Commission Work

Summer is when I open myself up to taking on commissioned artwork since I have more free-time and I have all of the art-making resources my room holds. I do not get by solely on commissioned work (I also work a full-time job over the summer), but it does help pay for school and art supplies. The most challenging part of doing commission work is setting a price for the work. So, I thought I would write about how I personally price my custom work, and how to explain that price to customers.

Custom art doesn’t come cheap. Even if you aren’t Picasso.

I get it. Everyone wants things for as little as they can get them. You can’t blame someone for trying to save a few bucks. However, you are making art customized specially for an individual that will take your time and money to complete. Hold firm with a price point. Just because your client is your mom’s boss’s sister’s husband, that doesn’t mean he can get a special rate! (Of course, use your discretion when giving special rates!).

Setting a price.

Do not be afraid to give yourself what you deserve. The algorithm I use when pricing commissioned work involves paying myself a decent hourly wage, around $10.00 per hour I spend on the piece, plus cost of materials. In addition, if a reeeeaally tight deadline is given, I add on a cost for “expedited services” if you will. Here’s an example:

Painting: $40.00 canvas + $36.00 in paints = $76.00 in supplies. 12 hours spent working on this custom masterpiece (at $10.00 an hour). The kicker- it’s a wedding present and the wedding is in two weeks (add expedited services fee of $25.00). GRAND TOTAL…… $221. So charge somewhere close to that.

Quoting prices, negotiating, and altering prices.

When you arrange to do a commissioned piece with a client, chance are, they’ll ask for a price. It can be extremely difficult to estimate how long it is going to take you to complete a piece, so be generous with your estimation. If a client is willing to pay the quoted amount, it’ll be worth your time and effort. Remember, it is YOUR time and effort, so make sure you are being compensated for your time and skill! Okay, so you waaaay underquoted your client and it took longer than expected. Don’t worry. Make sure you quote a piece and follow it by “This price is based on an estimate and may be more depending on how long it takes me to complete the piece.” Approach your client, remind them of what you said initially, and let them know the new price. If they understand completely, you’re golden! If they say they don’t have that much cash, enter a negotiation where both parties feel they have been treated fairly. Never undersell yourself, but try not to sever your relationship with the client either (they might be back later)!

Pricing commissioned work has always been difficult for me to do, but after doing some looking around myself, I find that this is what has worked best for me! I’ve included some of the different types of commissions I have done in the past, all of which went to very satisfied customers!

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Good luck and happy commissioning!

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