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Tips for Starting Commissions

Journal Entry: Tue Jun 3, 2014, 6:45 AM

 I was thinking about my last journal, where I asked why everyone and their cat wanted to sell commissions so badly. I recieved some really insightful answers.
 I also had a lot of people asking me "How much should I charge for my work?"

I'll add a Disclaimer right here in front, as for whatever reason, something always offends someone :iconstunplz: . So I'll start off by saying, this is just my personal journal, and I'm just one person who has some experience with this. I'm not making a judgment on who should sell what, just writing some things I have personally learned along the way.

Well that's out of the way :iconyodawgplz:

So most artists starting off go through a period of confusion on how to price work. They get a lot of suggestions, or theories from well-meaning people such as:
"Artists always undervalue themselves. Don't charge less than minimum wage per hour"

This is true, and I agree. However, unfortunately, art is very difficult to solidly place into a normal work frame. Because art is not created equal. My 6 year old nephew can take 2 hours on a drawing at the kitchen table using every crayon in the box, but no one ( except me :iconfabulousplz: ) would pay $20 for it.
People are paying for a lot of things when they buy art. They are shopping around on a Site with tons of artists, and competition is fierce. You are competing with many talent levels, and at the same time, competing with people who will sell a drawing for 5 cents :o .
It's like trying to sell your services in some crazy post-apocalyptic trading post, where there are no rules and sometimes, no sense to anything.

So when I started off selling art, this is what I went through. I'm not sure it will help, but here it is anyways:

1. You must ascertain how much demand there is for your work.

One way to do this is by creating a user Poll. If you don't have a premium membership, I might suggest trying to get one, even if for a short time, to have access to these tools. If you seriously want to sell artwork, $5 as an investment might be wise.
You can create a poll with something as simple as "Active Watchers?". Because watchers are important when you want to sell art. If no one knows you exist, than it's like setting up a lemonade stand in a tool shed behind your parents pool. No one will know you exist. If you create this poll, and not very many people are actively watching you, then you have to take some time to either
1. Work on your skill. No one likes to hear this, but it's reality. Reality sucks sometimes  :iconohokplz:
2. Work on your marketing. Perhaps your art skill is good enough to sell art, it's just that you need more exposure. This means spending your time in the trenches, interacting with other artists. Posting in Thumbshare forums, starting your OWN threads for sharing work, joining and being active in Groups and on the forums, participating in user-run or Site-run contests (ones that have decent exposure) etc etc. As for the contests, it's ok if you don't win. You will still get a feature of your piece for it. Be careful of contests that are mis-managed. If the contest seems sloppy and unclear, chances are it might be a waste of your time, and the person is more interested in free art than running a successful contest for everyone involved.

Be objective.

After this, you can make a new Poll:
"Should I take commissions?"

You will get a LOT of kind watchers who will say you should, but are not interested in actually buying. It's just the way the world works, and just appreciate that they are supportive. However, you also might get people who say "I'd love to get a commission from you, can I send you a note?". That's a positive sign :nod:.

If you just cannot have polls, it's ok. You can try and ask all these things in your Journal as a Plan B.
So after all this, beware:

There will always be people who want something for nothing. 
This is where it gets tricky. You, as an artist are not sure how to price your work, and when you're starting out, you will most likely be bombarded by people who want things for free, for trade, or for a handful of M&M's and a shiny bottlecap they found behind their Gramma's washing machine. 

 If you're feeling peckish and love the taste of second hand chocolate that has fingerprints on it, then by all means. Go for it. However, if you really wanted to make some actual money or points, you have to politely tell these people "No, thank you.", and move on.
 Then ignore the whining. Remember, this is the internet. There are ALL types of crazy people. Most will accept the decline no problem, but some might beg or try to make you feel bad for not giving in.

But onto pricing.

Most artists start off underpricing their work. I certainly did. But it's part of a process for a lot of people. First, what do you want to work for? Money or DA points?
If you're ok with DA points, remember the DA points / Cash ratio .
80 points = $1 USD.
300 points is NOT $300. It is $3.75.

