Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

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Rozume
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Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#1 Post by Rozume » Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:24 am

I've had this discussion with some people on skype before, but I wanted to get some other opinions on it. How do you guys feel about artists (or anyone with a particular skill for that matter) undercharging themselves? I personally hate it. Hate it. I feel (re: this is how I feel) that if someone, say an artist, is underselling themselves they are cheapening the craft that they're working in.

And I know there's are a lot of factors that goes into pricing; skill, speed, time, location, urgency, etc. $20 might be a big sum of money to Person A, but is pocket change to Person B. Someone might need to pay rent or medical bills, so they charge at a low price to get more customers. Everything should be determined on a case by case basis.

I'm probably in the minority, but I specifically look for people who have high prices. Because that generally (re: generally) tells me that that person respects their craft and themselves enough to be paid accordingly. But of course, that's not always the case. (Also, I don't feel comfortable hiring someone who I feel undercharges themselves).

It really grinds my gears when people (whom, I might say are artists themselves) harass artists who price themselves decently to make their prices lower. Because art is cheap to make, right???

I'm considering doing art commissions in the future, charging around $45-60 for a full body sprite, and I know there will be people who will bitch and moan about my prices. And before any of you say "Well yeah, that sounds kind of expensive..." consider the following:
  • Did YOU spend 6-8 years trying to figure out this "digital art" thing?
  • Did YOU spend years learning and practicing anatomy, values, color theory, etc?
  • Did YOU pay for my art classes?
  • Did Photoshop pay for ITSELF?
  • Did the tablet pay for ITSELF?
  • Did the computer pay for ITSELF?
  • Did the electricity bill pay for ITSELF?
  • Are YOU paying for my groceries?
  • Are YOU paying for my rent?
tl;dr - people who undercharge themselves pisses me off, but there's a lot of factors that go into pricing so meh

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#2 Post by Laniessa » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:18 am

There is a thing about different average wages in different places - artists in China can afford to charge a lot less since they need a lot less to live, for example. But - anything below your own country's minimum wage is too little. If you can't get minimum wage, then you need to get better, in my opinion.

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#3 Post by Kinjo » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:21 am

Rozume wrote:It really grinds my gears when people (whom, I might say are artists themselves) harass artists who price themselves decently to make their prices lower. Because art is cheap to make, right???
When it comes to commissioning art in particular, there are a number of factors at play. Firstly, I'd never try and haggle an artist down -- I'd either pay their price or find someone else, because I do respect them enough. I think it would be rude to say "nah, that's not worth $X" to them. And here's why.

Art is subjective. I may not want to commission someone who has a particular style, because I personally don't find it appealing. Each artist has their own unique art style, because they are human (and humans are unique). How can someone put a price on a unique style? Really what matters are how much the person wants that art, and how willing the artist is to give it to them. And this will vary in each case.

Skill also varies greatly -- some artists may spend hours to do what another can do in only a few minutes. How can you accurately price something like that? And this problem also shows up in, say, writing or programming commissions. If you pay by the word, you could get really ripped off because it's quality, not quantity, that counts in those areas. More is not necessarily better.

Visual novels (by nature) tend to require an enormous amount of art assets. This is what makes people afraid of "fair" pricing. Adding more characters into a story quickly ramps up the cost of art assets, and by the end of all the calculations your wallet is probably better off if you just wrote a book. Unless, of course, you can find an artist who isn't expensive (or is willing to work for free/experience). But usually in these cases you sacrifice quality and speed.

The best case scenario is for the developer to have enough money to pay artists a fair price for good art. Unfortunately, most people making VNs tend to be indie devs and have very small budgets, which complicates everything. If you are both the developer for a VN and an artist, you're in an ideal situation, because you're saving yourself a lot of money.

Anyway, all in all I find it difficult to actually put a price on art. Part of the "underselling" bit might be because the artist has low self-esteem in general (never thinking they are good enough) and while low self-esteem isn't unique to artists, it should be known that being able to make good quality artwork is a very valuable skill, and that thinking your art is bad at all is only going to hinder your growth as an artist. Keep climbing the ladder, but don't think you're at the bottom.

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#4 Post by BrokenAngel75 » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:27 am

I kind of get where you are coming from but for me it's more on a writer's viewpoint. I see many people ask for another writer and most don't offer pay. Writing is far from easy, especially if you're doing or helping with another person's story. I find it a little discouraging when I see so many writers on here not getting paid a dime for a game that has 100,000 words.

As for your argument, I personally feel that it's a mixed bag. I don't want artists to undersell since I know any type of drawing is hard. On another hand though, I know many on here are small developers and deserve to see their games come to life. So for me, I think a compromise should go between an artist and the person they're working for if they ever feel that way.

