How to Price Commission Artwork

I have a love hate with commissions.  There: I said it.

I am amazed that people love my style enough were they want to hang it in their homes. Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations of what you do. If you have a particular niche, stay to it until you feel comfortable venturing out. My niche is portraiture, both animals and humans. I am comfortable in that area. However, I have gotten requests of things like comic strips or really in depth paintings.

Here’s my two issues with that. First, I am not comfortable doing more of an animated style. It has never been something that I perfected. And guess what? That’s okay. But as an artist I do not want to sell my products and have it be something im not completely proud of. Second, unless you have a very wealthy clientele, people don’t want to pay for the amount of work you put in. They will ask for everything under the sun in their painting and expect it to be $50. Do not sell yourself short! Your time, effort and skills are valuable. Now that doesn’t mean hike your prices up to $3000 when you are just starting out finding the middle ground is crucial.

Be reasonable. Graph out how much time you spend on something. Develop a formula. For an example, I know that a project is going to take me at least 8 hours, if I charged around $10 an hour, that would be $80(just an example, I charge more hourly). Now this isn’t a perfect formula. There are days when I am just in the ZONE and I hammer out an artwork in about 4 hours. Then other times an artwork will literally take hours each day for weeks for me to complete. If you spend less time it doesn’t always make it less valuable. Everything is dependent on how the artist works that day. My favorite art piece I ever made took me 4 hours. While other times I would spend weeks, and not be nearly happy with my results. The whole process is a gamble.

You can also set a stable price for similar products. I sell Buffalo paintings that regardless of time, they are always $60. This way the price is consistent from piece to piece. I do this because these pieces are easy for me to make in a short amount of time and I can make multiple at a time.

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Figure out how much money you are spending on materials. Don’t forget to add the price of materials to your cost.  I found my best option is to buy canvas in bulk so I figure out the cost of materials and make sure that it is included. Isn’t the whole point to profit?

Size matters. That should go without being said that larger artworks are more expensive. They take more time, more cost to make for materials. I always set a base price for my large pieces to be $300. They can go up depending on what it is or where I am selling it.

Ask people. What would you be willing to spend on something? I ask myself, “How much would you be willing to spend on that?”. Ask friends and family. If you were walking around a craft show and saw a vendor selling what you had, how much would YOU want to spend on that. Starting out, your prices need to be reasonable. But again, do not sell yourself short. If your prices are too low, people don’t value it as much, but too high and people won’t buy it.

Know who you’re selling to. You can straight up ask what their budget is! If your buyer is asking for something specific you can ask what price range they are in and offer options within that range.

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