You can check out how much a certain value is here:
DeviantArt Point Calculator by charfade

So start at a certain price that you think is fair for your skill and time, and open up a small amount of slots. You can get an idea for a starting price by observing artists around you who are successfully taking commissions. What are they charging? Are they thesame type of artist as you? ( pixel artist, chibi artist, semi-realist, etc etc). Are you on their skill level? Not quite? Price accordingly.
You can advertise your open slots in your journal, on other social media accounts, on the forums, Such as Job Services forum.…

Then wait.  :icongo-on-plz:

Wait a week or two. Even more. Things don't happen overnight. If nothing happens, and no one is interested, then:

1. Reconsider your skill vs pricing. Consider adjusting one of these things. Either take a break, and work on your skill level, or lower your prices.

If you think that your skill is up there, and that you want something that is fair, then try to advertise more. But in the end, if no one is biting after a long period of time, it always boils down to the same thing.
Skill ( or if you have what people want),  Pricing.

If you want second opinions or help with your pricing, there is a great Guide to that here:…
 It is chock full of great advice and resources to help you figure things out.

Also, bear in mind the Deviantart Job Offers Forum . I actually started off looking in there when I was curious if people would be interested in buying my work once upon a time. In this sub-forum, people looking for artists post what they need, and you can apply and state you are interested and post thumbnails or gallery links to your stuff. It might be a good stepping stone to commissions, and give you an idea if potential buyers are interested in what you can do.
Job Offers Forum:…

If you get your slots filled up very quickly, and you seem to have a big demand for your work, than this is the time when you should consider increasing your prices. People might complain, but we are artists, and just because it's creative, doesn't mean it isn't work. It doesn't mean you aren't spending hours creating something for someone else. We are providing a service. Raising prices due to high demand is just business and it's necessary.
It's good to increase them slowly, in stable increments rather than doubling the price over night.

Remember Deviantart isn't the only Site out there.

If you want to sell art, you also have to look at your style, and subject matter. For example, what if your speciality is anthropomorphic animals? Well DA might not have the highest demand for that, and a web site like Fur Affinity is a great place to generate interest.

You have to look at the market and see where you fit in.

Asking me, or other random artists what they think you should charge isn't always accurate. Art is very subjective, and everyone has an opinion on it. You really have to ask and read your audience, and prepare yourself to go through a process of trial and error to figure a lot of things out.

 This is just my own insight. If you disagree, or have something to add that is helpful, by all means leave a comment. Lots of people might read what you write and find it valuable

 Godspeed my friends.


Add a Comment:
Zuko-Kitty Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
 After reading this, I really need to consider my commission prices... TO THE INTERNET
PrinceKage Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you for the valuable insight!
Ankit1480 Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2015  Student Digital Artist
It is really helpful. Thanks a lot for this :-)
destranger Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
It helps me alot thank you so much.. 
im still learning about drawing, i hope i can level up and get credit for my hobby ^_^
emfjx Featured By Owner May 26, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for the tips, they're helpful <3 and thank you for the links c:
Yum-i Featured By Owner May 21, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
This is extremely helpful, THANK YOU!!
K-Koji Featured By Owner May 21, 2015
 My pleasure :3
SunPulse Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2015
I'm actually in the middle of the "should I take commissions" stuff, and this is really helpful. Thanks a lot!
WickedPsychoZombie Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This entry was very helpful. Thank you :)
MusiCSouL95 Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2014  Student Digital Artist
It's a really helpful one, thanks! :D
Eyedowno Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you soooo much for this! :D It's so helpful! :)
Yatzstar Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Considering there's not a whole lot of demand for my artwork, I'd price mine at about 2 cents per picture. Maybe someday, when I get really good at artwork, I'll come back here, see this comment, and laugh at how stupid it sounds.
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2014
 lol good luck :hug:
Resennar Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2014
This is really helpful, thank you for posting this :la: :iconsupertighthugplz:
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2014
 np :hug:
Cherrywind101 Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for posting this.
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014
 sure :nod:
HotPinkSexFiend Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oooh. Very insightful.
Wish I would've read this before I opened my commissions though. xD
Oops. I'll definitely keep these words in mind. xD
thaleiajackie Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014   Traditional Artist
Thanks K-Koji, this helps a lot!
juliajacqueline Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is extremely helpful ;) (Wink)  I too have encountered people asking for free work and I always had a bad feeling of saying no, but it's good to see I'm not the only one that's been through this Sweating a little... 
Sakura-ShinRa Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome advice.  Thank you for that :heart:
KaienLoveYaoi2 Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you so much for this, this helps an amazing amount! 
I've been wanting to sell my art to get my name out there and make a tad bit of extra cash and had no idea how to go about it.
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014
np :3
Neverstatic Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for this!!! It's really helpful :D 

