“How much should I charge for my commissions?”
“How should I price myself?”
These are commonly asked questions in the furry fandom and the art industry in general. This post is designed to act as a simple guide to how to price your commission work!
Before you set your prices, there are a some factors you need to take into account. These are:
- Full or part time?: Are commissions your only income, or do you have a side job? For everyone just starting out taking commissions I strongly advise having a part-time (or full-time) job to support yourself and pay the bills. It is very difficult to pay bills with commissions alone!
- Set prices or hourly wage?: Are you planning on charging a flat fee per image? Or will you charge by the hour? I started with flat fees and this worked for me for a while! Now I charge per hour, but the bill is paid up front. You can see how I work out my prices further down the page.
- Cost of materials: Consider any and all costs it takes to create your art. This includes art materials, paper, stationary and can even be extended to electrical usage, hardware, software subscriptions and paypal fees.
- Competitors prices: Competitors are artists with similar artwork, prices and subject matters as yours. In such a vast market it can be very difficult to find and target competitors. Read further down for some advise regarding this!
Full or Part time?
The general rule of thumb is; if you are part-time as an artist you will most likely charge less for commissions than a full time artist. This is certainly not always the case though. However many part-time artists do not consider it a business and will charge ‘hobby’ prices, as oppose to full-time prices which are designed to help an artist pay living expenses.
Beware though – if you have a job and also receive money from part-time commissions, you will most likely need to a) register yourself as a business and b) produce a yearly tax return. It can depend on your country of residence, but before taking any paid work it is important to do your research. And of course, if you are full-time you will most certainly need to register as self-employed.
Set Prices or Hourly Wage?
A good way to set your prices is to consider how long it takes to produce a particular commission. Your time is money when producing artwork and it’s up to you to decide what your time is worth.
How to work with pre-set prices
To use set prices you can either set your prices similar to another artist (for instance an icon commission at a flat fee of £10, no matter the colouring method or detail), or you can estimate how long it will take you to do said icon, and charge accordingly. If you are charging set prices, you can then consider offering add-on fees for extra detail.
Example: Thingywolf wants an icon commission, but their character is super complicated. Therefore they qualify for the complex fee, meaning their icon will be £15 instead of the regular £10.
You will still need to work out how much you want to charge per hour in order to figure out your set prices. I would advise at starting at £10 an hour, no less. You certainly do not want to go below the minimum wage for the industry – you are not only hurting yourself and your business but also by undercutting other artists you are hurting the industry itself.
Example: AmazingFox wants a full colour, detailed commission with three characters. You have a fixed price of £60 for a full colour commission, and then 50% on top of this for each additional character: this gives you £90 (60 + 30 + 30).
Two of the characters have very detailed or complex designs, which you charge an additional £20 for, that’s another £40 = £130.
Finally, the client decides they want a very detailed background, which your flat fee is £40 for, leaving you with a total of £170.
How to work out your hourly wage
According to Payscale.com, the average hourly wage for a freelance artist is $37.50/hour (About £29.00) in the United States.
As a freelance artist, your hourly wage is completely up to you. You can base on it a number of factors including:
- What similar artists to you are charging.
- Your experience within the industry.
- Your currency (i.e. you may need to take currency conversion into account)
- Materials used
- What you are happy to work for/what you feel your time is worth
I charge £15-20/hour for my work. This is based on similar artists, the time taken on commissions and what clients are willing to pay.
For instance, if I charge £15/hour for digital painting and I spend approximately 6 hours on a two character piece, I should charge at least £90.00 for that commission.
If I charge £20 an hour for a sketch that takes me 45 minutes, I would charge £15 for that sketch.
Example: I used to charge £30 for a one character digital painting. They sold very well. A year later I became unemployed and decided to hike my prices up to £45 for this. They still sold well. Now I charge £50 per single character digital painting and they still sell! Finding your prices is a mix of fiddling with set prices and making sure you have a fair hourly wage. Art is worth what people are willing to pay for it!
Hourly wages in the main illustration and graphic design industries are often calculated after the work has been done and the client is sent an invoice. However, there have been a lot of problems in the furry fandom with this – chargebacks and clients refusing to pay are common stories amongst artists.
It is strongly advised that you charge up front for all commission work. If your prices are high, offer payment installments but ensure you have a non-refundable deposit of sorts. I never start any work before I have been paid.
Tip: Always make sure clients send payments as ‘Goods and services’ and not ‘Family and friends‘ when using Paypal. The latter makes it impossible for you to have any payment protection!
Cost of Materials
Cost of materials is something you need to consider when taking commissions, especially when dealing with traditional artwork, crafts and other similar mediums.
Tip!: It is against Paypal’s terms of service to ask clients to pay paypal fees! Instead you must consider them into your overall price. You can also claim them as business expenses later!
For traditional costs, the cost of materials should be added directly to your price. Items like coloured pencils, markers etc must have an estimated use. This is very hit and miss but it is the only way you can really figure it out. For example, say a black marker you own cost you £4.00. You know that in the past you have coloured around 30 commissions with it before it ran out, meaning the cost per commission is £0.13. It is good practice to estimate the costs for each of your art materials – factors can depend on how often you use them, the most popular colours and similar aspects.
