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Hey guys ^^ I think one of the most common things I see in the art community are people asking advice about commissions. How much to price their work, how to start, how to market themselves, etc. While I might not be the most seasoned of freelancers, I have certainly learned quite a bit through my own experiences and others. Hopefully what I share can be helpful to you as well :) (Smile) And if you have any additional advice to share, please comment below, I'm sure someone may find it useful :D (Big Grin)


Bullet; Black How do I know if I'm ready to start commissions? / I don't feel like my art is worth offering commissions for.
This one is probably the most trickiest to answer, as the answer really depends. I've seen a whole range of skilled artists, from average to crazy good, get commissions. It has a lot to do with confidence and marketing. (See my journal on 'How I Market Myself' for tips on that!)

If you want people to want your work, you need to feel like it's worth wanting. If people are already showing interest without much/little/no marketing, ie, you have above 0 watchers, that already shows that there is an interest in your work. If you continue to post comments about your work like, "this isn't very good," "this sucks omg," "worst. work. EVER," that shows a big lack of confidence and tells something to your audience/fans who already like your work as is. It's discouraging and un-enjoyable to read and also continues to affirm to yourself that your art is not good. Why would someone want to commission you if you constantly berate your own work? People want to feel good when they commission someone and they often want the artist to feel good about it too.

I'm not saying you should be insanely prideful ("My work is the BEST EVER, EVERYONE ELSE IS INFERIOR MWAHAHA!") but feel some happiness and pride in your work. You create things that no one else can. No one else has your exact way of creating art. So yeah, special snowflakes and all that jazz ;) (Wink)

As a side note, if people keep asking for commissions, that could also be a sign Wink/Razz Haha.

Bullet; Red How much should I price my work? Like...a dollar for a finished piece with 12 characters and a full background with 3D effects that still work great with those 1990s 3D-Glasses? :o (Eek)
Uh, no. There are a few issues with this question because there are a few issues with this site and its community. To the average person on Deviantart, that above description seems reasonable, but raise that to say, at least 1000$, then watch their eyes grow wide.

There is an expectation on this site that artwork is dirt cheap and paying 30$ for a fully colored full body piece can be considered on the 'higher-end' of prices, but it's not. In fact, the prices on this site would give heart-attacks to those who work professionally in this industry. The problem is that the community has built this expectation due to competition and greed. Clients don't want to have to pay a lot of money, and artists feel they can't charge more than their neighbor or charge less to try and help themselves get noticed and get work. Both are a problem, but we can really only work to fix one to push the other. Artists need to start charging decent prices for their work.

With that said, here are my thoughts. Base price should be reasonable, something you're comfortable with and having it be worth your time. For me, I always price at at least minimum wage. If minimum wage where you are is 7$, then your smallest charge for an hour's worth of work should be 7$. From there, prices should only /increase/, not decrease. They can go up if you feel your art is worth more than minimum wage, raise it appropriately. Match the quality with the price. If you find you're getting more work than you can handle, that's a big red flag to increase your prices. (ie If you're currently working at a rate of 10$/hour and constantly having new commissions, raise the price to 11 or 12$ an hour. Take advantage of the interest to get paid a more appropriately living wage.)

It's important to think of art in terms of tiers. A sketch should cost less than a fully colored picture. Sewing a hat should cost less than sewing a dress. The bigger and more extravagant, the more time consuming, the more expensive it should be.

Commissioners don't typically like seeing per hour prices. It can sound complicated and unreliable. As an addition, commissioners/clients don't often understand the process behind creating artwork. Finding out that a super detailed crazy awesome picture took you five minutes, they'll feel less inclined to pay what it's worth. What many artists do instead is charge a "flat rate," which means it's a set price for a piece of work. A full body sketch = 35$ instead of about 3 hours x 10$ per hour. For flat rates, a good idea is to find out how long it takes you to create work. Time yourself for a multitude of tasks. How long does it take to draw a headshot sketch? A fully colored bust? A lined full body? Write everything down and you can gauge prices from there.

Bullet; Orange What about legalities? O_O That stuff is confusing!
This is the part that I see most ignored when it comes to this business, yet it's arguably the most important! Like any other company, we're offering a service, and with that, we need to protect ourselves and our clients. Thus comes the 'terms of service' or 'TOS' for short.