Also please remember that most on here don't have a lot of money to spend and try to keep in a certain budget. Now I know one could save up, but if you're living where I am you're going to spend money on bills, food, and gas rather then a visual novel. Many here are also not part of a group, so it's just them. That's what also makes it hard to pay something that might cost 60 dollars compared to something that costs 30.

I will say though, and this is just an opinion, that if every artist on here had high pricing that either no games would come out or that the people who couldn't draw would be a bit in trouble. It would be like 'well since this person can afford this they get to have their games come to life, but not this person who might not have much money.'

So this isn't an easy subject to really talk about and I everyone has different thoughts. I just believe that on a forum that has such creativity that some compromises which things like this could be made if someone couldn't pay for what you were asking.

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#5 Post by MaiMai » Sun Feb 08, 2015 4:38 am

My thought process on this is pretty simple.

If you don't like a person's art don't buy it.

If you don't have enough money for art you do want, save up or don't buy it and find someone you can afford and you like their art.

Honestly, it's not completely cut and dry even if I put it in those terms. My personal experience is that I've repriced my commissions several times because back then I charged dirt cheap for my art. If anything, it helped me gain confidence and slowly raise my prices as my art got better and I found out how much of my time it took to produce the art I was getting paid for. Sometimes cheap prices help artists test the waters of potential clientele and if people like your art enough they will be willing to pay the prices you set even when you raise them.

Again, my experience so I can only speak for myself.
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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#6 Post by papillon » Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:03 am

Professionals should not undersell themselves, and commissioners shouldn't expect professional dedication out of a person charging only a small amount.

That said many game-makers here are not expecting to make any money out of their games (if they finish their games at all) and don't have money to spend. They're young, this is a hobby, and they are looking for hobby artists who want to work with them and are NOT trying to make a living out of it.

I don't see anything wrong with paying a hobby artist $5 to make you a sprite for your hobby game. They can always say no.

I do see a big problem with trying to get an artist to make 20 sprites at $5 each. It's not likely to end well for either party.

Personally I ignore most artists posting in the recruitment forum here because it seems obvious to me that they're not serious enough to be able to take on much work. Raising their prices alone wouldn't suddenly make them reliable workers, either.

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#7 Post by Tyrantauranox » Sun Feb 08, 2015 11:14 am

It wouldn't be strange for someone to charge $100 USD for a pro-level sprite. The falloff from pro to almost-pro work can be very steep, though. Unless the almost-pro stuff is seriously discounted, devs will often just go for the gold and pay the pro prices. Work that's 80% of pro probably can't charge 80% of the pro price, though that would technically be fair.

Work that's clearly amateur usually struggles to find paying customers at all, so you end up with a massive range for potential sprite prices ($0 to $100+)

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#8 Post by MaiMai » Sun Feb 08, 2015 12:29 pm

papillon wrote: Personally I ignore most artists posting in the recruitment forum here because it seems obvious to me that they're not serious enough to be able to take on much work. Raising their prices alone wouldn't suddenly make them reliable workers, either.
That is a pretty good point. High prices may tell someone that an artist thinks their work is worth the money, but it probably doesn't speak about how reliable they are...
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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#9 Post by noeinan » Sun Feb 08, 2015 12:55 pm

MaiMai wrote:My personal experience is that I've repriced my commissions several times because back then I charged dirt cheap for my art. If anything, it helped me gain confidence and slowly raise my prices as my art got better and I found out how much of my time it took to produce the art I was getting paid for. Sometimes cheap prices help artists test the waters of potential clientele and if people like your art enough they will be willing to pay the prices you set even when you raise them.
That was kind of my thinking. When I was looking to post an art thread, I searched around the lemmasoft forums, found someone whose art I felt was roughly on my level and then used their prices as a starting point. I looked every single thread in the new recruitment area, found what kinds of qualifications they had, and thought about what my terms would be on those grounds. After doing my research, I don't feel like I'm undercharging-- though I do worry about not getting any work. I have a good work ethic, but it takes landing a few jobs in order to prove it.
papillon wrote:Personally I ignore most artists posting in the recruitment forum here because it seems obvious to me that they're not serious enough to be able to take on much work. Raising their prices alone wouldn't suddenly make them reliable workers, either.
Just out of curiosity, where do you look for your artists? Word of mouth/recommendations? Deviantart? (I've seen Winter Wolves looking there.)
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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#10 Post by papillon » Sun Feb 08, 2015 1:28 pm

Conceptart and deviantart mostly, sometimes private recommendations. Obviously there's a lot of amateurs you have to filter out but with a little fishing you can get a wide range of options.

People who write me to ask for work I generally have to ignore because even if they're good, they're probably not writing me at the exact time that I need to hire someone, and by the time I do need to hire someone they're probably busy.

