* Gaining more experience and ways to improve
* and a few other tidbits
So let's start off with Pricing, shall we?
It seems to be a common problem, more so among younger/novice artists who are looking to start selling their work. It looks pretty easy when you look at the more popular/well known artists who have already established a consumer base and seem to be cranking out commissions left and right. However, let me just clear the air on this before we get started -- Fame isn't everything. Now, I know it may seem like it is the key ingredient to getting customers but that's not the case. Yes, being more well known can help bring in more revenue but it's not what gets you started in the first place.
When pricing your work the main thing you want to think about is how confident YOU are in your own skills. I've found that through talking to them many artists who are new or even younger lack confidence in their work and thus feel their work isn't worth much. BUT, they want to make money with their work just as much as anyone else. I mean, what better way to earn money than by doing what you love?
There is a catch though and it starts with confidence. It's one thing to be humble about your work and willing to openly admit 'I still need to improve on things', but it's another to be a total doormat and say 'I'll never be good enough'.
Well, how would confidence trigger a better response from customers, Kato?
[Here's how... and we'll use a comparison to visualize it for you!]
** Say you're craving a doughnut and you're walking down the street and your see two bakeries, both selling delicious looking doughnuts in their front window. You walk into the first shop and check out their selection and you flag down the owner to ask what they'd recommend. She comes to the counter without much of a greeting and proceeds to tell you the doughnuts available, and pretty much that most of the doughnuts are the regular 'boring' variety but there's a couple that are a bit better than the others.
-- "The Perishings are okay, the Crullers are decent, not too sure about the French, and the long johns are alright. Of course we have the regular doughnuts like the glazed, frosted, and fruit ones which should be okay."
So there you stand with all these 'sub-par' statements about these doughnuts from the owner when she's the one that made them. So, you decide to take a wander across the street to the other bakery, if only to hope the owner there has a bit more confidence in her pastry skills.
So you walk in the door and immediately you see the owner standing there at the counter preening and organizing those delectable Danishes and dippers, gently putting them out for display. You walk up to the counter where a moment later you're met with a small smiling face and a chipper 'Hello, how may I help you today?' You decide to ask the same question as previous and ask "Hello, I'm wondering... what would you recommend today?"
-- "Well, the Danish are fresh and we have a couple varieties including cheese. The Perishings are wonderful, have you ever had one? We also have the local favourites like glazed, frosted, and fruit filled which are all delicious of course. I'd recommend one of these though, they're my personal favourite--" and she reaches in and hands you a luscious looking Apple bear claw.
Moral in question -- Could you tell the difference in presentation in these comparisons?
Now, in commercialism selling you'd probably never hear the first example since it's a well known business hand-me-down that overselling is the key to making a profit. Still, you will find that some places will have better ploys to catch your eye and it's usually with above average confidence in their product/work. Of course I'm not talking about exploitation or overconfidence in their work, as in 'We can do no wrong' but rather 'If you're not 100% satisfied then we will work to make that happen as best we can'.
Selling your artwork is much like selling a doughnut in the fact that if you're not confident enough in your end product's results and you sell your work as such, people WILL notice and it WILL have an effect on what they decide.
There's a different between "I could do that for $10" and "I will do it for $10" -- One is suggestive while the other is solid and resolute; as in you won't take any less or anymore to do the job. The first option opens the deal up for haggling, you see? This is probably why some have an issue with pricing and having customers debating on the worth of a piece.
It all boils down to confidence in your work.
"But Kato, I'm not confident enough in my work, what do I do? I want to make money but if I'm not confident, how should I price my work?"
If you're not confident enough to charge more than $5 for a full piece then don't bother charging money at all because in the end you will only find yourself being overworked and feeling taken advantage of.
Oh, in the beginning it'll feel great, doing what you love and making money while doing it, but let's face the facts. In this day and age $5 won't buy you much, it'll barely buy you a combination meal at a fast food place. If you're looking to make money (real money) doing what you love you will have to work to build up your skills AND confidence enough to be able to sell it with dignity rather than desperation.
