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I recently joined a wonderful little community here on dA for artists who take commission work: :iconhiredeviantartists: .  <shameless plug> There are artists of all mediums and techniques there, so do check it out if there's anything you want to have done! </shameless plug>

As I've looked through the profiles of the other community members (and in various other places where people list prices for their wares/talents), I've noticed something that makes me sad and honestly a little worried about the future of selling art: a lot of artists seriously undersell themselves.

It certainly is hard (especially in this economy) to set prices for your work that are affordable for customers, and not too high to turn them away.  I also understand wanting to start a little lower on your prices to get your name out there.  But starting your commission prices at $1?  Or maxing out at $5-10?  Too low, folks.  Way too low.

First off, on a $1 commission, you're literally making just a few pennies by the time PayPal fees are taken out (because let's face it - unless the person commissioning you lives close enough to hand you a buck in cash, or they're willing to pay almost a dollar for a one-dollar money order to mail you - which with the cost of the stamp, costs even more than the commission! - odds are that's how you're getting paid).  The PayPal fees always hurt a little, but especially on low dollar amounts.  I know - I sold stuff on eBay for many years.

But way beyond that...  Really, is that all you think your work is worth?   If all artists price their work that low, how will people ever come to value art that is handcrafted/hand-drawn/hand-painted/etc?  If people come to expect that they can get a drawing for a dollar, or a blanket for $30, will they ever buy from those of us who price our work more appropriately?  Will they ever buy from you again if you raise your prices?

I've heard the argument that, "Well, this is a hobby of mine, I'd be doing it anyway, I just want to make enough to pay for my materials."  I can almost understand that one - almost.  But I think a lot of people who take that route are barely breaking even, if at all.  Say you're offering a small drawing for a dollar.  If you're a traditional artist, you still had to buy paper, pencils, and erasers, and a scanner so you can digitally show the piece to the customer.  If you're a digital artist, you had to buy the computer and the drawing software.  You have to pay for your internet access to post the piece on dA or at the least e-mail it to the buyer.  It takes a lot of one-dollar commissions to cover all that.  Or you might be offering a blanket for $30.  It's nothing to pay $30 for yarn for a blanket for an adult.  Add in the cost of crochet hooks or knitting needles, the pattern (if you bought one), other notions... you might be going in the hole now.  And isn't the time you put into your creation worth something?

Ah, getting something for your time.  There are two arguments I've heard here.  One is:  "Oh, but it doesn't take me long!  I can do this in an hour!"  Alright, then.  If you worked an hour at most any job in the U.S. that wasn't expected to be supplemented by tips, you'd make $6.55.  Does it still seem reasonable to sell your hour's worth of work for just a buck?  

Of course, the louder argument is: "There's no way I can ever get reasonable reimbursement for my time."  This, I completely agree with.  I'll give an example from my own experience.  One of my first commissions was a large afghan - big enough to cover a full-size bed.  The yarn for it cost me about $50.  Normally I go with a commission price of 3 to 5 times the cost of the yarn, depending on the pattern.  This pattern did work up fairly quickly, and wasn't too difficult for me, so I charged 3 times the cost of the yarn for $150 total.  I kept a rough track of how long it took me to complete the afghan - I clocked in at about 45 hours total working time.  So that $100 profit I made on the commission came out to $2.22 an hour.  I'm not complaining about that at all - I was happy to get that much, I had fun making the afghan, and I know odds aren't high that someone would pay me $295 (+ $50 for the yarn!) for an afghan at minimum federal wage.

Few, if any of us, will ever get rich off our commission work.  They don't call us starving artists for nothing!  But just because we can't get a working wage doesn't mean we have to cut ourselves so low that we're in the red!  There can be a middle ground, and I would urge all artists to find it.  We do ourselves no service if we don't value our own work enough to ask a reasonable price for it, and we hurt our fellow artists as well.
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:iconseize-the-stars:
Seize-the-Stars Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
The only middleground I can think of is to sell the originals for what you really feel it should be worth, but offer print copies for a budget price that will appeal to the masses. Successful, commercial artists either need to cater to the wealthy elite or create something that will attract the general public's spending interest. For examples, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, and the Simpsons are cartoons and yet are buzzillion dollar merchandising empires! With all the tremendously competitive talents out there, the more 'professional' art styles have it plenty tough when vying for the consumer's attention. Good artists don't deserve to starve, but that's just the real world for anybody choosing this career path...
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:iconbreisa:
breisa Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think currency counts too.. Say I live in Asia, and $1 is like 50 times the local currency! And If I my prices were like $10+ I'd have over 500+ the local currency.. That's enough for a starting artist to bloom in the industry.

