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June 2, 2011
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There are many reasons to create art. But for the sake of this article, regarding commissions, I will focus on the motive of making money. I like to make money. But I am not an artist by profession and money is not the driving force behind my art (or my life). That said, pricing commissions varies tremendously from one artist to another. These are by no means guidelines, just things to consider.


1. What are you offering (in terms of artistic mediums)?

If you're shipping out the original of something it should be more expensive than a digital version of the same thing.
Things on canvas, sculpture, jewelry etc. are more '3 dimensional' and the materials often cost more than a digital painting or sketch. I see a greater trend towards digital works, like character sheets, sketches, stamps, avatars etc.  These things are cheaper because there is a high demand for something so small, personal and relatively easy to create. The ease of creating artwork via technology is incredible, but it also increases competition because so many people have access to these materials.  


2. What are you offering (in terms of skill/style)?

To use one example, there are thousands of people who can draw wolves out there so if you're trying to sell yourself as a wolf artist, you’d better be bringing something new to the table.
OR, if you’re drawing something many other people also draw, take a look at how much they’re charging! Browse through some artists to get a sense for how much single character sketches, sculptures, tribal tattoos etc. are being charged these days. Consider how your styles differ from theirs, and where your niche might be.


3. Who is your audience (the 'popularity game' and so on)?

Fortunately and unfortunately, there are definitely artists on DA (and other sites) that have their names up above those of others.  Whether they're actually the best at what they do, or if they’ve just built a name for themselves over 7 years... It doesn't matter because they can reach a wider audience than the average artist can.  These people can charge more for that drawing of theirs because they are so popular and because their art is in such high demand. Truth.

Similarly, and I don’t mean anything against deviantart… But it is important to consider the audience of the SITE that you use AND what the audience YOUR ART caters to.  Deviant art hosts an amazingly diverse community of artists, but it is clear that certain subject matters dominate others.   On the flipside, what I love about DA is that diversity of people.  I’m just saying there are other ways to market your work out there, and sites that may be more specialized/tailored to your needs.


4. How much $$$ do you spend on supplies?

I don't have much experience on this because I typically use the old paper and graphite. But especially if you have to buy special materials such as clay, canvas, copic markers… The cost of a commission should make up for what you spent to make it, PLUS the time you spent…


5. How much time do you spend? (***In my opinion the most important one. “Time is money.”)

There are many ways to approach this one.

Flat fees - You could figure out how long it takes to, say, paint a picture.  You can then decide how much you want to charge per hour. So if you want to earn $10/hr, and you take 5 hours to create a standard painting, you might want to charge $50 + cost of supplies.
Again, you can also compare against what other artists are charging for a similar style/art medium.
So for flat fees you take into account ROUGHLY how much time you spend on a certain type of art, then charge the same across the board. The pros and cons are, you naturally spend more time on some commission and less on others, so in some instances you will make more money for your time and in some instances less. But it should all balance out in the end.

Hourly - If you look at people who design logos, game characters, etc. for a LIVING, a lot of times they literally charge by the hour and the client needs to be willing to dish out, say, $50/ ?? hours in the end.  Sort of like a blank check but not. (of course, there are other policies they employ as well). Unless you’re VERY serious about doing art for commissions, I imagine it would be hard for a client to trust the artist to report # of hours spent on a commission through DA.  
If you charge hourly, you have to clock in and out every time you work on a commission, as if it was your job.  The plus side is you get paid for every minute you’re spending.

For those who care, I have a flat fee but I charge more for complexity.  MY flat fee was determined by how fast I can whip out designs, how much other tattoo artists charge, and how many commissions I generally receive.  For additional characters, more complex stuff etc… I have no ‘rate,’ just how much I feel the extra time is worth.  


6. If you already receive commissions, how long is your waitlist?

Let’s say your commission slots are virtually always full. Fill one order, slap another one on the list.  Unless you feel obliged to take every single commission that comes your way, you might want to consider raising your prices.  There is a fine balance between raising them too high and losing all your customers, and putting them too low and being overwhelmed by them.  The sweet spot is where you’re getting a fair price, higher than the average if you’re work is THAT popular, but your commission slots are not brimming over the edges.  

Or maybe you love what you do so much you’ll keep the price the same and take every commission that comes your way…

Let’s say you receive virtually no commissions.  You might want to drop the price. But if it’s already very low, there is a point where you’re selling yourself out.  I would never charge $1 for anything more than a stick figure.  But there is no right or wrong here. If you’re not getting commissions and you’d really like to, I’m afraid this is not the article for that.  
   

7. How do you receive your payment?

For large scale projects, some artists ask their clients to pay a fraction of the total first, then the rest when the piece is done.  I haven’t ever used this method. But it makes sense because it forces the client to commit before starting something that might take weeks.
Some artists (like myself) charge nothing for drafts, but expect full payment before they start the actual project.  
Some artists follow the ‘pay first, talk later’ policy.
Either way, this is more of an insurance thing rather than a pricing thing. Make sure you’re not being scammed.

