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Submitted on
December 16, 2013


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Alright, so there was a recent 'happening' in the dA forums concerning a commission offer made by someone with the starting price of $30. The piece they were asking for was supposedly a really highly detailed piece, large resolution, and basically something you'd spend (on the low end of the market) no less than $250.00 on. 

Now, from here on out this may be purely opinion and because my participation in the industry has only been for about 10 years (as in being paid for my work) I may not be the best person to speak on this matter. However, I have to say something, if only to put my own opinions on the matter out there. 

15 years ago I got my first commission. It was a full colour realism portrait for someone of their dog and I offered to do it for $5.00 using traditional media.
They took up the offer and it took me about a week of working on and off to finish their image. At the time I wasn't anywhere near being sure of my skills even though I'd been drawing comprehensively for nearly 15 years at that point. I was always told I had talent and a natural gift but to me art was I grew up being taught that 'art won't get you anywhere but in the poor house' as a kid so again, my understanding of things was very much askew. I didn't know there was a whole commune of artists out there who were paid actual decent wages for their work. 
Anyway, I digress... 
The portrait took a week of work and by the end of it I was proud of it. It really was professional quality since animals were/are more my forte. I was good at them at the time so that showed in my work. I gave the portrait to the customer and was paid my meager wages but it didn't matter for the money. It was more the satisfaction of being paid to do something I loved. 
2-3 years later I was again approached to do some artwork of people's pets. By then my skills had been more homed in on animals and I'd taken it upon myself to learn more on how to draw them and techniques for portraits of animals. The portrait I did a couple years prior was shadowed and dwarfed by what I could do by then. 
When I was asked to do more portraits I kept taking them for $5 thinking if I kept it at a steady and low rate I'd keep my customers happy and keep them coming back. For a while that worked but I received a huge wake up call soon after when another artist approached me. She had seen the portrait I'd done of her's friend's cat and she'd found out I'd only charged $5 for the image. At first she was polite and we talked about how I'd learned things and how long we'd been doing art (she'd been doing it for about 50 years at the time and was a professional designer for some various company, can't remember which one). Finally, after talking for a bit she came down hard and said I was basically a great artist but failure of businessman; no surprise there to be honest. However, it gutted me to hear such a thing merely because it sounded worse than it was intended to. 
I don't remember the exact words she said but they were somewhere along the lines of 'If you want to be a serious artist you have to know what you're worth and you have to stick to your guns on that or you'll fail to make it in the industry'.
At the time it went in one ear and out the other because I wasn't in it for the money, I was just a kid drawing people's pets. 
However, the basis of what that woman said stuck with me for some years after and I soon began to calculate pricing more and more, even if I still charged only $5-$10. 
Moral of the story? There isn't one. At least not at this point.

A lot of younger artists out there think that their work isn't worthy of charging anything more than $1-$5 an hour (or less even), but the fact remains that if you spend more than an hour on anything, it is. 
The term 'Professional' doesn't start and end with being paid for your work. Professionals often do good/great work that exceeds the average level where 'handymen' reside. A professional plumber is called professional because he/she knows what they're doing. A professional Electrician is called a professional because he's studied his trade and knows the codes for his/her industry. 
Professional artists are the same basic principle, but because there's the term 'artist' in the job title it's often times people think 'lazy' or 'playtime'. 
If you want to be considered professional you have to act and understand professionalism. I'm not talking about getting work done on time, that's a given. I'm talking about knowing how to stick to your guns and don't let people walk over you or guilt you into doing work for less than what you normally charge. 
You can't walk into a Walmart and ask them to drop the price on an item because you saw it cheaper at a Dollar General store. If the item costs $50 then you'll pay $50 (+tax) on the item. (EDIT: Okay, apparently most Walmart stores WILL price match anything, but for the sake of random picking, we'll keep the store name and pretend they don't, haha! XD /EDIT)
Artists should be no different if they don't want to be. If an artist's going rate is $20 an hour; a price still below industry standard, but for standards sake given the demographic of this website we'll level it here, you shouldn't try to guilt or haggle for them to drop it down $10-$15 so you can afford it. 
You can't afford it you save up for it if you want it that badly. Don't expect them to lower their going rate to please you. You don't walk into a car dealership with $1,000 and expect to drive away in a Lamborghini. You pay for quality and that car costs a lot because it's an awesome ride and it's parts are precision made and often imported. You want a car for a grand, you'll get a lease on a 2003 Ford Focus. THAT you can haggle for. 