To be clear, I am not a legal expert. I'm constantly learning new things all the time and am actively researching more and more into this topic. This is just what I have learned over time, there is a LOT more to this topic and I highly recommend doing additional research yourself and/or consulting with experts in this field.

TOS is typically an artist's rules. Lay out the details of what every job you do will entail. For each job, you /will/ do this, you /won't/ do this. Clients should have x expectations about y job(s). You do draw x and y but you do not draw z. (eg You do draw fanart and original characters but you do not draw porn.)

Who owns the rights to the artwork upon completion? For that matter, what the heck are "rights" and what does that mean? Enter the lovely and complicated world of copyright. Any work once created is automatically protected and owned by you!-the creator. That means you are the only one who can do almost anything you want with your work. Want to post it on websites, sure! Want to make prints and sell it, sure! This is important because having the rights to your works means that no one else can legally do anything with it without your permission.…

What this means is, when someone commissions you for a piece of work, they are buying your time in the creation for that work. They are NOT purchasing the work itself, in that, they are not buying the rights/ownership of that work unless otherwise explicitly stated and agreed upon. That means that they cannot do anything with the artwork you create. They cannot sell prints of it, they cannot claim ownership of it, they cannot use it as their logo, they cannot create advertisements using it, they cannot post it online anywhere, etc.

Many artists, including myself, allow some leniency when it comes to 'use' of the artwork, meaning, what the client can do with it once it's all done and paid for. (Otherwise known as "licensing." That means clients are given specific permissions to use the works in x ways and only in x ways.) I allow something called 'personal use,' which I have currently defined in my TOS as:

"...using the work for ones' desktop background, making personalized graphic artwork from the original (icon, signature, etc.), printing out a copy a hang in ones' home, display on your personal website(s)..." - See my full TOS to read 'personal use' in its entirety.

I'm essentially laying out the rules in which the clients can use my work. I do my best to be as accurate and specific as possible to avoid any potential problems/issues that may arise further down the road. My TOS is always a work in progress and I change it any time I can think of better ways to word things, clear up some details, or add/remove things, however you're welcome to use my TOS as an example.

There's a LOAD more I can discuss on the topic, but I'll keep it as simple as possible for right now. Perhaps in the future I'll write up more about legalities, especially once I feel more comfortable in my knowledge about it, haha.

Bullet; Yellow How can I get paid? What do I use?
The method most commonly used and accepted is PayPal. PayPal is a website where you can transfer funds to/from your own account/credit card/bank. It's very safe and effective and comes with a lot of neat tools and features, most of which I won't get into because they have a giant FAQ on their site and Google is your friend :) (Smile)

How to set up an account:…

Be aware that you need to be the legal age of majority in your country in order to use PayPal (eg 18 in the US).

I won't go into the details of how the system works, but it's very advisable to use the "invoice" feature that PayPal has implemented. It's a great way to stay organized, lay out all the necessary details to all parties, and also adds extra protection for everyone. Plus, it's the actual proper way businesses run xD……

Something that you may/may not know about services like PayPal is that they're not entirely free. They charge specific fees with money transfers. In the business of freelancing, the artist/seller is the one who pays them, NOT the client! I reiterate, the client CANNOT pay the fees on PayPal, it is against their TOS. Avoiding fees by using the gift feature or requiring your clients to pay the fees for you can have big consequences with PayPal against your account. However, there is a workaround and something you can consider.

Add the fees to your prices in a discrete non-vocal way. Instead of charging 20.91$ (to earn 20$ as PayPal would take the 91 cents), charge 21$ or 22$. Don't state that these prices cover the fees as that could show that you're working to avoid paying the fees. (Be as inconspicuous as possible, haha.)

If you're unsure of how much to add on top of your base prices, feel free to check out any of these calculators:

And as an extra bit of advice, something I've seen destroy a LOT of artists, do NOT spend the money until all the work is completed! The money is not officially yours until the job is complete. Hold on to it, and once the job is done, do with it as you please.

Bullet; Green How should I display my info though? Like, what do I put?
If you're using Deviantart, the most common way is using the 'Journal' feature. Make sure you cover the important things: prices, examples, your TOS, a FAQ if necessary, how to contact you, how many slots/openings you have available, any forms that may need to be filled out, etc. A good idea would be to check out what others have and get ideas from them.