Btw... wanna see something funny? It's a Facebook page called "Concerned moms against anime." I'm scrolling through it and just freaking DYING.…
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014
 That has to be a joke page lol
Neverstatic Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't know if it is, but it's hilarious! 
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014
And what is Godspeed? o__O
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014
"an expression of good wishes to a person starting a journey."

phoenixleo Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014
:lol: And I was thinking of "god trying to kill someone or moving very fast" for some reason :lol:
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014
 :XD: I like your definition better
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014
"300 points is NOT $300. It is $3.75." :icontroofsplz:
Mezmere Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Finally someone with a realistic approach to this question. Well put! This is an excellent set of tips for people looking to get into commissions  :D
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014
 Thanks :3
LilMissPeppy Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I'll need to improve my skill then, before opening commissions!
Tulpnic Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for the tips, seems to be be very useful!! Make much sense everything you say, another thing is in practice, lets see how it goes!! 
Speckledluminance Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Your reasoning behind all the tips you gave is very solid. Thanks for the tips! It's very tempting to start commissions when my work isn't up to par, so I consider this more encouragement to focus on building my skills. Yosh! Motivation!
Frozen-song Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014
You're an amazing and nice person for giving so much advice. Thank you. (:
canttel Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Looks at your profile pic. Looks a lil cloeser. 

K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014

 XD I painted him: Kuroshitsuji: Undertaker by K-Koji  
canttel Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
monakadaj Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
I really want to do USD commissions. But I can't. As long as my country is Banned, I can't have a paypal account so I can't sell my works or buy one.
I really don't know what to do. :(
lekosis Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
There might be other services such as Amazon's Wallet service that might work out for you.  It's true that Paypal is much more universally available, but there are other options out there and it's worth doing some research to find out if one of those will work for you.

Even if you can't find a money-exchanging platform to let you accept actual cash for your commissions, you might think about doing some kind of barter.  If they commission you, for example, what else might you be willing to accept in trade?  Web design services?  Tech support?  Maybe there's something else you've been needing, that you were planning to spend some of the money from commissions on, that they could provide instead.  Heck, maybe they'd be willing to mail you some free art supplies, haha!

Good luck!
monakadaj Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you.:)
EchizensGirl Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Student General Artist
Sorry you have to put a disclaimer in the beginning of your journals, but you are right, some people on the internet are just cranky.

Also, I love the fact that you said what most people do not wan to hear, Skill has a lot to do with commissions.
That is reality and it does seem discouraging to some, but it is a huge factor.

Thanks for pointing that out, most artist don't when they are giving commission advice
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014
Well, it's just reality :/ . People don't buy things they don't need- like art- unless it appeals to them.

 But thanks, I have to add that disclaimer because last time I mentioned skill has something to do with selling art I offended someone :XD:
Arashiwildcat Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This will be very useful when I have increased my skill level, and actually start posting my art...... this is one of the best collection of tips I've found so far, I'm happy my drawing tablet came, because I'm getting way too much inspiration to draw! 
K-Koji Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014
 Good luck with it
Arashiwildcat Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Eryth-Rose Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2014
This is exceptionally helpful and I thank you for posting.  I struggle with being able to get commissions, but a good portion of that is my own fault since I'm anti-social (which leads to having very few followers, work a full time job, take care of a 'sick' parent and in the little time I have to do things I want to do, sometimes art just doesn't always fit.  Aside from that, sometimes I just don't have it in me to draw anything, even when I really want to and I'll sit at my computer or with a pencil and paper for hours trying to come up with something that most of the time will never happen.  Because of that, my account's not very active as far as posting new work goes. 

But I'm happy that you posted something like this.  Gives me that feeling of wanting to art more and a closer idea of a goal to keep in mind.

Thanks and kiss Puppy McPuppyface for me.  ^^
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June 3, 2014


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