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.

© 2015 - 2021 Astralseed
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MareepChan25's avatar
thank you so much!!
jackpenguin8's avatar
could you check out my art and suggest how much a commission should be?
Astralseed's avatar
The article covers how to price your commissions.  I unfortunately can not accurately price them for you just based on looking at your art.  
jackpenguin8's avatar
MoonBeamzz's avatar
I don't have enough time to read the whole journal 0.0 Sorry, but could you tell me if my Commission Prices are too high? If you need a link please tell me.
Astralseed's avatar
No such thing as commission prices being too high.  
MoonBeamzz's avatar
My friend thought that my Commissions were too high and that's why I wasn't being commissioned
RezaBisuto's avatar
I don't sell anything for less than $1,000. My art and time is worth livable compensation. 
MoonBeamzz's avatar
Do you mean 1000 :points:?
RezaBisuto's avatar
No. I mean $1,000 USD. Can't pay my bills with points.
lauraypablo's avatar
:wow: thank you so much for this useful article, I always had doubts about price commissions like photomanip or drawings (in my case) and when I asked to people, nobody answered me :ashamed:
I recognize that I'm a newbie with this sort of things but your journal helped me alot to consider prices because I spend a lot of time working on photomanipulations and drawings and I have not consider the time I spent doing them.
Thanks for make my brain "works" a little bit :giggle::iconaawplz:
Astralseed's avatar
You're very welcome, I'm glad it was helpful to you :)
TheAnswerIs-A's avatar
I've been told before that I should raise my prices because my art is good, but I actually have my commissions set low to make them available to people who don't have a lot of points, is that a bad thing?
Astralseed's avatar
If you're just looking to be friendly and make sure that people can get art even if they can't afford to pay proper wages for it, I'd suggest not doing commissions but instead doing gift art.  
TheAnswerIs-A's avatar
The thing is I need the points and don't mind not getting a lot, and when I open requests (what I assume you mean by gift art?) I get so many I'm going to have to turn some down
Astralseed's avatar
Then do gift art and let people 'tip' you with points.  
TheAnswerIs-A's avatar
I guess I'm not understanding correctly, I thought gift art was something you did not as a request? And how can I be sure people will tip me?
Astralseed's avatar
Well, you can't be sure that people would tip you.  
Gift art, requests.. they all kind of fall under the same category.  You can always regulate how many you accept etc.. 

I realize that from your perspective, you're not interested in making a fair wage for your work when it comes to art, and you want to do something nice for others by allowing them the option to buy something they can afford.
From my perspective, I have to deal with people yelling at me that my cheap by industry standard prices are too high and I should lower them because others sell themselves short, apparently I should too.  Except, I have to pay bills with what I earn from my art, for me it is a real job, one I expect to be compensated appropriately for.  Nobody would expect me to work at McDonalds without proper compensation, but somehow with art, people forget that.  
TheAnswerIs-A's avatar
Ah, I understand! Don't worry, I don't think you should offer low just because others do. Especially if it's how you make a living.
Astralseed's avatar
I think it wouldn't be a problem for people to offer lower priced commissions if it didn't come back to bite those of us who don't in the ass.  
There's just not enough understanding that art is a real job and deserves compensation like any other job does.  
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joan-does-art's avatar
Well, I'm actually very bad at pricing my commissions...
Many people tell me that my art is "soooo good" and I could totally make money out of it, but whenever I'm trying to do commissions or point coms, no one is buying them, and people tele me I first have to improve and do more requests - Well, even if I open requests, a maximum of 2 or 3 people want something.
Also i feel like if no one gives me feedback, I'm not improving either to make better art.
So, I asked some people roughly two weeks ago(It was 20 persons), and most of them answered. I asked how much my digital drawings would be worth, and like half of them told me to improve more, some told me to start with a price of 3$-4$, and some said i should start with point commissions for 10 :points: - for a full picture.
But i don't think they understand what time and effort I put into pictures; A fullbody with shade and background like this or this is more worth than 10 :points: I think(I sit on something like that for 3-5 hours.)
Maybe someone who reads this knows how I could price my commissions, and maybe tell me why there's so little feedback when I really need it to improve.
Thanks for reading!
WhiskeyDreamer's avatar
Pricing may not be your issue.  Marketing and advertising may be more of the problem.  Just people people say your work is good enough for commissions doesn't mean they're going to buy.  So you need to get your name out there to other people too!
joan-does-art's avatar
Okay, thanks you!
I think that helps me c:
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