Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

Questions, skill improvement, and respectful critique involving art assets.
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Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#1 Post by Greeny » Wed Jun 19, 2013 3:14 pm

Hi! I'm Greeny.

I'm not an artist and I'm here to tell you how to do your job.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Art Commissions!
This guide is for beginners. Remember, the most valuable source of knowledge is Experience.
Just go out there and do it!

Still, this guide should spare you and the people you work with a lot of misery.

1: Have a Paypal

This is the most fundamental step you need to take. This will seem almost painfully obvious to most of you (thank the gods) and the people who will be commissioning you probably won't even know what else there could be. Now, a professional bigshot company might pay you directly into your bank account, but until you have the reputation to get hired by such a company, you'll be working your way up the ladder with PayPal.

Why do I feel the need to mention this? From time to time, I'll see people who ask for DeviantArt points for their art. Now, these points may have value to artists, but if someone is commissioning you to do art for them, they're probably not artists themselves; ergo, they don't give two shits about DeviantArt and their points.

A lot of artists ask for the money to be "gifted", to save fees. This is, essentially, tax evasion.
I'm not going to tell you not to do it - but I am going to tell you that it is a risk, and if you do it it's on your head.

You are selling a product, so you have to pay sales tax.
If you want to be sales tax compliant, make sure to ask the person hiring you to send the money as payment.

2: Your price is not a factor of your skills

Remember that as an artist taking commissions, you are a freelancer. As a freelancer, your price is not a factor of your skills, it's a factor of how much the other is willing to pay you. Fret not, your skills are a part of that. But so is their budget, your attitude, how fast you work, your reputation, how much the next artist is asking (spoiler: it's less than what you're asking), how much art they're asking for (the more they need, the cheaper they'll look for), even their mood today.

Some people will tell you that your price should be a measure of your countries' average wages. Ethically, this is just, but unfortunately, it's ultimately meaningless. You are not on a salary, you are an independent freelancer. Your market has its own rules, its own measures. The only money you get is the money they give you.

Don't get me wrong though. It's you who puts the price tag on your art. Never underprice yourself. However, it's important to understand that you can't measure your price by how good you are, and you can't measure how good you are by your price. Set a price you're willing to work for. If nobody will hire you at that price, consider lowering it. If you get flushed with offers, consider raising it in the future. Of course, you should never change your prices after an offer has been made. ("You want to hire me? Great! I guess I'm worth more. I decided I want more money for it then." People will suddenly realize they don't want to hire you after all, or ever again.) You can update your prices for new offers as frequently as you like, however, as long as you keep track of what your prices were for each commission you're in the process of doing.

Never ask them to make you a price offer. It doesn't look professional, and most importantly, what they want is to pay you as little as humanly possible. You don't want to be paid as little as humanly possible.

Most importantly though, never work at a price you're not comfortable with.

I would encourage you to look at your country's minumum wage as a starting point. You can work your way up the ladder from there, but you deserve at least that much when you're investing your own time for someone else. If you live in a country with low minumum wages, consider charging more for you work. Remember that while your country's wages may be low, your market is a global one and that means your market's earnings will average much higher.



3: Get the scope of the project


It's very important to know the scope of what your being asked to do before you begin. Halfway through their project, the person commissioning you might have a majestic "eureka" moment and decide it would be so cool to have these 5 extra CG's and an extra costume set for the main character. They've checked their budget for the extra money, and are already telling you of your new workload. If you feel up for the task - no harm, no foul - you'll earn some extra cash. But you might not be up for it. You might be swamped with work. You might have relationship problems. Remember that you don't owe them anything more than what was agreed to, and that's why it's important to agree to something.

Ask them for a list of CG's, Backgrounds, Sprites, whatever it is they're asking for. They might not realize how important this is for you, so if they don't give you a list out of their own accord, ask. If you really must, settle for an estimate, but never start a commission unless they're willing to give you the scope. Any expanded workload should be per mutual agreement.

4: Get the details - ALL of them

They'll tell you what they want you to do, no doubt. Unfortunately, for both of you, it's almost impossible for them to accurately tell you what they see in their mind. They might give you the general idea, though. Don't just "do your best" with that, or fill in the details for yourself.

In other words, don't use creative freedom unless they explicitly give it to you. They might well mean to give you the freedom, but if they don't mention it, you have no way of knowing if they're the kind of person who trusts your skills as an artist, or the kind of person who will give you a vague assignment and then berate you for all the details he never even mentioned. You don't want to take that risk.

If something's not clear, ask further before you begin - you'll save yourself a lot of trouble, and they'll have a better chance at getting what they envisioned. Everybody wins. If they go out of their way to tell you the details don't matter and your free to do as you see fit? Then they probably mean it.