Don't gripe and groan because an artist doesn't want to lower their prices to meet your needs. They need to eat, drive, live, and pay bills just like you do (given you actually do these things yourself; if not then you're certainly in no position to ever try to haggle prices when they're already low). 
You're not buying a bushel of apples at a farmer's auction, you're buying something NO ONE else will have.
A piece of individual art customized just for you. No one else in the world will have exactly what you have when you buy a piece of art from an artist. They may have something similar but you'll be able to retain the original rights to the image having paid for it to be made. (Or  at least what's in the image if it's your character(s), and you can pay a little extra to own the copyright IF you truly want full ownership). 
After several years of allowing myself to be low-balled and guilt-tripped into accepting only charging $2-$5 an hour for my work I decided to end it and just stop taking on commissions for a while. I made it a pact to work until my art could be worth more and at this point my going rate for non-online commissions is $25 an hour, and even then.... that is far less than industry standard. However, I've not got the diploma or certificate that says I went to school for Some+ years for art. Still, for as long as it takes me to do the work and the amount of effort and thought that goes into it, to charge any less would be stupid.
At my other job I get $10 an hour and I've only been doing it professionally for 2-3 years. It would be stupid for me to charge less for something I have been doing for 20+ years.

I mean, if someone asked you to work on something for 8 hours and they would only pay you $.50-$1.00 an hour (that's $8 for a whole day)... Would you do it? I mean really, would you? 

Fact is the art industry suffers because if the artists themselves. Where one person will charge $50 for something, another will offer up to do the same thing of lesser quality and faster for $10. Customers offer to pay set prices, often far less than the amount of time and work will go into what they want in return, and young artists looking to make a quick penny eat it up and snatch the opportunity to be paid. Even if it's far less than what their work is actually worth.
Many times people scheming to get art get what they want because people aren't willing to call them out on their BS on account that charging more would mean they'd not get customers.
A Ferrari costs a lot but they still sell them. Mustangs, Chargers, and Escalades cost a lot and those get sold. 
Why/How? Because people who want them save up their money to get them
well built cars are works of art and as such you pay for them accordingly. 
Oh, if you want something curb your apprehension you can buy a Dart in place of a Charger but it won't be the same as owning a Charger. 
If you want a Mustang you save up for a Mustang. 
If you want a piece of artwork, save up for it. 

Whining and griping about how artists are charging too much for something doesn't make the industry look good at all and it's insulting to those that spend hours and hours at their craft. 
Your toilet blows up all over the walls you don't call a plumber and say she charged you too much to clean up the mess. You get what you pay for. Want to get the job done quick without having to pay? Tough, because no one is going to scrape your crap (or your neighbors' crap) off the walls without being paid. 
Or, you do it yourself and run the risk of not having proper materials or know-how to do it right. 
Customers who try to set prices are what make the market hard to deal with and work in. "I'll pay you $40 to draw these 20 characters." -- Would you take the job? More so if you knew you'd spend at least a few weeks getting all the work done? 
As someone who has been in that position let me tell you something: DON'T DO IT. Don't ever be desperate enough to accept $1 an hour. Minimum wage in the US is $7.25-$8.25, and it may jump to $10.00 in the next 1-2 years. 
Waitresses make $5+ an hour but that's only because they often make tips which on a good day they can hold $70-$100+ in their pocket. 
Working for $1 an hour is slave wages (not even). I don't care if you're 13 or 31+, if you spend more than an hour on a drawing CHARGE. MORE. THAN. A. DOLLAR. 
When I have a work day for art I wake up at 7am and work on art until around 3-4pm. It's like any other job. When I have work for my other job I wake up at 6am and work until about 5-6pm. 
There is little difference other than what the job entails (one I sit and draw, the other I work with electrical equipment). Both require a great deal of concentration but also a great deal of knowledge and skill. 
Don't let the gimmicks of being 'broke', 'poor', or 'too young to afford' fool you. I couldn't go up to Shadowwolf or CoyoteMange and whine or guilt them into lowering their prices because I'm broke 'but I really love your art~!'. They're professionals of their trade and they've got the skill and marks to prove it. They don't have to take any drops in pricing unless THEY offer it. They're not obligated to appease me because I'll flatter them and 'give them business by telling friends'. They're already well known as it is. Not to mention how could they trust that I wouldn't just say that to try and sweeten my bargain? 
However, as someone who respects them as artists and professionals I am saving up money to commission BOTH of them when I can actually afford to pay THEIR wages, not ones I wish they'd take. 

End case and point, seeing so many great artists of every age bracket charging so little and seeing how much customers try to low-ball and 'haggle' just makes me sad. Not only for the fact it's making the industry more and more difficult to work in but also because artists whose work is absolutely amazing are letting their talent and time be taken advantage of. 
Yes, there's a million and one artists out there in this day and age but that's still no excuse to be pinching pennies or calling foul play for their prices being too high. A lot of artists work to pay for their life. The money they make pays their rent, feeds their family, pays their bills, and medical expenses. Not every artist that charges money goes out and buys an xBox or a big screen TV. Even then, it's their money and if they earned it who gives a hoot on what they spend it on? 
$1-$5 an hour isn't savvy business, it's poor business tactic because not only are you being played, you're lowering the bar for your industry and every other artist within it. Sooner or later people won't even want to pay for art; in fact many don't! 
Don't get played. Be smart and respect yourself and your work. If people don't want to pay your price then fine, they don't have to. They can go find someone who'll do their work for peanuts but YOU aren't going to contribute to the decline of the industry you love to be a part of, right? 
Stick to your guns. Don't be played for a fool. If we want the industry to build itself again WE have to stop being so easy to fool. 