Make sure everything is clear, concise, and easy to read. It should be simple to find answers to questions and/or be able to contact you to get answers to any questions someone might have. If you get certain questions often, consider making an FAQ, be it in the same journal or in a separate one.

Keep prices and examples pretty high up as that's the thing the clients care about seeing most. You can show them the nitty-gritty of the legalities and other details later. Make sure prices are obvious and that your system is understandable. Have examples of your work that accurately represent what the client would receive! Don't show any flukes like an artwork that turned out super randomly good/bad compared to your normal work. That just leads to confusion and a misrepresentation of your skills. (Flukes aren't bad, but they /are/ flukes, you want to make sure they KNOW what they're getting.)

Have things be easy on the client, make things simple for them to request. Many artists have forms which include questions the clients need to answer/explain, which makes the process easier for everyone. :) (Smile) Your contact information should be readily available and quick to see.

Don't make things more complicated than they need to be! Have some friends read over your journal and get input from them, have them help you out.

Bullet; Blue What happens when I start getting commissions? I'm nervous! ;o;
Remember, this is a business. Freelancing isn't a hobby, it's a job, so be professional. Make schedules, stay organized, keep all of your clients informed on the activity of their commission. Communication is VERY important for both sides. Make sure everyone is up-to-date on what is happening and be sure to address any concerns/questions the clients may have.

Make sure you only take on work you KNOW you can handle. If you've got a lot of things coming up soon in your schedule, it probably wouldn't be a good idea to take on additional work. If a client is asking for a job that you don't feel comfortable with, don't be tempted by the money and turn them down. (You don't have to accept every job that comes your way.)

While this is a job, it's also important not to overwork yourself. Be careful taking on too much work. That can lead to stress and anxiety which could lessen the work flow and be very counter-productive. Stay on top of things. If you're just starting out, keep the work load light. Get an idea of how things work, how much you can do, what feels comfortable, etc.

Keep in mind that unexpected things may happen which could alter your schedule. Remember to keep your clients updated as soon as possible, informing them if there are any schedule changes. Try not to get your personal life involved too much with your clients/work. Again, this is a job. The clients paid for work to be completed and if you can't finish it, refund them.

Also, take breaks! There is no need to be working 24/7. Overworking yourself is unhealthy mentally and physically. Make sure you have spare time for your normal activities and/or some time off. If things start becoming too rough, it's time to slow down and take some time off, stop taking on new commissions, and breathe for a bit. Once things level out again and you feel up to it, then get back into it.

Bullet; Purple But no one knows who I am! How do I get myself out there?
Luckily for you, I already wrote an article that details some ways to advertise yourself! You can view it here :) (Smile)

Bullet; Pink Do you have any additional/helpful resources?
Yes! And Googling around some more should also help you find even more :D (Big Grin)

Protect Your Art Career!
F*ck You, Pay me!
Crash Course - Intellectual Property
Yoga for Healthy Wrists

Freelancers Guide
Why is Undercharging a Bad Idea?
How to Commission an Artist
Getting the Most out of Commissions
Commission Guide
How to Protect Yourself Against Fraud
Say No to Free Art

Artists Beware

Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook

DMCA Takedown Notice

General Entertainment/Freelancer [Horror] Stories:

Bullet; White Okay, I did all this stuff, now what?
Keep at it, keep going :D (Big Grin) Learn from your experiences, grow, expand, be successful! This is an ongoing process and as long as you're happy and everything is all right, keep doing it!

"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." - Marc Anthony
  • Mood: Optimism


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Maruruu-Chan Featured By Owner 43 minutes ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks 4 the llama #5 Free Icon: Rei Hino (Sailor Mars) 
resurrexia Featured By Owner 1 hour ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the llama! Llama Emoji-02 (Blush) [V1] 

Please do also take a look at my Year-end Art Raffle! It would be awesome if you could join! Llama Emoji-11 (Come Here) [V1]
lillygardens Featured By Owner 2 hours ago  New Deviant Hobbyist General Artist
thank you so much for the llama!! your art are making me squeal like crazy! so cute!
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Thanks for the llama~ Momo Kisaragi (Big Smile) [V5]
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Thanks for lama! 
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