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Recently I was approached by a new acquaintance who wanted to commission me for a number of portraits of her pet rabbits. I was glad to take it on as I really could use the money right now, but the manner in which she's discussed my compensation has me worried a bit.

She's informed me that the artist she had hired previously had raised their prices, so I guess she's assuming that since I'm an art student she'll get a better deal with me, which is probably true as I'm not a pro yet. She hasn't specifically told me how much she's willing to pay, but "assured" me that she thinks I'll find it quite generous.

I hadn't the heart (or guts) to tell her that wasn't quite the way it worked, and so I need to come up with a price list rather fast before this goes any further and we both walk away dissatisfied. I'm not quite sure what she's thinking to pay me, but I hope she doesn't think a detailed, realistic charcoal and/or painting portraits will be any less then $50 a pop, if not more.

We haven't worked out the full details yet, she hasn't even decided on the medium. All she's really told me is that she wants them smaller since it will be a series, but big enough to be framed. So now I have to look up canvas sizes and decide what to offer her.

I realize that's all rather vague, I'm pretty inexperienced with this, so I was hoping you all could share some guidelines on how to price traditional media? I fear that after factoring in art expenses, gas money (she wants me to meet up with her and see the rabbits in person, which is reasonable and understandable, but potentially expensive), and work fee, that it might add up to being something more then she is prepared to pay, and I want to let her know now before this gets any further.
Artist's beware has moved!
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( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 13th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
If this is a non-fandom student-level commission, I'd say charge $15-20 an hour for your services, and add or subtract more depending on what that works out to.
I don't know if you've been involved in the furry fandom much, but those prices most fandom artists sell their services at are hardly realistic.
May. 13th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
Yes, this.

Don't let the fact that you're a student make her think she can get away with charging you peanuts. From the way it was phrased, that she: "'assured' [you] that [you will] find it quite generous" ...leads me to believe she thinks she'll be able to short-change you because you're a student and 'obviously' won't know any better.

It's a common stigma among students. Now while as students we're obviously not 'experts' or 'professionals' that doesn't mean we deserve to be treated as slaves. $15-20/hour is the minimum you want to go for. Now if you want to really pack in the hours, include the time you spent going to her house and possibly getting photos of the rabbits. That depends on what you feel you should charge for. Definitely charge for the gas mileage.

For framing sizes, the smallest you'd want to go is 4x6, imo. That depends on how many she wants you draw. If it's less than 3, or less than 5.. maybe scale it up to 8x10. 8x10 is a very standard size and easy to frame.

How you charge is really up to you. (Be it by the hour or a flat rate.) As a suggestion, I'd say $15/hour for black and white media, and $20 for color media. Then you can figure out how long it takes you (on average) to complete an image of a certain size, in order to come up with an estimate.

The fandom really does for slave wages, but we do it for fun just as much as work. In this case, if she badgers you for being horribly expensive, you can tell her to politely take her business elsewhere. Artists deserve respect, and it's about time more people realize that they get what they pay for. I always get a laugh out of how some furries will bitch and moan like it's the end of the world when an artist raises their prices. You know what, fans? We need to eat something other than ramen.
May. 13th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
Yes* being directed at Growly up there. lol LJ fubars my comments.
May. 13th, 2008 02:41 am (UTC)
Makes me think of the people who come in to get stuff custom framed at my place. ><;; And there's always the ones that go "Oh, that's BEFORE the sale price, right? =D" Um ... no. What is the bloody point of telling you what you're paying BEFORE the sale price or before the taxes? Oo?

You are paying for QUALITY STUFF here. It's archival, it will survive a lot longer and protect your art a lot better than that shitty stuff on our shelves. (Which you still bitch is too much.)
May. 13th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
Oh I've been there. People want all this nice fancy art and they want it preserved just so, but apparently they think the quality and all this stuff just falls out of our ass. I blame people like Thomas Kinkade and the other pioneers of mass-produced art.

