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Forums > Art & Creativity > Commissioning Help

For the majority (I.e., all) of my time creating art, I have been utterly horrible about 2 things: Actually opening myself up to taking commissions, which I have wanted to do for years, and figuring out fair prices for what I can do.

Offering commissions is the whole typical confidence issue, foremost, and I'm forever paranoid that I won't be able to deliver things on time (or the whole.. live up to expectations). I've seen too many horror stories about failed commissions and I'd really like to not end up in that category. Like.. ever. Up to now, if I accept any payment, it's usually low, but a lot of what I do has been for practice. So my first inquiry to the artists in the community, is how did you find your confidence, and what tricks/ tips do you have to help manage your work load so you don't end up burning yourself out, upsetting your commissioners, or fail to meet delivery deadlines?

Second question is the always frustrating one. For me, the confidence issue makes me always feel that what I can do isn't worth a lot. I know that logically, its as much an artists time spent to learn the skill as it is the time it takes to finish a piece that equates the price of a commission (give or take). But I know myself, and I know I'll undercut, and it is eternally aggravating.

For some examples of what I can do, click here:








So my second question: How do you figure out your prices so they are as much fair to you as an artist as they are fair to the people commissioning? And a question to anyone who commissions artwork, what would you deem fair for designs like the ones above, be they pixels, logo concepts, or character designs? (I also do 3D work, props mostly, but thats a whole different kettle of fish I am not going to even attempt at this point).

I see at least some of that easily being $30+.

How you price partly depends on what you want to do. If you want to try making at least a partial living off of this, you'll need to do some math; otherwise, it's probably okay to just try to match roughly what others are asking for similar work.

The math: add up your expenses (cost of living, cost of any subscriptions or licenses you need to maintain, etc), divide by the amount of time you actually want to spend working on things, figure about how much time/effort goes into a piece, and round the resulting price up so you're not stuck in survival mode. If you have other income, you can include that to lower what your final price will be if you want to encourage more commissions. If your commissions are just something for fun, a higher price will help to better protect your time.


So, I actually talked with another artist hoping to get into commissions about... a month or so back? They had actually no clue where to go with commission work / wanted to know the bare basics about how it worked, etc. etc. - A lot of information. So much that I compiled it into a google doc (here's the link if you want to read all of it)

Hopefully these help answer your questions! If you have any questions or anything, please don't hesitate to DM me <3

If you'd rather NOT go through an entire google doc, here are the specifics that pertain to your specific questions!:

Confidence and Scheduling

This is a very personal thing on each artist's journey. I'm not even 100% confident in my own work, even though I'm very happy with where I am right now. There's no right answer here.

However, I'd say the best way to gauge whether you're ready to open commissions is consistency. If you're wildly all over the place with how regular (or not so much) your art is from a quality stand point, then work on quality control first before dipping your toes into commissions.* If you feel like you've got a pretty solid foundation to work on? Then go for it.

*'Solid foundation' and 'consistency' doesn't mean you can't try new things in your art. It just means that the quality is generally the same. If you're going to experiment with a style - not a technique - then be sure to let your client know / ask for your client's approval before hand. EX: If you're going to try soft shading instead of cel shading, this is fine, so long as your quality stays the same. If you're going to switch from clean lines to sketch lines, cel shading to a painterly style, change the ways you draw the face completely, etc. etc. and completely warp your style, then definitely ask your client if they're okay with these changes before hand. ... hopefully that makes sense.

As for scheduling / keeping your timing with commissions consistent? Be honest with your client(s). If you know that finishing, say, a bust piece will take you three days, then give yourself a little wiggle room when your client asks how long it will take. If it usually takes you 3 days? Say 5-6 days. This way, it gives you some wiggle room in case minor issues pop up, and worst case scenario is that your client is pleasantly surprised with an early delivery! NOW: If something pops up that makes your time table get thrown COMPLETELY out the window, then be honest with your client. I have yet to have a client where I've said "Hey, I'm so sorry to say this, but your piece is going to take a while longer than I had anticipated. XYZ emergency / life / etc. came up. Your piece is going to be on hold for <insert expected time here>, but I will get back to you as soon as I can with updates / your art piece!". Clients, despite the fear that artists have, are usually very understanding that life happens. If they aren't understanding and throw a fit about it? You have absolutely every right to refund the money and move on if absolutely necessary.

Personally, I try to work on commission pieces once a day, for 30min to an hour a day until they're done. I also take weekends off. Granted, I am an extreme outlier, as I currently don't have a job to fill my day time with - art is my day job right now. You know you're schedule better than anyone - if you can only work on weekends, then try to get a good chunk of your commissions done on weekends (if you work in stages, try getting a stage done! Work on finishing a sketch to get out to your client. Then the next weekend, finish linework! Then the next, color! Etc. etc.). Whatever your schedule, do some introspection and figure out what's best to do for you.

This being said, be sure to take some personal time here and there! Do you only have weekends to work on art? Take one day to work on client pieces, take another to work on personal stuff! Do you have evenings free? Take an hour for client work, an hour for yourself. Etc. Etc. - Make sure to make time for yourself. As fun as client work can be, it can also burn you out if you don't allow time for personal pieces here and there. These allow your brain to breathe, so to speak <3

Cost / Pricing

COST - Honestly, my commissions are... bare bones cost for how much time it takes to make them. I take minimum wage ($7.25 where I am), time my work, and then do the math and then round it up slightly as I like. Most of my commission prices are literally half a dollar or less rounded UP from what my work time x min. wage is. Most artists will charge more to account not only for time used, but also for materials, level of skill, etc. But I don't feel like I get enough clients to really charge much more than minimum wage.