Example: SnarkyFox commissions a painting of his character on A3 canvas. You work out the costs as the following:
Hourly wage: £40 (4 hours)
Paypal fees: £1.61
Estimated acrylic paint usage: £1.50
Estimated coloured pencil usage: £0.30
Postage and packaging: £6.00
Total cost of commission: £54.41
Therefore it would be a good idea to charge £55.00 for this commission to cover the hourly wage, fees and material costs. You could of course charge separately for the postage and packaging, especially if you are required to get a quote from a courier.
Tip!: It is never advised to charge JUST the material costs – you will not be earning any profit whatsoever!
Although costs may seem minuscule when charging for digital commissions, it is good practice to take into consideration software subscriptions, paypal fees and utility bills that are directly involved in the production of the piece.
Example: You are trying to figure out how much to charge for a one character, fully rendered digital piece. You want to charge the minimum of at least £10/hour and you know it will take you at least 4 hours.
Paypal fees in the UK are about 3.4% + £0.20 per sale. Therefore, a commission of £40.00 would be £41.61 with the added fees. This means if you were to charge only £40.00, you would receive £38.39, making a dent in your profits. There is an excellent paypal fees calculator here!
You can then consider the running costs of your PC, tablet or any other equipment you use to make. According to Npower, it costs approximately 6p/hour to run a standard PC. So since you’ll be working on this commission for 4 hours, that’s an additional fee of 24p, making the fees for this commission £1.85. Therefore you could charge £42 for this commission, instead of £40, or maybe round it up to £45, whatever feels best for you and what is affordable for your client.
Tip!: You may be able to claim some costs back if you use your PC for work-only or mostly work depending on your circumstances and country. If you have a dedicated office, you may also be able to claim costs for lighting and other appliances which are needed for you to complete your work.
Looking for artists you deem competitors can be difficult – please don’t think of the term ‘competitor’ with a negative connotation either! Basically, look at artists who you feel are at a similar level as yourself and see what they charge. Of course bare in mind that these artists might have been working in the industry for a lot longer than you have and have a much larger client base.
Some factors you can take into consideration when searching for competitors:
- Do they have a similar art style? What do they do that you don’t? What do you do that they don’t?
- Do they appear to set their prices or charge an hourly wage? Can you work out their hourly wage by dividing up their prices?
- Do they have an active commission list? Maybe they post it publicly. Are they seeming to struggle to get work or do they have people lining up at the door?
- Make a list of their services and prices. Compare these to what you offer and charge – do you feel that you must lower or raise your prices?
When to Change Your Prices
Setting prices is very much a hit and miss game. You will need to play around with them for a long while, adjusting them to the market and your clients needs. It is advisable to keep an eye on your competitors prices as well as the fandom as a whole. Prices will rise and fall depending on many factors.
The market changes a lot – you will most likely be able to raise your prices after gaining more experience in the fandom, but then sometimes the economy as a whole takes a hit and it may become necessary to reduce your commissions. There will also be times where you need money fast – perhaps an emergency bill. Putting your art of sale in these instances can ensure that you still have an income stream. For instance – Iron artist commissions are a popular way of selling commissions. These are a set (usually 50 or 100) of commissions in which the artist will sell commissions of a certain type at a fixed price.
Make it a habit to revise your prices at least every quarter – yearly at the most. I generally look at my prices every quarter and might make small adjustments, as well as updating commission examples and such.
Another reason to change your prices might be if you find out that you have taken a much longer time on a commission than anticipated: For instance you charged only £30 for a commission that ended up taking you 10 hours – you are only receiving £3.00 an hour! Make sure to adjust your prices to reflect your real-life work times.
How to work out how long you spend on a commission:
The simple answer is time yourself! I highly recommend using the pomodoro method, in which you work for 25 minutes, then have a quick 5 minute break to stretch, stand up and/or get some water. I use 30 minute sets so that I can effectively round up my commission times – I use an app called tomighty. You could also use a stopwatch or your phone to time yourself.
Make sure however to ONLY work on your commission during this time. I’d advise not to watch shows – music is fine. Anything that causes a distraction, no matter how minor, should be eliminated. Therefore you must refrain from going on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit during work time. You can use a distraction blocker such as ColdTurkey if you lack the self-restraint.
Just remember that being distracted during commission time will hurt your income as you’ll take longer on the commission. Also remember that the client is quite literally paying for your time!
If you can work on a commission whilst watching a show, that’s fine! I find myself working to documentaries very often as they often motivate me to work more. However, I do tend to work more, instead of working faster. My best and most focused work certainly comes from when I work when only listening to music or podcasts.
I sincerely hope this post helps you guys set your prices! There’s much more I could write – and I probably will update this post as I go! Below are also some resources I mentioned too, so please take a look if you’d like!
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments section or by email!
Thanks for reading and have a fantastic day!
Paypal Fees Calculator: http://www.clothnappytree.com/ppcalculator/
NPower applicances costs: https://blog.npower.com/2013/02/ever-wondered-how-much-your-appliances-cost-to-run/