Just don't ever take liberties with the things they do mention. If they're paying you for a girl with green hair, don't give her red hair and tell them it's better that way.

5: ALWAYS watermark your work

You do not want to do all that work only to have them run off with it without paying. You don't need a fancy logo to paste at half-transparency over it; Just scribble annotations across the work, and only give them the unaltered work when you get your payment. This may seem like it would bother people, but as long as it's not enough to prevent them from seeing if it's what they want, they shouldn't care. At least, as long as they're planning to pay you.

An excellent example of this I've seen in Reikun, who I've been commissioning for one of my projects:
Image
As you can see, it's not preventing me from judging its quality while still making sure I can't really use it until I've paid. Also note how even the WIP has been annotated. It doesn't hurt anyone to be careful.


6: Be prepared to get told how to do your job


A lot of people will hire you and start telling you how to do art. You probably already know how to do art, but they don't care about that. The way they see it, they know best and with their supreme guidance they will lead you into delivering the kind of quality they're paying you for. And if they are paying you, that does grant them a certain kind of leniency. That's why you need to be mentally prepared to listen to things you might not like to hear.

Be careful, they might know at least something of what they're talking about. If they have worked with a lot of artists in the past, they might have picked up some knowledge of art along the way. They might happen to have some history in art, you don't know them. If that happens, have a drink on the house, because that'll happen maybe once or twice in your life. And I say that because I'm an optimist. More like than not, they have no clue what they're talking about.

You may try to repsectfully disagree with what they tell you (try reminding them that they hired you for the portfolio you've shown them), but if they don't take that, arguing isn't going to help. Just try to bite the bullet and finish the job to their ridiculous requirements (unless it goes against your terms), and be pickier about who you work with in the future.
LateWhiteRabbit wrote:Manage your clients, don't let them manage you.
7: If they tell you to fuck off, gracefully accept

If they're being rude and disrespectful to you, don't apologize for whatever they're accusing you of (justified or otherwise), don't quietly keep at it until the work is over, don't try to reason with them, just walk away.

To the person hiring you, you may be a Pretty Picture Vending Machine, but to you, you're a human being with feelings.
Nobody in the business worth their salt is going to give you bad rep for ditching someone who doesn't know respect.

If they have hurt your feelings unintentionally, let them know and maybe give them a second chance, but otherwise? It's better for everybody if you just walked away.

Giving disrespectful people the business they're looking doesn't help anybody, and there are plenty of friendlier people who are worthier of your art.

8: Communication is paramount

Keep in touch on a regular basis, I can't stress this enough. The person who's hiring you only knows you from your correspondence. They don't know you in real life, and they can't see how hard you work. This last part is very important - how much you communicate shows how dedicated you are, not the results you deliver;

If you sit on your lazy ass all week and make some time free for art on Sunday, but only if you're not too tired after band practice... And, you communicate with the person who hired you every day? You'll still become known as the most hardworking artist on all of Lemma Soft. Because that's what they see: Someone who is involved with the job every day of the week.

Of course, don't do that. You don't need to update on a daily basis if you don't get work done every day and the aforementioned trick will only last for so long before people get wise. But the opposite is true: If you work hard every day, but you don't communicate, you will not come across as hard working.

Not only that, but communication also helps forge a better business relationship. Getting to know each other on a more personal level helps build trust, and the person commissioning you will grant you a lot more leniency. Everybody loves leniency, but in a freelance market it's generally the artist who draws the short straw on that matter. With communication and trust, you have the power to change that.

9: Actions vs. Attitude

A lot of people mistake acting professional for being professional. Always be sure take the actions you need to take to protect your business and ensure a smooth an efficient working relationship. That's being professional.

However, don't go out of your way to act professional. Forget all that business linguo and keeping a stiff upper lip. Having a friendly attitude doesn't make you unprofessional. People will choose attitude over actions any day: Between two people, where one has got the most professional portfolio and business standards, but only the other is wearing a smile on their face, the second person will get chosen every time.

10: If you don't get hired, don't complain.

They are recruiting, you make an offer, they decline, that's it. Nothing you say or do is going to change that. If they were willing to change their mind, they would have made you a counteroffer. There's really not much more to be said about this. Just don't do it.

11: Always get an advance payment.

A trustworthy commissioner should offer you one, but if they don't that doesn't mean they're not trustworthy. They may be new to this, or have forgotten. Regardless, always ask for one.