Of course it's tempting to give higher prices, it's just sometimes, artists do not know how to value their work coz they've been breathing art! It's easy for them to produce art!

And also I have this mindset that since art isn't that useful at all (meaning it's not part of the basic needs) why put a high price on it?
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:iconraylorn:
Raylorn Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2011  Student General Artist
I agree..For a artist like me who lives in Malaysia.. 1USD = 3.12800 MYR..
If I charge like $4 for my art it would be this much: RM12.50

It seems like a lot to me..

Art isn't useful? Do you have any idea that some clients found concept art/sketches useful because it gives them inspiration or fresh new ideas to develop their project they're working on?

It also can be a book cover illustration, design for products,etc..If you're good enough your clients might consider using them for these purposes..

If you don't agree that's fine..I'm just giving you some info.. :)
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:icontriadenforcer:
triadenforcer Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2009
being someone of part communist philosophy and thinking myself.........I agree with you.....the person performing a service for you needs to survive too

like a shopkeeper who can only take a certain amount of the price tag as a discount

but then again.....I remember alan moore asking "why do you want to be an artist?"....on a certain youtube video.......

there are usually two answers to this question.......

"fame....fortune.....power.......I want it all"

"I just wanna do what I enjoy"
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:iconambers79:
Ambers79 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2009
I see a lot of good artist under price themselves and I see some overprice themselves. I think it is really hard to set a price range that will pull in commissions. Most people simply don't have a few hundred dollars to throw at an artist for a commission especially a non-commercial one yet at the same time artists need to make something for their time as well. I do think selling except quick sketches for under $10 is far to low.
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:iconw0ifdreamer:
W0IfDreamer Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2009  Professional Artisan Crafter
I loved this article :)

I haven't gotten to the 'online' commission thing yet, I sell only locally either from my 'booth' at my mom's restaurant and gift shop, or at local craft fairs and market days. I have done commissions for local people tho, mostly vintage crochet reproductions of pieces that they had that were originally by their grandmothers or others, that they had lost or had just gotten too old to use.

I struggled at first with pricing, and admit I lost alot at first. The turning point for me was when I made a full scale American Flag [link] and priced it at $125.00. I thought NO ONE would ever buy it. It sold within the first hour at the craft fair, and I had six people wanting me to make them one, one of those was the Mayor, wanting it for his office. :)

I still probably under-cut my pricing, but I'm learning as I go. Your article was right on the money (pun not fully intended LOL). It IS difficult to put a reasonable price on something that has so much of *you* worked into it. A little piece of me goes into every article I make, and I don't think that people who buy the things really appreciate that part. The age of mass produced items has seriously cheapened the idea of true artisan handwork.

My basic method today is that I have a lot of small, cheap-to-make items for sale to satisfy those that don't want to part with their hard earned cashola, but my premium items, I don't under-cut myself on those. If they really want it, they'll pay the price I set, or I'll keep it and someone else eventually will.

Thanks for such a great and insightful article, more people need to understand that the price of a handmade article includes more than just the time and material, there's alot of 'heart and soul' that goes into those things, and you can't really put a price on that!
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:iconrebeccastapp:
RebeccaStapp Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
Excellent article! :clap:

In the beginning, I was really worried about no one wanting a commission, but I set the prices at what I determined to be a fair amount. Unfortunately, I had no takers, so I lowered far too much - which brought me commissioners. Now, after getting the ball rolling, I've gone back up...though I'm told I still charge far too little. Though I'll be sure to keep this in mind when deciding on future pricing. :)
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2009
Thank you! :D I'm glad you enjoyed it. :) And I hope you have continued good luck with commission work!
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:iconrebeccastapp:
RebeccaStapp Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you. :) I have noticed that since I raised my prices back to slightly more acceptable levels, there have been fewer people asking for commissions. I suspect that has to do with exactly what you said in this article - people going for the absurdly low-priced artists rather than the ones who try to make minimum wage for their art. :hmm:
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:iconxullraezauviir:
XullraeZauviir Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Agreed. :thumbsup: Even I undersell myself. I started doing commissions to help put some extra change in my pocket for the winter holidays. My first commission sold for $15 bucks, the commissioner doubled it to $30. Still the written piece was 50 and a half pages . . . ^^;