If you're not confidence then don't sell it. You don't sell cookies you're not willing to eat yourself and you don't sell the lemonade that may be too sour. You just don't. It's bad business ethics AND it lowers the bar for others who are selling in your same market.
So if you can't fathom selling above $5, don't sell at all. Wait it out and build some confidence first. However, beware of the 'pride' button which is easy to pass and when you're too overconfident you will just come off looking more like a jerk than a business person, like those phone companies that put kiosks in the mall that won't bugger off when you walk past, pestering you about 'we can give you a better plan than the plan you have now!'
So be careful when building confidence in your work, keep it within reason and don't ever forget the fact you can ALWAYS improve and let that fuel your customer service policy.
"If you're not 100% satisfied then I will do all I can to make that happen"
How do I do it? How do I build skills and confidence?
You'd think it's be a no-nonsense concept but this can actually be one of the hardest thing for an artist to do. For the most part artists by nature don't like being told what to do and when we are we try to fight it, fend it off, or feign like we care about other people's opinions on OUR work. In a lot of cases this is a front and in reality we're dying to hear what other people think about our work and we want to be able to have them say 'wow, this is really good!' -- Not as a butt-pat but rather just a sign we're doing something right, as a morale boost.
If you're lacking skills the best way to get better is practice and keep going. Seems pretty easy right? WRONG.
When we fail at something we fail hard. A lot of times we'll bash our heads on the pavement when we can't get a foot right or draw a hand correctly. It's irritating to see something right in front of you and not be able to draw it correctly, or worse, having an idea so clear and vivid in your mind but not being able to do a lick-spittle thing properly when it comes to putting it on a canvas.
Skill isn't necessarily about how many times you succeed but rather now much you fail and still try to find ways to succeed. Skill is about learning and gaining knowledge through fault and failure but persevering regardless until you succeed.
If you're unsure of how to do something, look it up, reference, and do it repeatedly until it becomes easier to do.
Another key point to remember is you will never be 100% satisfied with anything you do, so don't let that stinging bite of 'this is not nearly as good as I want it' discourage you. Confidence comes with wisdom and so does solidarity. When you learn you can do something decently you automatically feel more confident.
"Oh, I have done that before so I can do it again!" -- "Why yes, I can install that sink in your kitchen, I've done it before".
You may wind up having to consult a manual in the end but your confidence speaks volumes more than you think. People want to have someone who has knowledge but confidence in their abilities as well. You don't hire a plumber who will say --
"I don't know, I've never done that before. You may want to hire and expert on this" when it comes to fixing your toilet 'issues'. No, you'd want one that would say -- "I've never done it before but I've done something very similar. If anything I'll consult the ol' trusty manual, there's bound to be answers in there".
Confidence isn't about KNOWING it's about presentation. Do I know I could build a birdhouse? No, could I do it? Yeah!
But, what about the concept of "I'm too good to be true"? Won't that happen eventually?
Only if you're gullible and allow it to happen. I've said confidence, not pride. Pride is "a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements" whereas Confidence is "the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust" -- so inevitably having confidence in your work basically means you believe you can do something and do it well. If you can't you'll do what you can to make it so you can do it well.
When you're too proud of your work you become snobbish and soon you think you're too good and you have no more need or room for improvement. People do NOT like people who are too confident (we're not talking about relationships wise) and in the end if you're too 'high and mighty' you come off like a snob more than anything, so keep your confidence to below 'pride' but above average.
** Wait, I'm confused, what?
Below pride means you're not too into yourself or your skills and Above average means you have enough confidence in your work that you're not going to sell yourself short.
So all this talk about confidence and improvement has got me thinking about something -- once I am more confident and my work is better does this mean I'll start getting more customers? Will they come?
I won't lie to you and say they'll come flooding in. At first you'll find about as many customers flocking to your artwork as water in Death Valley (yes, there is water there but you often have to dig deep to find it).
The last tip is advertising.