This isn't even to protect your payment; if you keep to point #5 it'll protect you better than any advance payment scheme ever will (although nothing is perfect) but here's what it will do: It will prove to you that they mean business, and actually have the money. It will get payment information sorted out early, meaning any problems will appear before it's too late. It will motivate you.

And it's just an all-around sound business practice for both parties.

12: Deliver promptly

As I mentioned, communication can go a long way to give you leniency with your speed. Still, try not to work too slowly. You are being paid for it, and unless your band practice is somehow gonna earn you more money, they'll just have to do without their guitarist this week because you've got work to do.

However, don't stress yourself. Never let anyone force you to work at a speed you're not comfortable with. If you work yourself to death, the person who hired you doesn't win either. And you're probably not getting paid, to boot. Band practice may not, but there are some things in your life that should take priority, relationships, family problems, your education... That's why...

13: Have clear standards

Before you begin, communicate your terms. If you're lenient about something, so be it, but if you're not, then you should refuse to work with someone who is not willing to deal with one of your rules. Make sure you know them yourself. Take some time to think about the following items:

- When do I want to get paid? (After each piece, after a set, after everything, on a monthly basis?)
- What am I willing to draw? (Decide on what's too sensitive for you, and clearly tell people what you won't do.)
- How fast will I work? (Make it clear if you have a busy life.)
- How lenient am I about the scope of the workload? (Do I need an exact number or will estimates do?)
- How many revisions will I allow during the process? (Don't give them too many - some people are never satisfied.)
- Will I allow them to make edits to my work after it's done? (If so, how much?)
- What kind of licence will I give them to use my art? (Can they sell the game? Can they sell posters on the side?)
- How do I wish to be credited? (Under my real name? My username? A stolen identity?)

Just remember:
pineapplepocky wrote: YOU CAN SAY NO.
It's perfectly okay to refuse a commission that doesn't abide by your terms or even if it just makes you uncomfortable.

14: Have a contract

This may be intimidating for some, but essentially, all a contract is is your answers to the last point put into fancy words. A lot of people will tell you that a contract is to protect you and the buyer. This is a very, very optimistic view. The long arm of the law has its limits; Unless you live very close to the person hiring you, or you have an international syndicate of lawyers at your disposal, a contract won't protect you.

You should still have one, and there are plenty of reasons other than law for it. A good working relationship isn't forged by legal mumbo-jumbo, it's forged by mutual trust and understanding. The trust will have to grow over time, but having a sheet of paper that clearly states all the terms will help with the understanding.

A professional company may offer you one of their contracts. Don't just blindly accept - take out your own contract and compare the two. In a contract, what is not mentioned is often far more important than what is mentioned. That's why having your own contract may remind you of terms they've left conveniently unmentioned.

If they don't offer you a contract, show them yours. They don't have to sign it, (although better if they do. Remember, if they're not hobbyists and have an official business, they need it) as I mentioned earlier, unless there's a big business involved neither of you has the actual legal reach to invoke it. Still, ask them to read it and accept in writing. It'll also help them see if there's a point they disagree on, and negotiate before it's too late.
LateWhiteRabbit wrote:You might not be able to "lawyer up", but trust me, having an email to forward to the client when they break the contract showing them where they agreed to the contract is a powerful thing in resolving disputes. I've had clients swear up and down that they didn't agree to something, then instantly drop the matter or apologize when I produce the email where they did. Half the time, they are NOT trying to screw you. The human mind is a fickle thing, and they truly do NOT remember making an agreement on an issue with you. And then there are the clients that don't really read the agreement to begin with.

I usually handle such things in the most diplomatic way possible:
"Hi, Mr. John Doe. I see you are requesting some changes. I hope you'll forgive me, but I'm a little confused. On the contract you agreed to on [date] you approved [this]. Has something changed or come up since then? I just what to make sure we are on the same page, since I'm still working from the original design agreement. Let me know so I can get this worked out for you."

At that point, it is usually fairly easy to get someone to admit they changed their mind after the fact. The important thing is you are not acting accusatory towards them, and leaving open the possibility of a mistake or change of heart. This also opens up making an official amendment to the agreement or even charging an additional fee or amount.
15: Your thread
When you're not going to people who are recruiting, your thread is where you'll get your jobs from. Here are a few pointers to remember:

- People will not click your link. Post some images into the thread - if they like those, then they'll visit your DeviantArt.
- Don't be too concise. You don't have to post your whole contract in the thread, but do post the elements that are important to you.
- Have a complete price list. Don't ask people to pm you for prices; you're asking them to put an effort when you want to get hired. Not to mention, if you're not willing to publicly post your prices, people will assume they're high.
- Post references. If you've done commissions before, post them. Around here, it isn't bad not to have any, but having them is a plus.
- Mind your grammar and spelling. If you're not willing to spellcheck your post, how much effort are you going to put into the actual job?

