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Thorn's business tip of the day 3: The search for Spock, er....I mean more money - The art of Thornwolf — LiveJournal
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 Loanshark.com, 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.


53 comments or Leave a comment
rosequoll From: rosequoll Date: January 16th, 2006 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
What if one is getting charged more and the two compared commissions are the same minus mine being less complex characters? Should I assume in that situation that the artist just doesn't want to do the piece? Do you think it would be more fair for the artist to just honestly say that they didn't want to do the piece, rather than make the customer feel really slighted?
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 16th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting question, in that situation it is my policy that okay, so I don't want to do it,but I will for the right price. If the commissioner whats the piece that badly then they can pay it. Please check the check list I posted to see if there are any differences between the two commissions that may indicate a price change or that the commissioner may not be /as/ thrilled to do it but, again, will if they feel they are being properly compensated.

Also, another thing to think about is maybe the artist did want to do it, but they are swamped. That, too, is also a factor to think about.

As they say "everyone has a price". It is far easier to charge more for something you don't want to do then to just say "no".
ruggels From: ruggels Date: January 16th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent, and ve4ry educational post. Well done.

shinigamigirl From: shinigamigirl Date: January 16th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

Also, about different prices for similar pieces, it may also be that one of the commissioners is a friend or a repeat custumer. I tend to make little price cuts here and there sometimes for certain people.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 16th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah yes excellent point! I do that as well.
From: kilojara Date: January 16th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do you know where I can find info on how to price image rights? I've actually got an offer for some logo work and I'm not quite sure what to be asking for...
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 16th, 2006 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
no idea but i think it should be proportional to the cost of the pic, like think in percents rather than actual dollar incremens, yanno?
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thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 16th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you =) Actually thought about situation while writing this as well.
sushidragon From: sushidragon Date: January 16th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was linked here through astolpho, and I just wanted to say thank you for the informative and well-written post ^_^
turbinerocks From: turbinerocks Date: January 16th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a good post, Thorn. But I'd amend it to read “most artists period are highly underpaid”. For every gallery star you see who can command $5000 for an oil, there's a hundred more talentend folks toiling in relative obscurity. Furry fandom is a very strange beast, where it's very difficult to truly make a living at it, (not enough furries) but it is a constant market of voracious art consumers. On average, furry fandom buys a tremendous amount of original art, it's part of the DIY culture of it. About anyone with sufficient skills can sit down, hang out their shingle in a dealer's room and be assured of making some money. Fandom art shows are on average many times as robust as art shows in other fandoms, and people who attend furry cons place a priority on buying art that other fandoms don't.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 16th, 2006 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I will do just that, you are so right =)
From: chibithejournal Date: January 16th, 2006 11:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for making posts like this, it really helps us not so knowledgeable artists out. I also have done a lot of commissions, good info to know. I prefer to sell prints of commissions too if they are not.. some kind of weird personal commission or someones character or something :D
silverfoxxis From: silverfoxxis Date: January 17th, 2006 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
This was very informative - thank you. I'm quite a n00b at pricing.

Also, I had no idea you did the loan shark logo. I've seen the commercials, and thought: "Hay, thats a groovy-looking fish."
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 17th, 2006 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Dude, they made commercials? They went bankrupt eons ago o_O
silverfoxxis From: silverfoxxis Date: January 17th, 2006 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
p.s.: I found this through neogeen
doodlesthegreat From: doodlesthegreat Date: January 17th, 2006 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Excellent post. You really need to collect these essays into some sort of pamphlet and sell it off to artists. Heaven knows so many of them could use a clue.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 17th, 2006 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Good idea! I'll look into that.
droolingfanboy From: droolingfanboy Date: January 17th, 2006 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
The search for more money was Star Trek 5, followed by ST 6 the appology.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 17th, 2006 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Really? IMDB said it was three. Oh well I lose.

I hate Star Trek anyways *ohnoez blasphemy!*
xxbalaaxx From: xxbalaaxx Date: January 17th, 2006 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)
That is an absolutely amazing post, as in qute informative and not only that but a fun read! You actually made a few points I wasn't quite sure on myself (in reference to image copyrights when it comes to commissions). I really never thought on that. I usually ask the person upfront if they would allow me to make prints or not, but I never thought to consider adding an extra fee not to make prints of said piece. There are a few pieces I was very proud of that I have never made prints of because they were commissions.

Many good thoughts to gnaw on there, thank you for sharing them and enlightening me :).
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 17th, 2006 07:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Im actually hoping that will become the norm in the furry fandom. I don't really approve of some trends in the way artists are expected to handle their wares really. =/
griffin_bandida From: griffin_bandida Date: January 17th, 2006 07:51 am (UTC) (Link)
All Hail Thornwolf because she give us great tips for the business world
Question, if there is a need of money you will put a high price, if there is no need of urgent money you put a low price, but when you begin start doing commissions (mainly to win money for the future) what's the best tip for pricing?
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: January 17th, 2006 07:59 am (UTC) (Link)
it really depends really on how much you personally are willing to give your art up for, I really can't help with that unfortunately =) I usually go by hourly wage.

And you have that backwards, if there is a need for urgent money i put a low price, if there is no need and/or I am swamped i put a high price
53 comments or Leave a comment