Devaluing Your Work
Being paid to draw for someone sounds like an awfully easy task, doesn’t it? You give money to an artist and they draw whatever it is you desire, right? And then after that’s done, you keep the artwork for yourself and you may choose to stash it somewhere safe or hang it up your wall or maybe share it with your friends, right?
But when you commission someone, what’s your limit? What price aren’t you willing to spend for artwork?
The first time I opened up commissions was in 2013; during that time, I didn’t really need money, considering I was just a kid and being supported by a mother. I had no PayPal or the like, and I didn’t know anything about banks or transferring money online. So, I decided to just have people pay me by the website’s own currency: points. I didn’t plan on doing anything with those points, but I just liked having a stash of them in my account.
My first commission journal had sample pictures — so the person buying would know what they’re going to get — and of course, had prices attached to each type of artwork they might want. The ‘types’ are a mixture of monochromatic or fully-colored paintings, sketches, lineart and so forth. The prices also varied depending on whether you wanted a head-shot, a bust-shot, a half-body, or a full-body. And of course, you can’t forget the chibis!
However, despite the fact I had everything organized like a nice catalog for customers to page through, I had no confidence in my art and judged it poorly. I’m not actually sure if I could actually see the flaws in my art back then but I think I extremely under-priced myself because of pure insecurity.
I priced myself at a very undermining 20 points max, which if converted to US currency is 20 cents. You don’t even have to be familiar with the market to know that it is severely under-priced.
But at the time, it didn’t really feel right for me to charge people more than a dollar for my art. I felt like, for a piece of paper — that sounded like a complete rip-off.
The second time I opened up commissions was in high school. Now, in high school, there was a bunch of buy-and-sell Facebook pages and a lot of art majors selling buttons and stickers of their art — prices usually ranging from $4 to $15. I think I’ve only bought two or three in my life, and to be frank with you, it was really awkward to reject some of my friends because I didn’t want to blow 5 dollars for a button that I was probably going to lose anyway.
So in high school, I was at a club and they needed each member to pitch in $10 so they could afford making stories into actual books. So, instead of just taking a ten dollar bill from my wallet, I decided to have some fun with it and open up commissions. Once again, they were super cheap; you’d think being at an art school would boost my confidence up, but no- I sold my artwork for a measly $2 to $4 dollars. I got a few customers here and there and I did get my $10 dollar goal (wasn’t hard really), but a lot of my friends told me that I was severely under-pricing myself.
It’s not just about having some self-respect, but it also reflects on how much customers or clients I receive. When you have a set of people that like your artwork and you under-price yourself to a ridiculous extreme, they’re not going to be inclined to buy your work. They know your art isn’t worth that low and commissioning you for such a ridiculous price would be disrespectful, and much of the people in your fan base admire and respect you — you are their inspiration.