16: Have fun
Some people would have you believe that misery is a core aspect of working life, and that if you enjoy your work, you're doing it wrong. Don't listen to these people - try to have fun in whatever you do. If you're not having fun, be pickier about who your work with; try to do more commissions for people you enjoy working with, or just do something else entirely.

Art is not something you get into for the great financial prospects of it, so it's safe to assume you're here because you love art. If doing commissions is taking the enjoyment out of your art, better to find somewhere else to earn money and keep it for your free time.

--------------

That should just about everything you need to know about starting art commissions in the indie world and maybe working your way up to pro-level. As you get better, you'll have to start learning about Income Taxes - it's different for every country, so I can't teach you about that. You'll have to do your own research at some point.

Freelance work in the indie sector can be an incredibly fun & rewarding activity. I hope I've been able to help you achieve that.

Good Luck!
Last edited by Greeny on Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:50 am, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#2 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Wed Jun 19, 2013 8:16 pm

Good stuff, for the most part. Though I would like to expand on a few points.
Greeny wrote:Some people will tell you that your price should be a measure of your countries' average wages. Ethically, this is just, but unfortunately, it's ultimately meaningless. You are not on a salary, you are an independent freelancer. Your market has its own rules, its own measures. The only money you get is the money they give you.
::raises hand:: "Yes, hello, I am Some People."

Greeny makes a good point, and I think we largely agree, but your country's average minimum wage is still an incredibly important consideration when setting your prices. Frankly, if you can't charge minimum wage and get people to pay for your art, you probably aren't good enough to be charging people for your art. This isn't an indictment, it just means you need to keep practicing before passing around your hat. And if you ARE a great artist and you don't charge higher than minimum wage, you are a no good terrible horrible person and the reason a "starving artist" is a common thing, because it artificially deflates the market and makes it so no one can make a living creating art. Greeny covered this with the "don't underprice yourself" section, but it all ties back into the minimum wage.

If you can't charge the minimum wage for your art, you aren't good enough to do commissions yet.

::somersaults off soap box; drops mic::
Greeny wrote:A lot of people will hire you and start telling you how to do art. You probably already know how to do art, but they don't care about that. The way they see it, they know best and with their supreme guidance they will lead you into delivering the kind of quality they're paying you for. And if they are paying you, that does grant them a certain kind of leniency. That's why you need to be mentally prepared to listen to things you might not like to hear.

Be careful, they might know at least something of what they're talking about. If they have worked with a lot of artists in the past, they might have picked up some good knowledge of art along the way. But more like than not, they have no clue what they're talking about.
As someone who does commissions, and whose day job it is to create art and designs for clients face-to-face ... no. No client that has ever told me how to do art has ever known ANYTHING about art or what they are talking about. All they know, is what they want, and then only when they see it. I'm not exaggerating. I can't recall a single instance where the suggestions were not horrifically violating fundamental art and design standards.

HOWEVER, like Greeny said, don't argue with them. They will be convinced they are correct, and you are an expensive pencil accessory that attaches to their hand to draw pretty pictures.

"I KNOW what I'm talking about! My HUSBAND is an artist!"
"The osmosis isn't working." (And why aren't you getting your husband to do this then? Oh, that's right. He can't stand your awful suggestions anymore than I can.)

Just do exactly what they say, if it is truly awful refuse credit, and then never work with them again. Manage your clients, don't let them manage you.
Greeny wrote:If they don't offer you a contract, show them yours. They don't have to sign it, (although better if they do. Remember, if they're not hobbyists and have an official business, they need it) as I mentioned earlier, unless there's a big business involved neither of you has the actual legal reach to invoke it. Still, ask them to read it and accept verbally. It'll also help them see if there's a point they disagree on, and negotiate before it's too late.
They might not have to sign it with an ink pen or anything, but you should definitely get the agreement to a contract in writing, even if it just a typed email. You might not be able to "lawyer up", but trust me, having an email to forward to the client when they break the contract showing them where they agreed to the contract is a powerful thing in resolving disputes. I've had clients swear up and down that they didn't agree to something, then instantly drop the matter or apologize when I produce the email where they did. Half the time, they are NOT trying to screw you. The human mind is a fickle thing, and they truly do NOT remember making an agreement on an issue with you. And then there are the clients that don't really read the agreement to begin with.