Advertising to someone who isn't well versed in the politics of business can seem like an incredible intimidating feat. It seems so easy but then so darn hard too, where to begin?
Simple, begin small. On a website like this where it's centered around 'art' (and other websites as well) the best way to get your foot in the door as they say is to advertise in groups/clubs that specialize in advertising. There's a whole bunch of them on Deviantart and a few on other places as well.
Now, lets be realistic about this -- Advertising won't automatically rake in the revenue at first and you may find it'll take weeks, months, or maybe even a year before your get a bite on your ad but in the mean time expand your reach and advertise in as many groups built on advertising as you can.
When fishing if you want to better your chances of catching something you set multiple poles/lures and eventually one tip-up will flag and ta-da, a fish!
It may take a while but keep confident and remember you're not only one advertising but there is someone who will be looking for exactly what you're offering.
What do I do when I actually get a customer?
* Be nice and welcoming.
* Be honest.
* Be confident.
* Be solid and concise.
1. Be nice and welcoming -- Thank them for coming to you and then ask them what it is they're looking for you to draw. In most cases customers who are serious about a commission won't spill information until you actually offer to take the job. If they come at you in their first message with a huge order to fill, be wary. A lot of customers are trustworthy but some aren't and for some reason I have found that those that do come guns a blazin' first time around are the ones that aren't looking to pay. They're looking for a quick fix for art and will eventually bugger off with the work in hand but no payment. This isn't always the case but again, be wary.
2. Be honest -- If you find yourself unable or unwilling to do the work order the customer is offering be honest and let them know. Don't fake it and pretend like you can because in the end bad things will happen if you do. If you can then be honest in your answers. The key to building trust is knowing when to say 'no' and when to say 'yes'. Customers will be disappointed but they will respect you for being honest.
Be honest about times, schedules, payments, and your abilities as well.
3. Be confident -- Once you take the job be confident you can do it and let them know 'Of course, I can do it :] It shall be fun!'. Even if it'll take a bit more work to get it right keep the vision of possibility open.
4. Be solid and concise -- Be solid on your end of things and don't waver too much. Customers are less likely to mess around with someone who will not budge too far in their prices and times, but be a little flexible. Remember, you're giving YOUR time away to do this work so be sure you have a solid review on being about to do it and be steadfast in doing it. If a customer says 'Well, I'll need it sooner' remind them of the time agreed upon at the commencement of the commission and say "I planned my schedule around making this image by that date. I can try to manage it for earlier but at this point I'd advise you to look into another artist. When you find one who can and will do it by the date you require, let me know and I will refund you your money".
When you take on a task make sure you actually schedule time to manage it in the time you have.
I'm speaking from personal experience when I say this as I have had it happen many times before now where I just went willy-nilly on timing and eventually I wound up taking forever to do something.
When a customer and you agree on getting a piece done in 2 weeks then make sure you're willing and ready to do so. If you aren't given a time limit then make sure you give yourself enough time to do the piece but also keep it reasonable to where your customer won't be waiting forever to see their piece.
Advertising is about broadening your audience and bringing in customers. Doing a banner advertising your best pieces helps give a potential customer a visualization example of what they can expect from you and it's a flashy yet sensible way to advertise as it's a bit like a commercial.
Chart making also helps as well -- something like this: (small thanks to Grypwolf since your chart is nice and simple so I used it) helps to also give a small visual example beside the price spent. Also notice that there is a couple extra sections posted as well -- "Policy" and "How-to commission me". These sections can vary from artist to artist depending on personal preference and such, but it's wise to always have a 'Terms of Service' on hand to present to a potential customer so they are aware of the 'do's and don'ts' of your work and commissioning you. Just so they are aware of the rules beforehand.
So, how would I actually go about pricing my artwork fairly but respectfully?
I was told that the lowest a hobbyist artist should go is $10 and the highest is $500(+) -- and it honestly mostly depends on skill and abilities. Comparing prices to other artists DOES HELP so do it. Look at prices of artists whose skills are below, similar, and above yours and then see where you fit in.