While I embrace the idea of art being affordable for everyone, the public needs to get some education that it's NOT easy, and deserves to be paid for just like groceries and your fancy-schmancy ipods.
May. 13th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
Art can be very affordable... buy a print :P
CUSTOM art is another story entirely!
May. 13th, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
I get a lot of people coming in and saying that they bought such and such art for five bucks Canadian in a foreign country. And so no, they don't want to pay fifty bucks for a frame. Well ... if you wanted it cheaper, next time, get one that's a standard Canadian size!

I had a lady come in with a picture that was something odd like 15x18 or something like that. It was a print she had bought around here and she wanted it framed cheap, cheap, cheap! So I told her she could trim it to fit into a frame. Sold her a frame and everything, went to trim it ... oh no, she preferred that silver one on sale for the same price! *sighs*

And the silver one? It was 16x20, but she didn't want a mat or anything, so I slipped it in for her and you could see a bunch of the backing like I said you would, but apparently it was BEAUTIFUL!

Best part ... all of this was for a gift for someone.
May. 13th, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)
How much better is the stuff custom framing places use than stuff you can put together yourself? I frame my work with mats and frames I find at my job (Ritz Camera) and arts and crafts stores (like AC Moore or Michales) because it's much more convenient and cheaper, and have only considered custom jobs for odd sizes. So... what materials makes it different?

And from a horrible camera sales person perspective, telling people a higher price before the sale price makes them feel better about buying it.
May. 13th, 2008 12:34 pm (UTC)
Well, I know for CERTAIN that my mats are archival quality, acid-free. I think the mats we sell are acid-free as well, but they only come in so many sizes. (5x7, 8x10, 11x14 and 16x20, I believe. With two different sizes cut into the centers.)

The glass does make a big difference in the price, but I always point out how good this glass will make your art look, particularly after a mat or two. The cheap glass off the shelf doesn't have UV protection so your art will fade. ALL of the "behind the counter" type stuff is UV protective and our standard glass is the more expensive, but it's the best quality out there.

We offer three glasses. Masterpiece, Clear and Reflect something or other. Masterpiece is the best option for something like a shadowbox or triple matting, when your art is farther away. Reason for that being that the other ones are actually sort of grooved to keep down glare, but it blurs your details when you pull away from the glass in the case of shadowboxes and triple matting. I've actually seen this myself. I had some of the cheap stuff to cut and when I went to lay it on the table for a moment, the image got crisper as I got closer to the writing on the paper I was laying it on.

If you decide to put art straight in without any matting, it's a good idea to pick up a package of framer's tape if you can find it. I don't actually recall seeing any of it sold in my store. (I work in Michaels. :P) It's a silvery tape, made of aluminum. It's REALLY sticky, so be careful. You line the INNER part of your frame, where the art will touch the frame. That'll keep any chemicals used in treating the wood from leeching into the art and harming it.

Mostly the big deal about the frames themselves and their price is that you ARE getting a "one-of-a-kind" that needs to be hand built, but the wood is still of the highest quality and the selection is much better compared to stuff on the floor. However, some of the floor frames can be cooler, I'll admit. :P I can't make oval frames or the kind of collage frames where you have a bunch of frames attached together, not just a collage cut mat (I can do that).

A hint? Metal is usually cheaper, but may not always hold together very tightly at the corners, though we try. That can be covered up with some of the corners we sell at the counter, too. Also, for wood, plainer, flatter is usually cheaper. If you want something fancy looking, there's a faux leather wood frame that's one of the cheaper ones that people like for it's professional look.

Hope that helps. :3
May. 14th, 2008 01:20 am (UTC)
Very helpful, thank you!
May. 13th, 2008 04:05 am (UTC)
There's more than ramen? Really?

Seriously though, I have no idea how to price art either and I think it should be something every art school should teach (I haven't checked if mine does, but I will soon).

Standard common sizes for frames are 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, 16x20, 20x30.
May. 13th, 2008 12:35 pm (UTC)
8.5x10.5 and 12x16 are around for frames, too. The 12x16 doesn't have a very big selection that I've ever seen though. Not sure if canvases would come in that size as I'm not much of a painter.
May. 13th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
Wow. She thinks what she offers you would be generous because you're a student? Way for her to stereotype you as both a starving artist and poor student that'd do anything for a buck. :P

Definitely charge for any extra things you have to do like driving out of your way to her.
May. 13th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
I would sit down with her and discuss what she is expecting and for what price. This would probably be a good time to come up with your terms of service. (There was a post here on TOS not long ago?)