I usually handle such things in the most diplomatic way possible:
"Hi, Mr. John Doe. I see you are requesting some changes. I hope you'll forgive me, but I'm a little confused. On the contract you agreed to on [date] you approved [this]. Has something changed or come up since then? I just what to make sure we are on the same page, since I'm still working from the original design agreement. Let me know so I can get this worked out for you."

At that point, it is usually fairly easy to get someone to admit they changed their mind after the fact. The important thing is you are not acting accusatory towards them, and leaving open the possibility of a mistake or change of heart. This also opens up making an official amendment to the agreement or even charging an additional fee or amount.



I'm kind of curious, Greeny. As a client, what prompted you to write this article? Surely there was some inciting event. Possibly a bad experience with an amateur commissioner?

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#3 Post by Greeny » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:01 pm

LateWhiteRabbit wrote:Longpost
Thanks for the input - some really good points I oversaw. I made some amenments, but..

On the first point, I would raise a discussion before amending the guide.
This is not so much a question of what's better - for everybody, even - as indeed, the underpricing of one does make it harder for the others. I'd raise the point that there would most likely always be a country with lower minimum wages involved in an international market, but there's a point I'm much more concerned with:

Is it really our place, or responsibility, to enforce decent prices for everybody? If an artist is comfortable and happy working at low fees, should they or should they not be free to do so? If we want to believe in total freedom, the best we can do is stress that artists shouldn't underestimate what they're worth, and most importantly, never work at a rate they're not comfortable with.

I'd rather keep the article as neutral as possible. It's a very political dilemma.
LateWhiteRabbit wrote: I'm kind of curious, Greeny. As a client, what prompted you to write this article? Surely there was some inciting event. Possibly a bad experience with an amateur commissioner?
Would you believe me if I said I'm just trying to make the world a better place?
I haven't had any bad experiences in my dealings, but maybe we who have it good should step up and share, instead of waiting for problems to reach us personally before pushing for change.

I don't believe me either, but that's the truth of it.
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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#4 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:42 am

Greeny wrote: On the first point, I would raise a discussion before amending the guide.
This is not so much a question of what's better - for everybody, even - as indeed, the underpricing of one does make it harder for the others. I'd raise the point that there would most likely always be a country with lower minimum wages involved in an international market,
As a citizen of a nation with a higher cost of living than most places in the world, I'd love for every artist to charge at least MY nation's minimum wage for their art, so the market is better for me. But I recognize that is as silly as wishing for my own magical unicorn, so I'd just be happy if artists AT LEAST charged the minimum wage of the nation they live in. Then I can fervently hope that every nation starts doing well economically and someday we are all on a level playing field.
Greeny wrote: but there's a point I'm much more concerned with:

Is it really our place, or responsibility, to enforce decent prices for everybody? If an artist is comfortable and happy working at low fees, should they or should they not be free to do so? If we want to believe in total freedom, the best we can do is stress that artists shouldn't underestimate what they're worth, and most importantly, never work at a rate they're not comfortable with.
Total freedom is a tricky thing in this context. Ideally, I see exactly where you are coming from. But in my experience from being around students doing commission work at art school, professionals in a studio setting, and even businesses, "total freedom" amounts to inexperienced business people (and really, that's what you are as a freelance artist - an independent business person) screwing themselves over. Badly.

It ties back in with the thread where we were talking about how humble and self-effacing most artists are. Most artists have more than a nagging worry that their art sucks. Combine this with good business sense being an almost opposite talent to creativity, and you end up with a lot of new commission artists being TERRIFIED to charge more than peanuts for their hard work. They view setting a higher price on their work as a form of bragging and showboating, and most artists despise the appearance of doing that. So you end up with an artist charging absurdly low prices that are not at all equal to the amount of time and effort they have to expend to produce the art. You have to charge enough to cover your cost, or you don't have a viable business model. And yes, your time is a cost, even if you have tons of it.

Several of the artistic organizations in America routinely release price guideline books every year to keep everyone in the profession on the same page. For instance, the Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. And yes, the "Ethical Guidelines" part is important. None of us is an island, and our actions in a profession affect OTHER people in that profession. I lean libertarian myself, but I firmly believe your freedom stops when it starts impeding my own. By acting responsibly and with a mind to the long term health of our chosen profession, we ensure that when we grow old, we can still live off our art. As a student or young person on your own, you may be able to live off of selling your art for peanuts, but you could very well create a situation where in the future when you have higher costs of living and a family you can no longer support yourself off the deflated market you helped create. You would be FORCED to regulate your art to a hobby.

And I strongly believe that once you are charging for your art, it is no longer a hobby. So you need to educate yourself about the market, pricing guidelines, and be mindful of how you operate.