Remember, if you have confidence in your work at this point you should be able to look and say "Okay, so they're charging $40 for something like this, I'm at about the same skill level so I will charge about $35-$40 as well."
Don't dumb down your prices to rake in customers, that is a HUGE no-no and most of the time you'll find it'll do more harm than good.
DeviantART has an online currency called 'Points' which are often mistranslated and miscalculated, and many people think 1 dA point = $1.00(USD) which is completely wrong. 100 points wouldn't = $100.00, it only equates to $1.00
100 Points = $1.00
400 Points = $5.00
800 Points = $10.00
1,600 Points - $20.00
8,000 = $100.00
** If you're unsure of how much equates in $'s here's two handy 'Points to Money' converters dA has to offer --
fav.me/d46ifd5 and fav.me/d30haz0
When I say 'pricing respectfully' I mean pricing so you yourself are actually making a profit rather than just working for pennies when it comes to hourly wage. Charging $5.00 for a piece that will take you over 2 days to complete means you would be barely making anything had it been an hourly wage. You'd be working for nothing which is unfair.
Respect yourself as an artist and a tradesman/woman. You're an artist, not a slave so work for money, not for the sake of working. You're looking to earn money by charging and so what is the point if in the end you're not actually making that much money?
Think about it.
But I just want to make a small bit while learning/I do it for the practice.
Then take art trades or requests instead.
It sounds cruel and mean but let's think this over logically. What benefit do you get from charging people when in reality you could just gain experience by taking requests or art trades for free? "I earn a bit of money" -- Yeah, okay.. How much? (And) Is it really worth it?
A huge issue with the art market is there's so many artists out there and many of them are vying for work in a large market with many takers. As charging artist you are literally 1-2,000,000 or more, meaning there's that many more artists looking for work besides you. The market is unpredictable and hard to make it in unless you know what you're doing.
As a novice or a beginning it's best to just keep to doing requests or art trades to 'gain experience' and improve your skills rather than charging a small amount of money. You'd basically be charging people for your to learn something.
dA points are another ball game in this area and in many cases since it's online currency, and despite you can convert them to $'s, the end net profit of them is so low it's barely worth it unless you're earning thousands of points at a time.
I've seen people arguing certain things aren't worth 20 points while other things aren't worth 2,000 points.
Again, convert the amount and see how much someone is really paying/making in the end, most of the time you'll find it's just pennies; pocket change.
Now let's look at it from the other end of the spectrum for a moment:
As a customer you're never obligated to buy from someone if you think they're charging too much. As I said before there's 2,000,000+ more artists out there looking for customers so expand your selections and find the artist who charges just right and does work you like.
Don't expect an artist to be too flexible when it comes to set price commissions and be wary of those who are a little too flexible as they may very well do your work but it will be below the work advertised as a result.
It's one thing to argue against a few dollars but it's another to ask a price be dropped from $100 to $40 on account of you can't pay that much. Wait it out, if you really want it, save up for it.
There is a HUGE no-no that I have encountered before and that is 'haggling' -- dropping the price on account of 'I personally don't think it's worth that much'. Look, you haggle for a refrigerator or a vase that on account that one hums loudly and the other has a chip in the lip, but they both still work. Haggling for artwork is a HUGE insult in most cases because you're basically telling the artist 'I don't think your work is worth that much'. Art is hard work whether you'd like to admit it or not. An artist is basically concentrating for a long period(s) of time and not only that they'er executing skills that many have worked years to develop. Your saying 'I don't think it's worth it' is just rude. So don't 'haggle'. Ask if they're willing to drop the price a tad ($1-$3) but if they don't want to then don't press it. Pay their price or shove off and find someone else. Nothing personal, just business.
Well this concludes this area of these articles. I may come back and edit things and add to them but for now this is what I've got.
Please refrain from --
* asking me to price things for you
* attacking me for these suggestions.
While you're welcome to disagree and you're welcome to display alternatives, don't take it or make it personal. Be kind, nice, and helpful if you can otherwise don't say anything at all. Keep it clean and informative.