I have a particular interest in artists that offer commissions. And one thing that seems to be particularly common and bothering is the price they put in their work.
Undercharging is not only harming the artist it is harming the community as a whole. It is harming the market and makes people believe that they are scammed if someone decides to charge an honest amount for their work. If you don't get commissions maybe you need to get more recognition not lower your prices. Don't ever belittle your talent.
That being said I am writing this because I feel like many artists arrogating cheated because they are desperate for money. Don't let yourself fall into that trap. Your work is just as valuable as anyone else's and you should get appropriate compensation. It doesn't matter that this is your passion. If you go to a tailor or hairdresser do you ask yourself if they like what they do? Probably not. You have a talent and you should get a fair amount of money for your work.
I live in one of the most expensive countries but I try to overlook that when I look at other people's offers. So here is a compact guide to pricing your own work.
(Mind you this is a guide for high quality artists, I see many people with questionable skills asking for 1$ or 3$ for a full illustration. That doesn't help you or anyone else. You are just destroying the market and people's perception. Spend more time on practising and then ask for a fair price for your work.
Firstly you have to take into account the price of materials. That includes art supplies, paper, canvas, but also electricity (you need light right?) and anything else you might have to pay for during the process. If your art is digital it is fair to charge the customer a fraction of what you paid for the software license. And a fraction of the price of a graphic tablet, computer and whatever else you need. If you need paper and pen to do the initial sketch that goes into costs. If you need a scanner - same thing. For durable goods you only charge a small fraction of the whole price, after all you get to use it again and again.
If you need special materials just to finish someone's request, that you do not own and you are unlikely to use again it is fair to charge the full price for them after informing the client. If you spend money or time (time is money after all) to go to an art supply store especially for that commission that should also be included in the material cost.
After considering the cost of materials, your wage kicks in. Materials is not something you make any money on, but this is the part that matters.
What many artists do not understand is that they have something to bargain with, they have a talent that other people don't have. Just like skilled programmers will get a job more easily, or experienced bank tellers you have something other people can't do and most of them can't even learn to do.
You should consider the time you spend on a picture and charge AT LEAST the minimum wage for every hour of your work. Now this is something that varies a lot between countries but for comparison's sake you should probably take US minimum wage into consideration.
It's one way to make it more universal and even though it might not be entirely fair (Australia's minimum wage is much higher than US and many other countries pay a lot less for your time) but we have to make it comparable somehow. Why should you get less than equally skilled artist just because they live somewhere else? Some people will get less based on that some will get more. That can't be helped. I am in the "get less section" but I still believe it is a fair way to make it universal.
So let's take the US minimum wage and multiply it by the number of hours you spend on it (sketch and redraw included).
Any extras should be charged accordingly. Anything out of your comfort zone you will probably spend more time on. Charge more.
Consider the medium, the theme, how comfortable you are with it. Consider how tight your schedule is. Consider what can you gain here. If it's a commercial project you charge more. But maybe it can get you some exposure and benefit you in other ways. You might get more clients. That is something that you should consider and lower your price. Is it a returning client? Consider discounts for loyal customers and bulk orders.
Does the client want to buy the copyrights? For how long? Partial license? That bumps up the price significantly. You might not be able to use it in your portfolio. They might not have to credit you. If they get money on your artwork and you don't get publicity charge a LOT more. After all it is your work and you can't even show it off.
Another thing to consider is how well known you are. How much could you gain from potential publicity. The more popular and known your name is the more you should charge.
If someone wants the original you have to be extra careful with the paper. No wrinkles, no photoshop only the best quality will do. Extra packaging, plus postage. This costs, and makes it more difficult for you. You need many sheets of paper to make sure the sketch doesn't show and the final piece is perfect. Costs you more time. So you should charge extra for originals. After all prints are easy and require barely any work. Digital files can be copied.
So for example let's say you pay about 20$ bucks for materials but some of them you can use again so let's make it 15$. Materials for all the sketches that didn't make the final artwork were 10$. Electricity is not much and you do not have a studio. Minimum wage is 10$ and you need 10 hours of work. Now you're not very well known but very talented. Adding 2$ to minimum wage because it anyone can do some minimum wage jobs but not anyone can do what you do. 25$ for materials and 12$x10 = 120$ for your time. 145$ total unless it is commercial or something you don't usually do. Do they want the original? Let's say you spend 10$ on postage, 3$ on packaging. That's 158$ now. Charge extra for the extra work you put in. I know many of my drawings are wrinkled because of the constant erasing. I had to redraw and redraw again and again. And you do not get to keep it. You lose a piece of yourself you lose a material object. Based on this 180-200$ seems to be appropriate in my opinion.
Seeing full illustration made with copic markers (9$ for one) selling for 5$ makes my blood boil. Some artists even cover the cost of posting the original work. Cost of materials. Just to ... do what? Get abused? That is extortion.
That being said it might seem hypocritical since I do not offer any commissions but I'd rather wait and get better at it than do it before I am ready. I believe I need more practice and skills before I start offering commissions. I can see that I am getting better fast and one day soon I will open up for commissions. When I am ready and confident that I can charge fairly and still deliver quality work.
PS. Always keep in mind what country does the artist come from. They might have a lot higher minimum wage and a lot more expensive art supplies. Australia is a prime example. We pay so much for our supplies we have to charge more for the art.
PS2. No offence intended. All I want is for all the artists to get rewarded accordingly to their skill level, and get the payment they deserve for their hard work. I want to encourage the artists' community to think about their prices because they reflect how they value themselves. I want the artists to be brave and be able to say, I respect myself and I want a fair payment for my work!
Watching: Criminal Minds