I'm in a bit of a weird position myself. I've got two degrees - one in Art, the other in Business. So I probably consider the financial side of art more than a "pure" artist. (For all you role-playing gamers out there, I'm dual-classed!) Almost every commission artist I've ever spoken to has regretted that they started out charging so little. When they start out, most commission artists are terrified of being able to get enough commissions, so they set prices to the equivalent of a fire sale and end up working themselves to death for very little gain. Most have expressed the amazement they felt when they raised prices and got MORE work. And were able to raise them repeatedly after that with no real drop off in requests.

It isn't just the quantity of work the artist gets that is important - it is the quality of the work. Your ideal situation is creating a stable loop of repeat customers that give you just the right balance of work to let you do the best you can on a sane timetable for a liveable wage. You don't want clients that are going to nickle and dime you to death to make your rent. Your time is tied up working with lots of different clients and making little off each one. You want a few clients that are willing to pay you what your service is worth. You do it by encouraging relationships with the good clients and dropping bad clients like a hot potato.

I improved the art department at my day job by telling people "No." My predecessor took on as many clients as possible for the company and bowed to every request. I tell clients "no" and refuse to accept another job from others. ("Sorry, we have to decline your job. We don't have time to give it the attention it requires.") The art department runs more efficiently, we have time to do a better job for the clients we have, and we make more money because of that increase in quality. The same principals apply to freelancing.

Instead of getting 7 $5 commissions and working yourself to death, get ONE $35 commission and do an AWESOME job on it. The quality of your work will bring MORE work. Rinse and repeat, and know you've arrived when you have to routinely turn away job requests.

Greeny wrote: I'd rather keep the article as neutral as possible. It's a very political dilemma.
Oops.
Greeny wrote: Would you believe me if I said I'm just trying to make the world a better place?
I haven't had any bad experiences in my dealings, but maybe we who have it good should step up and share, instead of waiting for problems to reach us personally before pushing for change.

I don't believe me either, but that's the truth of it.
I believe you. Your post should really be stickied.

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#5 Post by Taleweaver » Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:10 am

LateWhiteRabbit wrote:I believe you. Your post should really be stickied.
Before we do this, let's give this a little more public discussion, though. So far, it's too little different people posting in the thread to really consider it "publicly recognized".

To add a little to the discussion, I believe that the entire pricing issue is very problematic considering the sheer size of the freelance artist market. The internet and PayPal make it possible for any artist in the world to offer their services anywhere else and get paid for it. If everybody tries to earn at least minimum wage for his country, then naturally, artists located in Vietnam will charge lower prices than, say, artists in Japan. Not slightly lower prices but only mere fractions of what the other will charge. The one offers services for $100, the other for $5, and both will be able to live on that amount of money for the same time, after taxes.

Business reality is that both the artist from Japan and the one from Vietnam would have to adjust their prices in a market where both compete, and unfortunately, the internet is that market. As Greeny says, price is not an indicator of quality, so our Vietnamese artist could probably easily take four times as much as he would need to and be still one of the cheaper guys while even if our Japanese artist would take only half what he would have to for the minimum wage thing, his prices would not be considered exceptionally cheap.

I know what I'm talking of. I've bought artist services, and the people whose price/quality total have impressed me most are from Poland and from Brazil, both countries with a substantially lower minimum wage than Germany, where I come from. The only way an artist can reasonably sell his or her skills for a higher price is by offering them on a platform where others also offer the same service - and average prices are what he or she expects to be paid. That way, his prices seem fine in comparison to those checking out that platform for art. However, offer your services apart from other people and you will be compared to all of the internet. Which, if you come from anywhere with a high cost of living, is something you probably don't want.

tl;dr: Artists, offer your services on a platform where the average offered price is about what you want to earn as well.
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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#6 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:14 am

Taleweaver wrote: To add a little to the discussion, I believe that the entire pricing issue is very problematic considering the sheer size of the freelance artist market. The internet and PayPal make it possible for any artist in the world to offer their services anywhere else and get paid for it. If everybody tries to earn at least minimum wage for his country, then naturally, artists located in Vietnam will charge lower prices than, say, artists in Japan. Not slightly lower prices but only mere fractions of what the other will charge. The one offers services for $100, the other for $5, and both will be able to live on that amount of money for the same time, after taxes.
And there is no real way to solve this issue. It is the reason jobs are outsourced all the time. The income inequality between different nations is staggering. If we solve this issue in an internet forum, we'd best be prepared to share the Nobel Prize in Economics with one another. The ONLY solution is for the poorer nations to rise to the economic level of the richer nations, so that wealth doesn't automatically flow in only one direction.
Taleweaver wrote: I know what I'm talking of. I've bought artist services, and the people whose price/quality total have impressed me most are from Poland and from Brazil, both countries with a substantially lower minimum wage than Germany, where I come from. The only way an artist can reasonably sell his or her skills for a higher price is by offering them on a platform where others also offer the same service - and average prices are what he or she expects to be paid. That way, his prices seem fine in comparison to those checking out that platform for art. However, offer your services apart from other people and you will be compared to all of the internet. Which, if you come from anywhere with a high cost of living, is something you probably don't want.
There is no closed platform for digital art, and all of the internet IS your market.