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#11 Post by trooper6 » Sun Feb 08, 2015 1:52 pm

papillon wrote:
Personally I ignore most artists posting in the recruitment forum here because it seems obvious to me that they're not serious enough to be able to take on much work. Raising their prices alone wouldn't suddenly make them reliable workers, either.
As a person who will probably be looking to commission an artist for the first time some time in the future, what are the signs you identify as indicating an artist isn't serious enough to be able to take on much work?
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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#12 Post by Rozume » Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:11 pm

Thanks for the replies everyone! I expected the response to be a lot worse actually, but glad to know that my expectations were shattered. ^^;

A lot of you bring a lot of valid points, and I agree that there is no cut and dry answer to things.

Yes, I acknowledge that this community here is full of hobbyists and small devs and most can't afford high prices. However, I feel that if you can't afford to pay someone decently then you have no business in looking. Making Visual Novels is an investment, and it's up to each individual whether or not they want to make that investment.

Papillion is right. High prices is not an indicator that that person will get the job done. But neither are low prices.

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#13 Post by Mad Harlequin » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:07 pm

Hate is a strong word, isn't it? I currently don't charge people for my services. But I'm doing this because I currently have no professional-level work for would-be recruiters to peruse. It seems unfair to expect payment when I don't yet have a portfolio. How can I say my skills are worth X dollars a pop when, to all observers, I'm just somebody claiming to be worth a damn? This is the position I'm in. But once I have something to show to other people, I plan to look into appropriate rates.

Of course, if I happened to receive an offer at this time, I wouldn't refuse.
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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#14 Post by LIZM » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:32 pm

Mad Harlequin wrote:Hate is a strong word, isn't it? I currently don't charge people for my services. But I'm doing this because I currently have no professional-level work for would-be recruiters to peruse. It seems unfair to expect payment when I don't yet have a portfolio. How can I say my skills are worth X dollars a pop when, to all observers, I'm just somebody claiming to be worth a damn? This is the position I'm in. But once I have something to show to other people, I plan to look into appropriate rates.

Of course, if I happened to receive an offer at this time, I wouldn't refuse.
I'm mostly with Rozume on this one, but I'd like to add that people offering their work for free and those who offer paid commissions are two completely different issues. There's nothing wrong with the way you handle things, not at all -- there can be plenty of reasons for doing so; gathering samples, simply trying to get one's name out there when starting out, being a die-hard hobbyist, and so on.

The thing is, those who do ask for payment usually have a good reason to do so. (Excluding the large amount of artists who figure they can make some quick cash and then realize it's too much for them to handle after all.) For a lot of people including myself, time = money. I simply cannot afford to give away my art, writing, programming, and so on for free because I have to pay for food, water, my car, art supplies etc. while being a full-time student. The amount of people who apparently thought my food and shelter just magically appeared out of nowhere and that my free-time is a never-ending ressource is frightening.

What grinds my gears isn't that artists of all types are undercharging or not charging at all, it's how many game creators expect everyone to do it because they think their project deserves people working for them more than others. Unfortunately I've seen the "I'm working on a game by myself and won't make money from it, so naturally, that one artist I want also has to spend time working for free for my game!" attitude way too many times all over the web. (Applies to writing, programming, etc. as well, of course.) If people want pretty much any artist willing to work for free, cool, they might just find someone. That's fine, they'll just have to accept that they may not be interested in drawing certain things. What's not so fine--disrespectful, even--is expecting artists to change their terms just to be able to stay within a certain budget, or even worse, trying to guilt-trip them into lowering their prices or working for free because "b-b-but I don't have any money!"

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Re: Cheap Labor: When People Undersell Themselves

#15 Post by Rozume » Sun Feb 08, 2015 3:37 pm

Mad Harlequin wrote:Hate is a strong word, isn't it? I currently don't charge people for my services. But I'm doing this because I currently have no professional-level work for would-be recruiters to peruse. It seems unfair to expect payment when I don't yet have a portfolio. How can I say my skills are worth X dollars a pop when, to all observers, I'm just somebody claiming to be worth a damn? This is the position I'm in. But once I have something to show to other people, I plan to look into appropriate rates.

Of course, if I happened to receive an offer at this time, I wouldn't refuse.
Yes, hate is a strong word but I have strong feelings on the matter. You do bring up a good point though; how does someone try to get recruiters when they don't have much experience?

I tried doing free things for others in order to gain experience... but it didn't really work out for me. I honestly don't like working hard for free, unless it's on my own project. Personally, I don't feel people should work for free just to gain 'experience', because you can gain experience doing your own thing or for a paid gig. But hey, someone has to start from somewhere so I won't knock on those people who do things that way.

I plan to finish the current project I'm working on before I start commissions so I have more to show people. Hopefully that will attract some recruiters. But then again, just because I worked well doing a personal project doesn't mean I'll work well with someone else.

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