There is a really problematic culture of artists underpricing their commissions online - though I’m sure this practice extends towards the ‘real world’. A fun fact before we start: the internet is actually part of the ‘real world’. If you don’t think that…
Okay, like, I get this, it’s saying a lot of good things. But I am rather tired of seeing what feels like a lot of reprimand and blame going to the artists for this problem. Like I understand people out there just underprice because they can.
But there are many, many people who need this to live off of. And many times they can’t just raise their prices to avoid clients that would take advantage of them or else they wouldn’t be able to eat.
This post keeps saying ‘do you really want to work for those people?’ well no, who would, but sometimes we have to. Avoiding those things is sometimes a luxury.
So can we not blame people like this? Because for some artists this is literally the only way to get people to commission them enough to survive.
It’s terrible, and it shouldn’t be, but we can’t place blame on those people when they are already burdened enough.
If you can do that and help hike up the market prices then you should, absolutely. But if you can’t get work that way you should just do what you need to do to survive and not listen to posts like this telling you otherwise.
I personally do charge a living wage by the hour, not like amazing, but $10 per hour. I have some great clients, I’m not complaining about them, but literally the only way to get enough commissions to live off of for me is to offer a lot of options that are cheap. A lot of my clients are average people who can’t spend a ton on commissions but really want some, so I compromise to give them something that’s like 1-2 hours of work for $15-20. My very well priced commissions? I get those maybe once every couple months. I have a select few commercial clients that come back every few months, but it’s just three really.
I’m not doing fantastic, but I certainly charge more than a lot of artists I keep seeing.
But I never, ever, feel some scolding way about artists I see on my dash charging next to nothing, because almost EVERY ONE of these posts that crosses my dash is in trouble financially. And if that’s how they get the most work fast as they need it I am sure as hell not going to tell them to start charging more if it means they’ll end up with less.
And posts like this I am starting to see followed my commissioners refusing to commission people just because their prices are low. Like in that case just give them what you think it’s worth and commission them anyway? This is still some kind of entitlement! Expecting an artist to raise prices because YOU won’t pay otherwise, when this might eliminate 4-5 other stingy clients.
It is worth more, I am sure a lot of them know that, and if they don’t this is a good post, but for those that do I cannot see asking people who are in financial trouble to bear the burden of hiking up the market because clients won’t pay. Because that will continue for some time, there is no instant solution.
My suggestion for people who feel they can’t get work by charging more, consider trying to sell things that are less work for you. Charge a living wage, but offer something that takes a couple hours. It seems like less, but this way you can actually take many more of them, and the small commissions add up. Tell the clients absolutely no changes unless they pay extra. Tell them sketches only. Tell them up front right off the bat and make sure they know it before doing business starts.
Offer bigger living wage priced commissions too of course, because there’s always a chance and eventually they come through more and more, but small commissions can fill in the gaps quite a lot. You widen your client range this way, but you’re still limiting the people trying to take advantage if you’ve got a disclaimer they’ve agreed to. You’ll still get jerks, but it’s kept my head afloat for the most part, and sometimes that’s just what you need to do to make it.
Ah, the classic artist dilemma of making enough money to survive while still making your prices affordable to as many people as possible. I’m not making enough money off my art alone to survive, yet, but I’m doing pretty good for a newbie with no formal training and a disability slowing them down. I have a fanbase who comes back again and again, and I can guarantee an average $100 a month from art without too much effort, which is a good solid start.
Here are a couple things I use to circumvent the survivable/affordable problem.