Now $30 will buy 20+ pages. ;) So yeah I can relate. :nod:
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2009
That's awesome that you've been able to sell some writings, Lisa! :hug:

It is really easy to undersell yourself at first. :nod: Glad you've upped your price! :D
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:iconarcade-art:
arcade-art Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2009
You make alot of sense :)
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2009
Thank you! :D
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:iconm-a-f:
M-A-F Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2009
I'd have to be told how to price my commishes DDD:

Really because I dunno...I was thinking of £3 which is apprently round $4? (wow the pound has fallen sooo fast) for fully coloured body shots :| like: [link]

I wouldn't charge anywhere near over £20 for my stuff...leave it to the traditional/non anime noobie artists like myself ._. but I know a few anime artists who have sold for max of $30 I think

-.- need to build up trust in myself before I can ever start doing small commissions...and get better...still not good enough :XD:
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2009
Personally I think that's way too low a price for such pretty work in any medium. I admit I've never bought any anime-style art so maybe the prices are lower in that market, but the artist my husband and I commission to draw our fantasy characters has in the past charged $30 for a pencil drawing alone - no inks, no colors - and I've always thought she charged a little on the low side.

Your stuff is certainly nice enough for commission work! :nod:
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:iconequinus:
Equinus Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
:clap: Brilliantly said! I know what its like to undersell your works, but that was purely because I had no idea of what I was doing. Something like this article is fantastic, because it tells the reader to NOT be scared of charging and to be proud of their work, which is also what dA is here to promote! :love: Awesome article!
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2009
Thank you so much! :D
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:iconindigo-ashes:
Indigo-Ashes Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2009
Ouuhhh~. As much as I'd love to charge for commissions (I'm one of those weak sort of people who can't say no to a request. I'm working on that.) , I'm also not feeling that I'm at a level where I can charge more than ten dollars or something for a commission. Yet, I also see artists here who... Putting it bluntly, aren't at a level where they could pheasibly charge as much as they do for one of their works, then whine when nobody comissions them.

I'm not saying they shouldn't -Cough-, but it just IRKS me. Guess you have to be in it to win it, though.

Either way, this article was oddly helpful. I'm selfish, I shouldn't care too much about making people pay for my time~. Muhahaha.
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2009
I guess it's a matter of whether or not you're trying to make money with your art. If you really are just doing it for fun, and prefer to take requests/give as gifts, hey, more power to ya! :D But if you ever want to make an actual income from your artwork, you have to charge a reasonable price, and certainly can't afford to give it all away. :)

Personally, I'm just irked by whining in general. :laughing: Of course everyone wants commissions! But whining about it turns potential customers off too. Like ~SonataMoonbeam said, maybe they're not advertising enough, or maybe they have people interested who just need to save the money up and don't want to tease the artist by saying "hey, I want a commission, but I need the time to save up the money" and then have something else come up that they need the money for. All whining about "Why isn't anyone commissioning me?!" needs to be kept in one's internal thoughts. :D
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:iconindigo-ashes:
Indigo-Ashes Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2009
That's a good point, turning customers off! @ @

I'm sure they'll all notice one day and not whine, I guess there's a certain level of maturity to reach around here.
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:iconsonatamoonbeam:
SonataMoonbeam Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2009  Student Digital Artist
Hey, taking requests is fine. Just make sure you have your priorities straight. Make sure they know that you are taking the request at your convenience, not someone else.

And people who whine about not getting commissioned are generally not advertising themselves. How do you expect to find someone who wants you art if you don't let everybody you possibly can know that you're taking commissions? You can't expect to become famous without shaking a few hands and meeting new people..
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:iconindigo-ashes:
Indigo-Ashes Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2009
So true. One has to shape their own future if they want one, right?
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:iconglori305:
Glori305 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009
Here here! We already compete with big box stores, like Wal-Mart etc. Where people can buy for $5 what takes an artist 20 hours to make, when other artists are underselling, it makes it virtually impossible!

