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Advice - Commission Pricing

Hello all! I hope this post is okay, and if it is not, I am okay if the mods direct me elsewhere. I have been a long time lurker and first time poster so I would like to do this correctly.

I have done commissions in the past, and I greatly undersell myself but I like the fact that I can get people coming back or enjoying my art one way or another. I do a lot of different things, fandoms, and materials, but most generally stick to digital or traditional things like marker, ink, and pencil.

I have recently been asked to accept a commission from a co-worker of my mother. I do not know this person at all, but I can head out to their place of employment once I find out when they will be there. In the past I've done traditional, realistic portraits of myself and some of a celebrity for a friend. The one that sparked the interest in this type of commission was this piece here: Self Portrait.

This project alone took me a lot of time and effort to make it to where I want it to be, as usually I am a comic/cartoonist artist first. I love the way it came out and of course in the end I was pleased, but for a commission I am a bit lost.

Where should I price something like this? Do people work by the hour (and how much per hour), or a general flat fee and upgraded to how much detail? I don't want to undersell myself, but I don't want to come off as someone who charges a ridiculous amount, either, as I don't want to scare away any future commissioners.

I hope this was clear and if not, I am willing to answer any questions about this. I am currently in progress of writing a ToS so any advice to add something like this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all in advance!

To the mods, I apologize for not adding tags as I continued to get this message: Error updating journal: Client error: Not allowed to add tags to entries in this journal. I will try to add them after posting or some other way.

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( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 23rd, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
Just FYI only Moderators can tag so I did.

Jun. 23rd, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I know some other communities I'm in they make you tag so I just wanted to be sure.
Jun. 23rd, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC)
I'm not an artist or anything, but I'm always of the opinion you should set a rate at which you would like to work at. For example, minimum wage at the moment is approx $8 an hour. Do you think your ability is only worth minimum wage, or do you think it is higher? Also taking into account how long you think you will take for a piece of art... for a two hour job you could perhaps charge $15 an hour?

I hope that makes sense ._.
Jun. 23rd, 2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
That's true! I'm thankful for your comment if you are an artist or not. The problem is mainly myself on that point, though, and I worry about under/over selling myself so maybe minimum wage per hour will be a safe medium. I asked others I'm close to, but seeing how not everyone is an artist, it's hard to get a general idea on what they would do. I guess it's just how many of opinions I get and see where the middle ground is within all of them.

Thank you again for commenting. :)
Jun. 24th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
Personally, I charge hourly. I also have a good grasp of how long certain sizes of projects will take me, which is an acquired skill.

My estimate also takes into account an extra hour's worth of work, to cover revisions and communication with the client. This helps prevent awkward negotiations when the client decides to change something halfway through; It's already paid for, so no big deal. My estimate is also guaranteed, presuming that the client doesn't make excessive revisions, so I won't charge more than my estimate, even if it takes longer for me to complete than I thought.

Don't be afraid to negotiate, but decide what your minimum is, and stick to it. If you don't value your time spent working, no one else will, either.
Jun. 24th, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
I need to get a grasp on how long it takes me to do certain things. I have been out of the art loop for about a year now after getting myself together, so this jump back in will take me time to relearn some things about taking commissions.

Thankfully I can talk to this client in person if need be to see how she reacts instead of trying to decipher it through text. I'll have to figure out what it is exactly the minimum would be and work from there. Seeing as I take longer on something like a portrait in a realistic style, charging by the hour seems fairly reasonable.

Thank you so much for your advice, I really appreciate it.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 24th, 2010 05:00 am (UTC)
I know I'm capable of seeing where I would value my art, but even then I may be underselling myself due to the fact I would like to make the client happy and maybe come back. I've never done portrait work for someone besides myself, especially for a commission, so it's a new area I am unsure of. Considering my other prices are so low, it's hard to jack them up pretty high. Generally it takes a few hours of work over time. Then again, I am a perfectionist so I may work on it every so often with every detail to make it just right. I am going to time myself on this one, and ask for a standard price or go by how many hours, either way it will be substantially more than any other commissions I have done. I have charged as low as $3.00 for an entire drawing so it's hard to push the limits.

That's true. I would have to get specific paper and such to get it coming out like my self portrait. They want a standard 8.5" x 11" but I put borders, too, so it all depends, really.