Also, the age old paypal vs money order… Money orders require you to release your name and address. The client has to walk to a place that sells them (post office, grocery stores, etc.) and pay a small fee. It works like a check, which also means you have to wait to receive it in the mail. Paypal charges the recipient a %fee, as far as I know it.  But I prefer paypal because it is instantaneous and no-fuss.


8. How do you handle ‘extras’? (extra characters, new ideas, added complexity, larger scale, special materials, etc.)

If you take on a commission that has more than what you usually do, or is a concept you haven’t worked with before, it will take more time and effort.  This sort of ties into #5. But some people charge a flat fee for things like extra characters in one picture, or if the client requests a special kind of paint.  As I said, I personally just eyeball it.  Just something to consider.



9. How do you handle revisions?

This is more relevant for certain mediums over others.  I do potential-tattoo designs, so it is essential to me that the design is what my client wants. I work it into my policy (drafts first, then payment, then final) so that I avoid revisions of the final piece. But if I had to make a major change, I would charge what I feel is worth my time to do so.  Again, something to consider.


10. How will you let others use your art?

TRICKY. More applicable for some forms of art over others. I run into this issue all the time because I do ‘designs’ more than just drawings.  This bleeds into the issue of art theft and all that, so I won’t say much. But here are two personal anecdotes:

I design a lot of tribals that people sometimes want to use on forums, spray on their cars, or even have tattooed on their bodies.  Back in the day I did a lot of designs for fun and I do not charge for PERSONAL use.  I know there are some artists who are touchier about their work and do not want it used anywhere, for anything.  Would it be worth charging a usage fee? Maybe.  But despite watermarks, copyrights and all that jazz, consider how many people would actually pay you to use a picture of yours before posting it on their blog or something.  I let people use my non-commission art for any PERSONAL use because:
a. I probably wouldn’t make money off of charging people
b. I would be spending more time hunting people down for using my art without permission
c. It’s free advertising. (note: claiming you designed it is not personal use, you scumbag).

HOWEVER. One day I got an email from a person who works for a wolf rescue organization. That person wanted to print one of my designs on t-shirts and sell to the public.  This would be for COMMERCIAL use and I’d be pretty bummed if people were out there making money off of my stuff and I wasn’t.  I had two options:
a. Royalties. In which I get a small percentage for every tshirt sold.  I opted out of this option because I don’t want to have to keep track of their records, how many shirts were sold every quarter, then keep track of where they’re sending the check (I’m seldom in one place for too long). This is a personal choice I made, based on my motives for letting them use my design (which was certainly not to get rich), and my lifestyle.
b. Flat fee.  I ended up saying I prefer if they paid me a one-time fee to use my design on any tshirt, mug or accessory they wished.  Whereas I would normally charge $50 as per my usual design commissions, I charged something WAYYYYY more than that (still negotiating, which is why I don’t have numbers).  What mattered to me was I would get paid a reasonable amount, then not have to think about it ever again.
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:iconcandyblossomchan:
candyblossomchan Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2014
helpful! thanks
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:iconmare-of-night:
mare-of-night Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
Great article :D
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:iconfrabulator:
Frabulator Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
When I sell my artwork all that you mentioned is included in the final pricing.

Such as when I paint a watercolor piece, I charge for the price of my watercolors, the canvas, brushes and anything else i might use. Even though I might (in most cases I don't) use my full watercolor set on one painting, I still charge for the set in the pricing.
For example, if the set of watercolors cost $10, and I use that same set for 5 commissions, then I charge each of them $10. If the brush cost $2, then I charge each of them $2, etc.

If you are framing or matting the artwork that also needs to be taken into consideration. If I end up matting a work then I charge an extra $5-$10. For framing I charge the price of the frame, glass, etc., and then an additional $5 for my time and gas.

Something else you need to take into consideration in pricing is the media. If it is a pencil drawing I generally charge a lower price than if it was a watercolor or oil painting. This also goes along with how much time you put into a work. What I do is write down on a paper that I give to the customer how many hours I worked on a piece and on what days. Such as, 9/21/10 from 8:00am to 12:30pm.
When you chart your time you need to figure out how much you think your art is worth. Because I live in such a poor town and there isnt much in the line of art anywhere close to me, I always sell my work for under $100, which in most cases is pennies for art. But, that all depends on your location.

I have never tried to ship out my work, but I have heard that if you plan to ship you need to make it idiot proof. Don't think that just because you have a 'fragile' sticker on it that people are going to take care of it and not man-handle it.

Well, there is my half cent. I hope that I helped answer your questions.
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:iconfrabulator:
Frabulator Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
"When you chart your time you need to figure out how much you think your art is worth. Because... "
Sorry, typo

When you chart your time you need to figure out how much you think your TIME (as in, how many dollars per hour) is worth.
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:iconrattlesire:
Rattlesire Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Again! Another awesome approval!
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