A friend who knits pointed out that people who craft are skilled, and should be charging $15 an hour minimum....at $10 an hour my stuff barely sells.
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009
Yeah, I didn't even want to open up the Wal-Mart can of worms :laughing: but that is definitely a factor as well!

Your friend's point about us being skilled workers is very true! And a lot more work (both physical and mental) goes into crafting than many people realize.
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:iconengelszorn:
engelszorn Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009  Professional General Artist
Thank you for writing and posting this.
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009
You're welcome! Thank you for reading it! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :D
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:iconbarhaifisch:
BarHaifisch Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2009
:D would be awesome if some folks would help me out. and just buy a damn commission from me. XD;;

well im not expecting any from DA. haha. I have nothing on it but sketches and drunken doodles. however places like FA and Y!gallery where i have over 60 watches...I wish they'd just throw me a bone.

10 bucks for a fine inked picture is cheap enough...ive given up any hope of making money as an artist. So eh. Ive decided to become a surgeon.
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009
It is frustrating when you have a lot of people watching and faving your work, but no interest in commissions. :nod:

So many artists have to have a day job - one of the pharmacists at the pharmacy I go to is an artist. He went to pharmacy school as his "back-up" plan and has always worked at it just part-time so he has enough time for his art. If pharmacists can do it, so can surgeons! :D
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:iconbarhaifisch:
BarHaifisch Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2009
:) glad to know someone agrees

EW. pharmacists. haha. drugs sicken me.
well whatever.
:)
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:iconlinearts:
Linearts Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2009  Student Traditional Artist
Very true! I always feel bad for doing a commission at around 30$ when my mom (who is an artist) tells me its worth at the very least 80-100$. You made me understand the concept of making people pay (besides gettin' thwe money) and I will not (or at least try to not) feel bad about making people pay. MAKE EM PAY!! :headbang:
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009
Good for you! :clap: Don't be afraid to ask for what your work is worth! :D
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:iconlinearts:
Linearts Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2009  Student Traditional Artist
:)
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:iconemmil:
emmil Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
:thumbsup: can't agree more.... :heart:
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009
Thank you! :D
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:iconcreaturekebab:
creaturekebab Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2009
I've had to lower all my prices recently due to this Credit Crisis. It's really hitting me hard... is anyone else feeling it too?
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2009
I work primarily by commission, and I'm sure not getting many inquiries... Hopefully things turn around soon!
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:iconhiredeviantartists:
hiredeviantARTISTS Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2009
I agree with you ENTIRELY about the yarn and crotcheting :nod: The worst possible thing is to calculate it by the hour, it's so disenheartening :XD: I have some blankets and the like in my shop that are being sold for WAY under time and material costs, but people still think it's "expensive" or something :XD: HAH granted too, these particular things werent commissioned so it was 'fun' work, but still! Nuts! :XD:
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2009
Oh, I know... I'd love to make up some blankets to put in my shop, but if they don't sell, what am I supposed to do with them? I can only put so many on my own bed! :laughing: Mass production is a double-edged sword - it's made a lot of goods affordable to those for whom money is really, truly scarce, but it's also made other people turn up their noses at blankets that cost more than $10 and the like. *sigh*

OMG, I just made the connection that you're the one with the "I'd be sleazy for [pick your favorite] Weasley" stickers! :giggle: Great stuff!
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:iconhiredeviantartists:
hiredeviantARTISTS Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2009
:rofl: HAHAHA yus, it's me....the pervy weasley fancier :giggle: Lol yeah generally i just dont take commissions for stich-work because people aren't willing to pay the actual value of the work and materials :) I just put the stuff up as i make it for fun :) Like, i actually enjoy the knitting and crocheting and then when i'm done i figure Well hey that was fun! Meh, got nothing better to do with it, so if i sell it, hey! :D :giggle: haha really when all i wanted was the fun out of i, i dont care as much about the per hour and stuff....whcih is why i dont take those kind of commissions XD
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:iconglunac:
glunac Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2009   General Artist
Agreed! Just because you enjoy doing something does not mean it should be under valued.
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2009
Exactly! I mean, in an ideal world, everyone would enjoy their job - would that mean that everyone should work for peanuts just because they're happy at work? Of course not.
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:iconhunter1828:
hunter1828 Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
Good stuff, babe!
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:iconarielmanx:
ArielManx Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2009
Thanks sweetie! :blowkiss:
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:iconhunter1828:
hunter1828 Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
You bet, babe! :D
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