Yes, this sucks for artists in places like the U.S., Germany, Japan, etc. An artist in another country can spend all day on a sprite, charge $20 for it, and live extremely well. We'd have to charge $80 or more for the same sprite to afford a cheap apartment. I'd love to see those other artists charge more for there services - after all, it helps us and REALLY helps them. But then you create an ethical situation where their own countrymen can't afford their services. I know of an Indonesian artist who takes on mostly American clients, and it has made him extremely wealthy in his country of origin, where I would only be able to live moderately well on the same client list.

There is no solution. It it why most of the full time freelancers I know work almost exclusively for companies. Most companies generally have a moral imperative to pay according their country of origin. You might consider the same as a client from one of the wealthier nations. But it is a capitalistic market, and it is your right to choose the best artist for the best money. It is really up to the artists themselves to work together to create a sustainable market.

The only thing we CAN do is get new artists and commissioners to think about this issue and be aware of it.

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#7 Post by Greeny » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:58 am

I've added an addendum as a suggestion, because I think it's fair to encourage people to stay above minumum wage.

But I didn't come here to single-handedly fix the economy, or have a great big political debate.

I just hope starting artists will read this guide and have a much better and safer time.
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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#8 Post by Armee » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:11 pm

Okay, I've watching this for awhile and decide to speak up anyway, I like this thread, it's like a tutor for noob artists to know how to do art commission in a better way. I, myself, find this really useful. I think that people should have a chart to calculate their art's worth, but no one show up to make that chart and the important thing is what's based on? We should male a thread for people to asking if their art worth enough, now, that's just ridiculous. Because I think people know what they are doing when they're pricing their art. If they think it worth it, it worth, unless they're trying to troll someone with an unbelieveable high price. No such thing call underpricing, but there're things call "I-want-to-commission-cost-that-much-so-it-will-be-it". Yeah, it depend on how artist think.
Yes, this sucks for artists in places like the U.S., Germany, Japan, etc. An artist in another country can spend all day on a sprite, charge $20 for it, and live extremely well. We'd have to charge $80 or more for the same sprite to afford a cheap apartment.
Well, true, our Vietnam Dong have lower value than most of other country's money. It make life easier to work with foreigners from Westerns. If a Vietnamese come to America, they'll realize, yeah, Vietnam is better because everything is cheaper, but on the other side, it have higher technology and such things. And...more expensive life. Well, I think they should move to Vietnam if they want a richer and cheaper life. ^^

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#9 Post by Taleweaver » Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:56 am

Armee wrote:Okay, I've watching this for awhile and decide to speak up anyway
...and given me reason to finally sticky this topic. Thanks :)
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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#10 Post by sheypyg » Sat Jul 06, 2013 1:33 am

Hello, hope you are alright with my noobish question; how and when do you usually give your contract to clients? :?
I've never given one and so far nothing very troublesome, thankfully, yet after start reading the pricing and ethical guidelines book recommended by one of my lecturers, I started drafting one.

It's just my nervous nerve made me thinking the extra tidbits like; do I attach it (the contract) in the email conversations or put it up online...and so on.

Anyway, thank you so much for starting this topic. It cleared up some issues that had been bugging my head :mrgreen:

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#11 Post by KomiTsuku » Sat Jul 06, 2013 1:51 am

sheypyg wrote:Hello, hope you are alright with my noobish question; how and when do you usually give your contract to clients? :?
I've never given one and so far nothing very troublesome, thankfully, yet after start reading the pricing and ethical guidelines book recommended by one of my lecturers, I started drafting one.

It's just my nervous nerve made me thinking the extra tidbits like; do I attach it (the contract) in the email conversations or put it up online...and so on.

Anyway, thank you so much for starting this topic. It cleared up some issues that had been bugging my head :mrgreen:
If you are bringing out a contract, which I personally think is overkill for hobbyist projects, you shouldn't bring it out until after everything has been hammered out and all details for the project are set. Mention that you want to have one set before you start work, but focus first on negotiating the details. You can't set a contract until you know what the contract is going to contain.

