diversity, and a novice shouldn't charge the same prices as an established and more skilled artist, but having some uniformity with our prices can go a long way to educate those who are artistically challenged that we are selling a skill, and that our skill is valuable.
Why is undercharging a bad idea?

If you still feel you shouldn't charge a reasonable wage for your art, perhaps you should take some time to refine your skill before making yourself available for commissions.

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The18advents's avatar

Wonderful and Inspiring!, Astralseed.F2U: Black Neko Blob Icon