How to price digital art commissions

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Aug 12, 2019 — 5 mins read

“How much should I charge for a digital art commission?” It’s a loaded question and an important one to get right as we’ve talked about before. How exactly do you do that though!? In this blog, we’ll show you two quick and easy ways to price any commission. Get your calculator ready, but don’t worry, it’s not rocket science.

Why not copy the same pricing as a similar artist?

Unfortunately, very few artists are good at valuing their art. The likes of Fiverr (as the name suggests) and DeviantArt (with their ‘points’ system) have forced artists to heavily undervalue themselves. There is an ever-growing supply of artists, and only so much demand for them. This creates a culture where undervaluing work is seen as a valid method of getting clients (it’s a terrible strategy!). Undervaluing work doesn’t only hurt your profits, but the profits of the industry as a whole. Undervalued commissions effectively put a “cap” on the price of that level of talent – regardless of the time, effort, and materials required. Copying someone else’s pricing sheet puts your faith in their ability to price commissions – and if they didn’t do a good job – you’re both losing.

Ways of pricing digital art commissions

In this blog, we’ll discuss two ways of pricing digital art commissions, “Time and Materials” (T&M) and “Per Deliverable” (sometimes called “Fixed Pricing”). The fundamental ways they work are:

·       Time and Materials (T&M): The artist estimates the number of hours the piece will take and the cost of the materials to complete it and prices the commission against an “hourly rate”.

·       Per Deliverable: The artist prices the commission at a rate based on their experience, the effort required, interest in the piece, and doesn’t necessarily work on the commission when they could be making other income.

T&M pricing typically favours freelancers who are drawing for a living, and Per Deliverable pricing favour hobbyist artists. We are using dollar ($) in the examples below, but you can use your local currency just as easily.

Time & Materials

Firstly, let’s estimate the cost of our materials. We need two things to do this effectively:

·       The cost of the materials

·       The lifespan of the material, i.e. the expected number of commissions we will deliver using this material

The equation: Time + Materials = Commission Price

For example, we used a

$900 (cost of material) ÷ 500 (material lifespan) = $1.80

Now we estimate the cost of our time required to complete this commission, again we need two things:

·       An hourly rate

·       An estimated time

We expect we will work on this commission during hours we could have otherwise been working for other income so it’s not unreasonable to make this rate in line with a standard wage for you, or the minimum wage. We’ll see in a minute that this doesn’t always work but it’s a good starting point to experiment from at least. Let’s see how that works when we assume the commission will take us 4 hours to complete.

4 (hours) × $7 (hourly rate) = $28

Finally, we add together the cost of the time and materials:

Commission Price: $28 (T) + $1.80 (M) = $29.80 (delivery within a day)

This approach can be flawed though because the minimum wage varies massively between countries. For example, in the Philippines, this same commission would result in a commission price of less than $11 (once converted to dollar). Two similar artists from other sides of the world might spend the same time working on a commission but price them very differently.

Fixed Pricing

Let’s take time out of the equation. The trick of this type of pricing is you’re expected to take longer to deliver the commission because you don’t work on it when you can make money doing something else, or want to do something else that has intrinsic value to you. You only work on commissions in your otherwise free time – your client’s expectations should be that this commission will take longer to finish. Arty will recommend you 10 days if you’re not sure.

We need a few things first up:

·       Years’ experience of the artist

·       The difficulty of the piece

·       The cost of the materials (see how to get this in the T&M example above)

The equation: $2 × (Years’ Experience) × (Difficulty Multiplier) + Materials = Commission Price

Take the number of years you’ve been delivering paid commissions and multiply it by a figure. We’ve used $2, you can experiment with a number that works with you. The important bit is it scales with you as an artist.

The difficulty multiplier is a measure between 1 and 10 based on the difficulty of the commission and offset by whether you’d enjoy the gig.

For example, a coloured chibi from good reference pictures might be a 1.5 and multiple characters with a detailed background could be an 8. You may wish to reduce this value based on how much you’d like to do this commission. If it sounds like an interesting piece, or you get to try something new and exciting, you can lower this multiplier to make your price more attractive – but be sensible, don’t devalue an 8/10 piece down to 2/10 just because you think it’s interesting!

Lastly, take the material cost calculation from the T&M chapter and add it all together!

Commission Price: $2 × 3 (YE) × 2 (DM) + $1.80 (M) = $13.80 (delivery within 10 days)

Pretty cool ‘eh?

To wrap it up

This blog hopes to serve at least as a starting point for artists looking to price their digital commissions properly. It’s not intended to be a 100% perfect solution, there are many different factors at play when pricing commissions, but this should get you on your way. The art industry is full of undervalued artists, the more we work together to correctly price commissions the stronger the industry will be. Those equations again:

·       Time & Materials: Time + Materials = Commission Price

·       Fixed Price: $n × (Years’ Experience) × (Difficulty Multiplier) + Materials = Commission Price

Seen someone who undervalues their work? Send them this blog!

Digital Art Commission Price Calculator

Coming soon! We’ll update this blog with a link to it when it’s ready.

What is Arty?

Arty helps digital artists sell commissions to clients anywhere in the world without having to worry about international payments, escrow, currency conversion, secure delivery, or dealing with disputes on their own. We withdraw your earnings directly to your bank account in your local currency no matter where you’re from and we’re way cheaper than our competitors. 😉
Got a client looking to commission you? Focus on the art and let Arty handle the rest.

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