Somethings you'll need to factor in is labor, price of your materials, and in this case, travel expenses. If you're worried about her paying, ask her to pay half up front and the other half should be presented upon delivery of the art.

If she decides to screw you over, keep the deposit, and the works for your own gain: A portfolio, a gallery, or for sale. Some flower shops, cafe's or office buildings might buy them from you.

Good luck!
May. 13th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC)
My gut instinct tells me this person's trying to rip you one. Badly. Agreed, $15-20/hour, insist on something along the lines of a 'half now, half later' deal if you get the same feeling as I do, but she agrees on the price.

Unless she plans to pay you in the thousands and the last person was demanding something astronomical, 'generous' is a rather... condescending word.
May. 13th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
I also second the other statements of average per hour rate.

I would also try to determine for yourself a few other things that other artists all have headaches about later on.
Determine ahead of time how many revisions you'll allow, make this VERY CLEAR to her, give it to her in writing and have her sign it if you have to.

Sometimes you even have to make it clear just what the commission is for, such as medium and how many pieces. Make sure she knowns she can't just change her mind and expect not to pay for it.
May. 13th, 2008 04:46 am (UTC)
For one, refuse her offer if you possibly can. While the customer is definitely entitled to a few things, stereotyping you as a vastly lesser artist (art student) and downplaying the effort and time taken to make a piece of original art are definitely not some of those things. She doesn't deserve your work if she's gonna be a twit like that.
May. 13th, 2008 06:35 am (UTC)
Not much left for me to say as the others have said it eloquently; set a minimum hourly wage, charge for supplies including travel expense. Get at least half up front, though judging from her story about the other artist you might want to charge all up front.

You're not a beggar she's throwing change at, don't let her treat you as such.
If she doesn't think what you can do is difficult, she's welcome to pick up pencil and paper anytime and do it herself.
May. 13th, 2008 07:45 am (UTC)
art service pricing
I would agree with most everyone here that you should ask a certain dollar amount per hour, and then figure out how many hours you think it will take you to make this art. Over time you will get a feel for how long it takes you to make your art originals and how long a certain size and how many figures are in it will take. I got to that point and then I averaged out my hours. Like it will take me 16 hours to make this art for this person, 16 x $15 ( or more) should be your base price. I now always use a contract form, it has certain things each side expects, I do this much work I get paid even if they cancel the project. This keeps them from backing out, and you get the money up front for that part of the job. Like say the first 3rd of the job, the sketches part, you get paid for, they review it, and sign off on whether they like them or need changes. First change is free, after that all changes cost so much. Then you get to the next level of painting the piece, collect the n1/2 of the full payment of the money and do the work. If they are happy you give art and they pay on delivery/pickup. If they are not happy and they want minor changes, do them for free, if they want major changes, like another bunny added or the old truck dad owned put in back you charge for that. I hate to say it, but if you ever saw a high class prostitute's price menu every thing she does for you has a price, you can check what you want, each has a price for that performance and the bill gets totaled up payment for services please. We are not art whores but if they get paid well we should too. ( silly little observation I noticed about pay schedules)
May. 13th, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)

I think everyones already said what I would on wages, but most important is that you get a contract up front and make sure reproduction rights are specified in there. If she wants the copyrights it costs more.

Don't do any work unless a price is agreed upon in writing, a contract made and you have some sort of materials deposit.
May. 14th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
-agrees with lilenth and everyone else-

If you do it at an hourly rate, I would be sure to record everything that you do for her, including driving, buying supplies, framing etc, at an hourly rate, and write down the price. Then organizing it all on an invoice when you are done. That way if she asks you why it was so much, then you have proof that you were working for all those hours. Don't be afraid to stick up for all the hard work you put into it.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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