You're welcome to place an opinion on the matter in the comments but please, realize that what I've said is mostly MY views and opinions on the matter. I'd appreciate it if I wasn't attacked or yelled at for them as my intention isn't to cause problems but merely to state my opinion. 
Be nice to others who may disagree with your own opinions/views and respect that other people may view things differently. 

Thank you for your time, 

EDIT -- PS: Some artists may be fine with haggling prices. If they're willing to do this then more power to them and that's fine. Most artists don't and won't want to if they have set prices.
Thing is, my prices are adjustable to an extent but I'd prefer people pay the price as is since I usually price them reasonably anyway. 
Yes, there is the 'problem' of over charging for work that's not really worth it's weight in salt. However, you have to factor in two things: Is the price really that outrageous when you factor it all in? 
You're not obligated to buy from that person. If their prices are too high in your opinion then find an artist that you think has the work quality you'd like at a price that more matches your budget. 
Simple as that. 

dA Points, while convenient are a blemish on commission's standards. I know I know, people will boo and hiss at that but it's true. Many people think 1 point = $1.00 which isn't true at all.
100 points = $1.00 
It may seem like 500 dA points is a lot to pay but it's only $5! I've seen people charging 100 points for a full blown illustration and it's frustrating because it's like 'You realize you worked 10+ hours on this for $1.00, right?' Gaining experience and clientele aside, that's just ridiculous. Measure your skill and price accordingly, not to keep customers.
If they REALLY want/love your work they will come, trust me. People respect someone who prices things as they should be priced. You buy the better steak because it's better, and if you can't afford it you go without until you can. That or you buy ground round, haha!
Customers WILL come and as you improve and hone your skills more and more you will get more and more business. Exposure isn't always about being popular or a fluke timing chance. It's about advertising and broadening your audience. There's a TON of groups centered around helping with commissions and getting them. Join them, they're designed to help and will.
dA points are fine and dandy when you price things accordingly. If you're unsure use the one of many points calculation converters dA has to offer.
Come on now, don't think you're not worthy of it. If you're going to price your images at $.50-$1.00 you may as well not charge at all to be honest. You're not making any money and you'd have to take on 10 commissions to earn anything.
Not to sound mean on that or anything but really, what's the point if you're working for basically peanuts/free? $1.00 is a lot of money to a 2-3 year old, don't dumb yourself down because you don't feel your work is worth it. When you put time, love, effort, and thought into your art, it's worth a whole ton more than just one dollar.  

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snarkypicklekitty Jan 22, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
i'm too scared to do commishes cos i know i'm gonna screw something up D; and also i go through spells of not being able to draw as nicely, which sucks a lot.
and i wouldn't wanna give someone art that wasn't drawn as well as my other content. that would be rude.
SnowStarStripes Jan 5, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I understand and agree with all of this but I've always had trouble pricing my point comisskins and so they end up low. Im just really not sure how to price my art.
Pervy-Peppermint Jan 1, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Ah, I see. But I guess the problem is for me, and maybe people feel the way I feel, if that if we higher our prices that no one will want to buy it. It's kind of nerve racking to pick your prices since you're the artist and not the consumer, and raising your prices then not getting any commissions is kind of devastating.

but um, on another note, if someone could help me maybe with commission prices, it would be amazing ;;u;;/ ))
ArtySquare Dec 25, 2013  Student General Artist
deli73123 Dec 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Very very true, excellent job sir.
Angrysquid99 Dec 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Would anyone be willing to look at my work and tell me how much it is worth? I have never sold a piece of artwork in my life and probably never will seeing as art is a hobby and I want to be in the nfl. But it would be cool to know how much so of my stuff is worth. Thank you :)
I don't think you're ready to sell them and so they don't have a price. Some of your works, like your Darth Maul, look really good, but some of them just don't have that 'finished' feel to them. Works such as Leia need more value on them in my opinion; works like the latest green-coat anime character need work on shading with colours. You're still 14 and if you keep drawing you could really improve.

But nfl gets in the way I guess! Best of luck with that. :b
Angrysquid99 Jan 4, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
NFL does get in the way haha thanks for the advice
Pervy-Peppermint Jan 1, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Your art is gorgeous!
I would AT LEAST say 5$, and probably much much more ;;u;; ))
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