A random little thing I also usually base my prices on is confidence (re: quality). By this point in my art journey, I know I can do a bust-piece no problem and it’ll look awesome. I charge more for those (from a min.wage x time standpoint) than I do fullbodies, which I’m not 100% confident in at this point, so those are just barely above what I would make min.wage x time; Quality is a huge thing to take into account (Although if someone’s commissioning you, they probably are taking your style / quality into account, so… quality isn’t quite the correct word? This is getting confusing, I’m sorry lol, I’m bad at explaining moving on…)

Anything on top of base prices is additions, like backgrounds costing extra, additional clothes / details / animals / extreme posing / etc. costing extra… stuff like that.

I also charge depending on stage of commission and level of product. So… sketches cost less than a finished illustration. Lineart on a bust costs less than lineart on a fullbody, stuff like that.

EDITED for EXPLANATION: So where I am, minimum wage is $7.25 per hour of work done.

So if I can finish a fully illustrated bust piece (let’s say chest up, no extra armor or fancy details, just a good ol’ bust piece with some basic cell shading) in two hours (on average, this is how long it takes me to pump out a basic bust), then my base cost of those pieces is 7.25 x 2 = $14.50; At this point, I can raise this price if I feel so inclined. For example, my busts don’t go for the $14.50 base cost, but instead go for about $20. This is because (as stated above), I know my bust pieces are always going to look good, they’re always going to be high quality; These are what I am good at, best at, I’ve been working in busts since I started art in the first place. I have the most practice here, I know that the quality is going to be higher for a finished bust illustration, so I raise my price from $14.50 to $20. This is more of a “How I feel I should price it” type of thing more than anything else. In the end, my bust piece, in the given example type, end up closer to 7.25 x 3 than x2, but since the cost of a commission goes not only towards time, but should also count for materials, experience, etc., this is fine, and a normal thing artists tend to do. Gotta pay them bills.

In some occassions, I'll go way out of my normal time zone when doing art pieces. A while back, I did a bust piece that I went sort of crazy with and ended up spending nearly six hours on it, which is crazy compared to my normal 2-ish hours I spend on a piece. It wasn't particularly complex or detailed, I just sort of went a little crazy with the lighting. I still charged my regular price for this piece, not because it wasn't worth more, but because it was an outlier. If you do 10 pieces, and 9 of them take you ~2-3 hours, but one random one takes you ~7 hours, with no extra detail and you just sorta had fun with it, then I don't recommend charging extra for that product; However, if that product took longer because of extra details (ex: complicated armor, extra characters, foreshortening, background, whatever), then definitely charge more for it!

So I'm not an artist, but I have a lot of artist friends and I'm very much into "people getting paid fairly" (unless it's me, in which case I will accept your underselling price because I'm broke).

One thing you need to consider is minimum wage for your area. You also need to consider how much time each piece takes. If minimum wage is, say, 8 dollars, and you spend 4 hours on each piece, that's 8x4=32, and right around 30 dollars is the bare MINIMUM you want to charge for it. Otherwise, you're undercharging yourself. Though there are... exceptions and circumstances to that. That don't apply to you - your art is quality.

Your larger pieces, in my opinion, are solidly around 50$; I would be willing to pay that (although it would take some saving and time on my end, and would be a 'big purchase' for me. RIP the broke life).

Pixel art tends to be considerably LESS than other works, which makes sense considering it tends to be smaller and... I don't want to say it's "less work" but... different? Idk. 5-10$ is good for smaller pieces, but your pixel art has a lot more details than your 'average' pixels... maybe half of what you want to charge for your art? Like 20-25$? That would be my guesstimate anyway.

As for logos, I have no earthly idea. (:

...anyway, hope my insight helps, although DarkCrow is obviously the resident expert here, heh. Just figured someone who isn't an artist might provide a certain view on the topic.

Also: furry community. If you can get good at drawing anthropomorphic animals, the furry community throws a tooooonnnn of money at anyone who arts. Every artist I know raves about how generous and fair they are when it comes to the art scene. So that is a pretty good option in that case.

Sincere apologies for the delayed reply! Things have been hectic irl this past week.

@Novalyyn - Thank you for the helpful insight. Right now doing commission work would be more.. supplemental income to my full time job, if that makes sense? I work as a screenprinter irl, and while it is full time, it doesn't come with benefits, so as far as a 'plan' goes, I'd like to do something I really love to help supplement some expenses like insurance for cars or health in some form or fashion.

@DarkCrow - That document was super helpful! I really appreciate you linking it. There was a lot of helpful information to pour through.

@Kunabee - You're insight definitely did help! And thank you for taking the time to offer it.

I really appreciate everyones input. Its definitely given me a good place to really start mapping things out. The confidence thing.. is still a work in progress, but the math stuff makes a little more sense now. Thank you all again, sincerely!

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Forums > Art & Creativity > Commissioning Help