An Ethel Among Mermans (thornwolf) wrote,
An Ethel Among Mermans

Thorn's business tip of the day 3: The search for Spock, er....I mean more money

As most of you already know, artists in general are highly underpaid. The fandom isn't the richest in the world which is why most furry artists have a day job as they can't live on fandom earnings alone most of the time. But along with this underpricing comes some misunderstandings between artist and commissioner. I'm going to address a few of those in this entry.

Price Changes

For those of you who have followed my journal long enough you know that my prices change continually. Is it because I can't make up my mind? Sometimes, but most of it has to do with supply and demand. If I have a full plate of art already and someone is wanting to commission me, I may be inclined to charge higher since the demand is high. If I have no one wanting a commission I may charge lower. If I need commissions out of pure desparation, I will charge below my normal rate, hence the sudden influx of $10 sketch commissions, they are normally $20 but if you catch me at the right time you may get to take advantage of my misfortune (nothing wrong with that, I don't mind it really). This is common amongst freelance artists. We charge what we see fit.

That mentioned, if the subject matter is something we either A: don't normaly do or B: don't want to do, we may also charge higher. It is our right. Think about it this way:

You are told you can eat all the ice cream you want, but there's one catch: the flavor is rum raisin. You /hate/ raisins, therefore you don't eat as much of the ice cream. But you are told that you can have a better flavor if you just finish this bowl full, so you stomach it down.

Then the other situation is the same, but the flavor is your favorite flavor, rainbow sherbert. You eat the whole bowl full, no muss no fuss.

A little incentive is needed to do something you wouldn't normally do, therefore a higher price is in order. Again, perfectly normal (and should be expected) in the world of freelance. This is in no way unreasonable.

Also, just because there may be a base price for a regular character does not mean the artist may not charge extra for extra limbs, wings, horns, piercings etc. The more complex the character, the more work is involved. You are paying the artist for the work they put into your piece, so more work indicates a higher charge, hence my recent wing fee, and it seems other artists are following suit or already had this implemented.

Another thing to think about, lower prices are not the artist's way of trying to give everyone free art. Here's an example:

I worked in the food industry for a time, and we would always get those couple of people who come in, throw a billion coupons on the register and demand a free meal. The point of coupons is not to give you a free meal, it is to get customers coming into the restaurant to PURCHASE something. We're business folks, not philanthropists, we're trying to cut you a break for our own gain and good customer service, not feed the hungry for pennies on the dollar, or in this case, shell out free art and porn to the masses like some bizarre ticker tape parade.

Same with artists. I offer my $10 digital sketches NOT because my wallet can only stomach bills in $10 increments, but because I need some quick money and could use the advertising. If folks see my sketches on the net, they might want to buy one at full price or commission me for something else that is larger.

This also goes for "well that person got a commission for X amount but I'm being charged more". Yes, but most freelancers take art on a case by case basis. Please check the following if you ever run across this problem:

-are there more characters in their commission than yours?
-are the characters more complex (in extra limbs or species)?
-is there a more complex background?
-is the subject matter something the artist doesnt typically do/ is usually uncomfortable doing?
-are you requesting more explicit content/more bits showing?
-is the piece larger?
-is the piece done in a different medium?
-is the commissionee swamped with other work?
-did you specifically request no prints to be made of your image?

If you answered "yes" to any one of these questions, then yeah, the artist has the right to charge more than they charged X for a commission.

The last point on that list brings me to my next topic...

Buying Rights To An Image

In the world of freelance there are several situations that may come about, the two main ones being that you are hired to do an image and you may sell the original or prints and/or redistribute as you see fit, the second being you are hired to do the image ONLY for that person and may not make reproductions. In the second case, an extra fee usually applies. I have actually done some professional illustrations of this nature.

For example, when I did the logo for, I was paid a set amount that was to cover character design, logo design, AND the rights to the image, indicating that while I may use the image in my portfolio, since it is their companie's logo I may not reuse the character or redistribute it at will. This was the logo in question:

Not that anyone would /want/ a cartoon shark like this in any other situation, but the company was just covering their bases. For example there are certain things you may and may not do with the NBC peacock, and it is recognizeably THEIR logo, and they want to keep it as such.

Same with Fursonas. Now, in the unusual situation of fursonas, your average furry fan has not taken the excruciating measures to legally copyright their character. Yes you can say "omg copyright fluffyfox" and out of consideration, most people will not steal the image, but not because it is illegal to do so, only because it is courteous. There is a lot of paperwork and money involved in legally copyrighting a character, so unless this has been done, if you hire an artist they may legally make reproductions of your image. Scary for some I guess. Not only that, but if you do not buy the rights to the image, that is, pay an extra fee, the artist can legally make reproductions to make money off the image. Buying rights to it is your way of reimbursing the artist for sales lost on those prints. Granted, in some cases, the fee doesn't cover all potentially lost sales, but that's the risk of freelance, you need to charge what you think is fair if you are to give up your reproduction rights to something that you can use as advertising.

Consider this:

You are in the desert and you have two options: Guzzle all your water now before you go hiking, or be allowed to take one half of a sip at each mile marker as you walk. Now, taking a small sip at each mile marker isn't really enough for you to quench your total thirst, and guzzling it all in one heaping gulp at the start will make you fine for awhile but you're SOL if you end up getting lost and are out in the sun longer than you imagined.

That is your choice. Sometimes guzzling it all up front is fine, especially if youre only going for a 20 minute trek, but its a risk you take if you're going for 10 miles (or in this case, if the project you worked on makes a heckofalotta money and you were 'art for hire' rather than getting royalties or reproduction rights)

It is normal and typically the standard that if you commission an artist, they /will/ make prints of your piece. It is their right, you paid them for their work, they don't owe you anything else. They also deserve to make a few extra bucks on the fully customized image if they are able. If you are upset at this, buy rights to the image so that only you can have it. Pricing on this depends artist to artist, so you may want to work out those details in advance.

I personally have the policy that I will make prints of commissions unless asked or paid not to. I am implementing a "buy rights to the image" option, only because I have received numerous requests for prints of images I was told not to make prints of, and I need to buy creamer for my coffee.

Another helpful tip in this regard, if you are SERIOUSLY upset that the artist can make prints of your image, talk to them and work out a deal. Do not be nasty under any circumstances, because remember, they have the upper hand. If they want to be a dick hey can go "fuck you you're being mean to me I'm going to sell this image if I wanna", but if you're nice they might be understanding and put your image in the "do not print" list for free or for a lesser fee than they would normally charge. Not promising anything, but like with traffic cops, it NEVER pays to be mean to an artist.


I hope this cleared up a few misconceptions.
Tags: business tips
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