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#12 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Sat Jul 06, 2013 2:24 am

KomiTsuku wrote:
sheypyg wrote:Hello, hope you are alright with my noobish question; how and when do you usually give your contract to clients? :?
I've never given one and so far nothing very troublesome, thankfully, yet after start reading the pricing and ethical guidelines book recommended by one of my lecturers, I started drafting one.

It's just my nervous nerve made me thinking the extra tidbits like; do I attach it (the contract) in the email conversations or put it up online...and so on.

Anyway, thank you so much for starting this topic. It cleared up some issues that had been bugging my head :mrgreen:
If you are bringing out a contract, which I personally think is overkill for hobbyist projects, you shouldn't bring it out until after everything has been hammered out and all details for the project are set. Mention that you want to have one set before you start work, but focus first on negotiating the details. You can't set a contract until you know what the contract is going to contain.
KomiTsuku is right. You want to converse with the client and learn about the job and expectations before introducing a contract. Do as KomiTsuku suggessts and mention the contract early, but don't focus on it.

I tend to attach the actual contract as PDF. Though I have two different levels:

For a small job, with little money exchanging hands, I'll generally just get a "vocal agreement" contract. I.e. I just write out the few conditions of the contract in an email and get the client to reply back with something like, "I agree to the conditions and expectations as discussed in this email." Or however they want to phrase it, so long as they unambiguously agree to it. I generally do this with the "small fish" so I don't scare them off and when the money/project is small enough that it isn't going to hurt too badly if they flake on me. It really is just about managing the client and having something in "writing" for disagreements.

For the next level, the big jobs and clients with a lot of money / time on the table, I make sure to actually create a contract and attach it as a PDF. I ask them to print the signature page, sign it and scan it back in. As previously mentioned, this often won't mean diddly-squat if I need to bring legal action against a client, but it is all about managing the client and setting expectations. Before I embark on spending days or weeks of my time for this person, and hundreds of dollars are due to exchange hands, it signals that this is "serious business". The sheer act of them having to print out a physical page, sign their name with a pen, and take the time to scan it back in reinforces the importance and seriousness of the business transaction. It is psychological. They have their name in black and white in their own handwriting affirming their intent to be an honest person. I've found it also makes them about 10 times more likely to READ the contract before agreeing to it. (You wouldn't believe how many people I've had admit they never read the contract! "So, how are you planning to get your first-born child to me in exchange for the logo?")

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#13 Post by sheypyg » Sat Jul 06, 2013 3:00 am

Woah! Thank you so much for the fast reply and detailed explanations!

Both of you answered even the implied extra questions in them :lol:
And yeah, looking back I only used this 'vocal agreement' for small jobs.
I'll do as you guys suggested when accepting bigger jobs :)

Thanks again!

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#14 Post by Chibisaso » Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:45 am

Ok, so this was really helpful for me since I'm planning to join this business community, if it wasn't for this I probably would have made a thread saying, Hey ! here's my art ~ I'm available for hiring ^^. so again thanks so much for this <3
though I have a really important question.

what about the countries with no Paypal ?

unfortunately I'm from Egypt and Paypal doesn't hold it's service here, I've heard of having someone from an available country to register for me and such but we don't have any 'close' people who would actually go through so much for me.
and as you said
a professional bigshot company might pay you directly into your bank account, but until you have the reputation to get hired by such a company, you'll be working your way up the ladder with PayPal.
so I have a very low chance in finding someone who would pay me directly to my bank account since I'm just a starter. so that would be a no for me.
I have found alternatives for Paypal BUT, I don't think any commissioner would go through into creating a new account just to pay me, I mean once they see in my thread that I can't accept offers through Paypal, I doubt that they're not gonna close the tab and search for another one, unless my art is WOW and with averagely good prices that's a chance to not miss, they might go through with it, but my art isn't a wow degree, I'm just a plain good artist (I'm still confident in my skills tho)

any help or advice is really appreciated (。・ω・。)ノ♥

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Re: Greeny's Guide to Art Commissions

#15 Post by Greeny » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:22 am

Chibisaso wrote:unfortunately I'm from Egypt and Paypal doesn't hold it's service here.
This brings up a very good issue... I hadn't realized Paypal doesn't hold its service in all countries.
Unfortunately, off the top of my head there are no other widely-used methods of money exchange, at least not when we're talking widely enough to apply to here.

As you mentioned, there's the option of getting someone to set up an account for you.
If you don't know someone right now who will do it for you, you can always go looking!
Perhaps someone would be willing to do it in exchange for a one-off commission?
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