Thank you for your advice, though! I will be taking this all into consideration as I work this out.
Jun. 24th, 2010 05:50 am (UTC)
$3.00 is way to less!
Don't forget that you're a "skilled worker" (all artists are ... well ... let's say most of them), so your hourly wage should be higher than the minimum wage.
Otherwise you could just go working in a doner kebab shop or cleaning the toilets ...
I think artists should end underpricing themselves like that. Never forget that you're a skilled worker after all. Your art is beautiful, you are talented, so why not charging $20 - $30 per hour?
If you're too unsure, try to raise your prices slowly to see how much people are willing to pay for your art.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 24th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
Well, you'd get about $10 or even only $5 for cleaning toilets in Germany. Sorry, I wasn't taking into account that there might be such big differences in payment depending on the country you live in. :)
And also ... I didn't want to say that cleaning toilets or something like that is wrong, I just say that you should earn more money with skilled work than with unskilled work. And well ... art is luxury, clean toilets are a must. ;)
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 25th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)
Good to hear that, I didn't mean to be offending, either. :)
And yeah, it's really sad to hear that ...
Jun. 24th, 2010 12:48 am (UTC)
Pricing is difficult. Wherever you are, there are usually regulatory art bodies that will actually tell you what the officially recognised hourly rates for amateur, hobby and professional artists should be.

For example, a hobby artist does not charge the same as a professional artist, for an identical piece of work. An amateur artist doesn't either. People are not just paying for your hours of time, they are paying for your craft; and if that craft is represented by a degree, or over several years full-time experience, you are entitled to charge more.

It's not up to us though; what do you think that picture is worth? And what is the most your clients will pay for it? If the discrepancy is too high, there's either misjudgement in the value of the art, or (as is more common), it might be time to find new clients.

As a general baseline though; here in Australia even amateur, non-professional artists are officially entitled to ask for a rate of pay of $27 per hour (according to NAVA), and it goes way, way up from there.

I don't personally charge for an hourly rate, I - like my mentor - charge by size and detail. So I have a base rate for say a 4x5 piece. And then from there, if the detail is more than usual, the price goes up. This is more convenient for me, as I am frequently ill and sometimes only work on pictures for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. If I was constantly monitoring my hourly output, I'd probably lose track and over or under charge. With a flat base fee per size, and then extra for detail, I always know what to charge a customer, and a customer generally always knows what to expect.
Jun. 24th, 2010 05:13 am (UTC)
I need to find more artists to talk to or find a place around here where I can discuss these things with differently leveled artists.

I have been drawing ever since I remember, took art all through out middle school and high school, including AP Studio Art. I went to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon & Graphic Art for a year and now I'm at Kent State University to be an Art teacher. I've been doing commissions for years now, but it's never been for a professional company or anything like that. Sure, I find myself to be a pretty well trained artist so far at where I'm at now, but I still have plenty to learn. So it's a debate, really, on where I stand on what level, or what level others see me at.

I'll have to poke around and see what some general levels of pricing is around here for such a thing. Or stop at the local gallery and ask. Where I am, however, is not the most populated place or at least not for artists.

Size and detail should be considered. They want a standard size so maybe I can see where that goes and how much the work would be worth. I can talk to this client in person so that may be a good start to see what they are willing to pay and where we can take it from there. It's a new client so I worry where there are limits or not, and seeing how it is my mom's co-worker I don't want to come off as too pricey or feel like they can get away with anything.

Thank you though, for your advice and I will be taking it into consideration. This helped a lot and I'm thankful for the long, in-depth comment.
Jun. 24th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC)
Depending on the size of your portrait, at your level of skill I'd charge no less than $100 for a portrait like that (unless it's really small).

I don't know how long it took you, but if you're thinking of going by how much you'd want hourly, you could probably be at the $30 range.

To most buyers this price sounds too high, but speaking from experience most people don't know what art is actually worth. $100 is actually a low price for someone with your level of skill - if you're doing it on A4 paper and your commissioner is strapped for cash you COULD negotiate going for less than that, but I'd be iffy if I were you.

I'd advise against asking at galleries - selling art at a gallery is very different from selling it to an individual buyer. Galleries can sometimes push prices up to exorbitant amounts for profit and the artist sees a very small cut of the final price for the most part.

Basically, as others have said, when valuing art, this is what tends to count:

- The amount of time spent on the piece;
- The amount of detail and overall difficulty;
- The price for the medium you're using (include the cost of pencils and paper on your price if traditional, for instance);
- Your level of skill (you're top tier, you can believe that much);
- The amount of money the commissioner can pay.

Also note that if the commissioner can't pay as much as the piece is worth, you can reduce complexity and charge a smaller price - you shouldn't have to put the full effort into a piece that's not being paid for in full, if that makes any sense.
Jun. 24th, 2010 08:06 am (UTC)
(oh, and that's when selling to private commissioners - when selling art that's going to be resold and whatnot that's a whole other can of worms.)
Jun. 24th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
Take a look at what other artists with similar credentials to yours are charging, and how active they are selling their work. Don't ask a gallery because they usually don't have time to answer such questions.

Here's a good website to consult: http://www.artbusiness.com/pricepoints.html
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


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