[RANTS] Pricing Things Up

I think one of the hardest things for me to figure out is how much I should sell my art for. Whether that be art skills or prints, giving my drawings a price often results in people saying either that I’m “reasonable” or “cheap”, while I feel like I’m getting nothing.

The Factors

When you go and work for any ol’ paid-by-the-hour job, you are given a certain amount of money per the time you spend there. If you get paid $10 an hour and work 4 hours, you get $40 in your paycheck. It’s a simple concept and makes sense. Okay, sure, you might not agree with how much you’re getting paid (especially when you don’t just know the one job you were hired for, but many of them and are often thrown into the other ones you know, rather than your main job), but the idea is simple.

It’s less simple though when it comes to pricing your own work, whether that be a sweater you knitted to a small painting on cardboard. You have to price for the ENTIRE work, not how long you worked on it. Sure, you could factor in how long it takes you into the price…but for the most part, it’s just what the value of the finished work is.

But how do you determine something that has no initial value?

I honestly do not know — I struggle with that particular question every time I receive a commission or am thinking about changing my commission prices.

When I look at my drawings from the perspective of a potential customer, I end up not even being a potential customer. My drawing skills are too low for the prices I have right now and what they add up to. My drawing skills have almost no value to me from the perspective of a potential customer. Maybe if the drawings were a bit cheaper, I would consider them…but nah. I think I would only purchase them if I was a friend or family member.

However, when I look at the drawings from MY perspective — from sitting down and drawing, to the colouring to the finishing touches — I feel like I get nothing. Absolutely nothing. I don’t know if this is because people pay me before it’s finished (for my art commissions) or because of beliefs, but I always feel like I end up with nothing at the end.

Since I have conflicting feelings on the pricing (my skills are worthless, but I work & feel cheated), I try to think about people other than me: who is going to buy my products? How much would they pay? How many of them think my skills are worth something?

Most people who commission me or look at my commission prices tell me one of two things:

1.) I’m reasonable.

2.) I’m too cheap.

Both comments often come from people who don’t draw and don’t understand how selling things you made or make go. ALL of these comments have also been from friends and family members. No one outside of that have made comments like that.

When I hear that my prices are “reasonable”, I feel like I should keep them the way they are, despite that I feel like I get nothing.

When I hear that my prices are “too cheap”, I feel like I can up them. How far up though, I’m not sure. Some people (again, who don’t know how pricing things you make goes) say I should base it off of minimum wage. If I went with the minimum wage my state has, I would be making $8.75 per hour I worked on a picture. If on average it takes me 3 to 5 hours, going with 4 hours as an in-between, I would make $35 per image…

…which seems like it would be too cheap for some pictures (such as ones with more than one character and detailed backgrounds), but too expensive for others (one character, no background, cell shaded).

Granted, I would also feel like $35 would be too cheap in general, just like I feel like $65 is too cheap as well.

It’s quite the dilemma…

…that I think I know the reason for.

The Reason

I fully believe that if I would not do something for free, I shouldn’t be doing it for money.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I think people should leave their job because they don’t like it. No — if you’re doing something to survive, I think it’s understandable to put up with it. I personally just aim to do something that, most of the time, I am not hating it. All of these jobs would be things I would happily do WITHOUT getting paid. I’m actually crazy and think I would do better if I WASN’T paid. (I do get paid though.)

This belief factors into commissions.

Most, if not all the commissions I take, I would NOT do for free. If someone came up to me and requested that I do them a picture, I would tell them “no”. If I wasn’t going to do it for them in the first place without them paying, why should I do it for them if they paid me?

It’s kind of funny though that part of the reason I started commissions was to allow people who wanted to get artwork from me a way to get it. I didn’t really want to do requests as I feel like most people would just be leeching off my abilities and would skip ever thanking me. I figured that getting money to compensate that lack of a happy/excited “thank you” would be a good idea.

It’s not.

Money is NOT an equivalent of a genuine “thank you”. Money is NOT an equivalent of a happy/excited/actually thankful “thank you”. If anything, it’s a false “thank you” to me. It’s saying “hi, thanks, bye” and just leaving me alone to stand in the middle of a dusty road, staring down at the money in my hands, feeling empty inside.

I don’t want money as a thank you. I want a “thank you” as a thank you.

I usually end up feeling angry while working on my commissions and empty when I finish them. I keep thinking next time will be different, but it never is! Money doesn’t motivate me!

Okay, sure, if someone offered me a million dollars to draw a picture, I might put up with it. Like, come on — I could go buy a house with that. However, past that, no.

Just, no.

I shouldn’t be putting up with commissions anymore.

I wouldn’t normally draw artwork for others for free, so why should I be doing it for money?

Simple: I Shouldn’t.

Exceptions

There are two exceptions to myself doing artwork for others:

1.) My job requests me to do artwork; I will do that for them.

2.) I approach someone about doing a piece for them.

Sometimes I’ll be talking with a friend and we will be starting to talk about some REALLY AWESOME drawing idea. Since I like the idea so much, I offer to draw it.

Other times, someone will offer me an art trade and I take it, even if I don’t think their skills are that good. I’m probably interested in one of their characters and wanted to draw them.

However, beyond those two (and the whole pay-me-a-million-dollars-for-a-picture), there are no exceptions.

I don’t do requests unless I feel like it.

I will approach you if I want to do something for you, not the other way around.

Conclusions

My conclusion?

I should really just stop doing art commissions forever.

They are not worth the effort and most certainly not worth my time.

I hate them.

Other Thoughts

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I upped my commission prices a lot. I feel like I would stop getting commissions then, not unless people actually want me to desperately.

I also thought of letting people pick their own prices (minimum of $1), but I feel like I would get cheated a lot and would feel like I get even less than I do now.

Then there was also that other option where people lay out what they want in front of me and I can select if I want to do service them or not. Or something. I don’t know.

Ah well…I’m done.