An all-important step before taking art commissions, figuring out your prices as a digital artist can be confusing and scary - so I wrote this guide!
Calculating your prices is an important step before taking art commissions - you don't need your prices to be absolutely spot on before you begin, but you also don't want to be way off.
If you don't charge enough, you may find yourself under a mountain of work yet still unable to pay all your bills.
If you charge too much, you might find yourself with no work in sight, and still unable to pay those bills!
Unfortunately, most price calculators on the internet are aimed at traditional artists, and as a digital artist, you can't price your work the same way.
Since you'll almost always be sending a digital file to your client, cost of materials isn't a factor in digital art pricing.
Nor can you really price your art by square inch, like you might price a physical canvas, since in digital art the size of your canvas is so easy to change and doesn't correlate as much with the time you spend making a piece of art.
The best measurement digital artists can use to charge a sustainable price for our commissions, is to track the actual time spent making a piece of art, and multiply that by an hourly rate that we know covers our time.
So, that essentially requires you to know two things - how long does your art take, and how much per hour do you need to make?
Since the price of a commission is usually agreed on with a client before you begin working, you have to figure those two things out first, to then be able to give clients an accurate price.
How to calculate your hourly rate
Before I got into doing freelance and commissions, my only jobs had been in someone else's employment.
I remember hearing some of the hourly rates charged by freelance artists, and comparing it to my wage at work, and figured freelance artists must all be wealthy!
Although rates of $100 an hour, $50 an hour or even $30 an hour sounds like loads of money, the reality of being a freelance artist is a little less glamorous.
There are so many factors and expenses that you have to handle in self-employment as a freelance artist, it's not fair to compare it to an employee's wage - but I'll get into that later.
A simple formula for minimum hourly rates for commissions
Here's an easy way to figure out a minimum hourly rate, regardless of your living circumstances:
Take the amount you need to make every month from commissions to cover your monthly living expenses, then double it - to account for other expenses like taxes, sick days, holidays, replacing equipment etc.
Divide this by the number of hours you can work on commissions per month, at a maximum of 100 hours per month.
Any more than 100 hours per month is unsustainable - believe me I've tried.
If you've ended up with an hourly rate of under $10 through this formula, round it up to $10.
So, if you can work full-time on commissions and need to make $1000 a month from commissions, double that to $2000 and divide it by 100 hours, equalling a minimum rate of $20 per hour.
This is your minimum hourly rate - ifpeople try to talk you into charging less than your minimum hourly rate, whether that's clients, or other artists, or friends or family or strangers, ignore them and move on.
This minimum rate is what you have to charge to survive. If you charge less than this, I promise it will bite you and you will struggle.
New freelance artists can earn $10 per hour minimum. I don't care where you are from or if you don't think you deserve it - if your art is good enough to land jobs, you can charge an absolute minimum of $10 per hour.
If you see artists charging less than $10 per hour, it's probably because they are scared to charge more. They don't realise they could get $10 per hour or more if they overcame their fear.
Only take jobs if you can make this minimum rate or better.
How this hourly rate translates into annual income
From my experience as a freelance artist, I'd say this simple equation sums up how well your hourly rate translates into a maximum annual salary:
As a reasonable estimate, a freelance artist can expect a maximum annual income of about 1000 times their hourly rate, after taxes and expenses.
So, $30 per hour is a maximum salary of $30k per year - and $10 per hour means an income of around $10k per year.
Do the calculation for your own rate - does 1000 times your hourly rate sound okay?
Does it sound alright, also knowing that this annual salary is only achievable if you work pretty hard all year round?
If you're excited about this figure, great!
If you think your projected salary is too low, I would go with your gut and just increase your hourly rate right now, to something that feels more appropriate.
Now we have a minimum hourly rate, we can talk about the next step to figure out your commission prices.
How to track the time you spend making a piece of art
Put simply, you will have to record thetime you spend making one or more pieces of art.
The more these are like the commissions you plan to offer, the better.
If you want to start offering D&D character commissions, I recommend you time yourself making a sample full-portrait character. If you want to offer pet portraits, give yourself a pretend client and time yourself making their pet portrait, etc.
I've used a few different methods to track my time spent on a piece of art
1. Track time manually
Make a note of the time you started working, and the time you stopped - this could be a good enough method if you tend to create a finished piece in just one or two sittings.
If you are like me and tend to work on a piece of art over multiple sittings and have many pieces of art on the go at once, tracking manually probably won't be good enough.
2. Use an app to track your time spent in a program
I use both Work.exe and ActivityWatch to track my time spent in the art software on my computer.
Work.exe is free and very simple - just tell the app which programs on your pc are for 'work', and it'll track how long you've spent in them today.
You can download Work.exe here; don't worry it's safe, despite the strange looking webpage it's hosted on!
I also use ActivityWatch which is free as well, but much more advanced. It tracks the time I spend on everything on my pc, so I use this for more general time tracking, but it's also good for tracking how much time I spend on art.
You can grab ActivityWatch on their site.
3. Screen record yourself while you make art
Something I used to do a lot was screen recording my painting software while I worked, and rewatching it to add up the time I spent on the art.
You can be very accurate this way, though it takes a bit more effort to set up and review the footage after.
I use OBS Studio to record my screen which you can grab here, totally free and safe.
As a bonus, recording yourself making art has the benefit of creating a valuable asset in itself, as you can use the recordings to make video content for youtube and other social media platforms.
Don't forget to add time that you spend outside of directly working on the art, but doing other necessary things like gathering references. This is work time too!
Whichever of these methods you choose to use, it's hard to estimate the exact time you'll spend on any given commission - this is only going to give you something good enough as a starting point.
Calculating your commission prices
Once you know the time spent making a typical piece of art, and your hourly rate, simply multiply them together to get a base price for a standard commission.
The basic D&D commission I offer is a full body character on a white background, and I spend around 10 hours making it, including emailing with the client and gathering references.
If you charge $30 per hour, then a 10 hour D&D commission costs $300. If you spend on average 6 hours, that would be $180,if you spend 20 hours thats $600.
Once you have your basic price, I would estimate prices for variations or more complicated commission requests, by estimating the additional time they would take.
In my case, if the design of a character will take more work to paint, such as if they have a small pet, complicated armour or a big set of wings, I would estimate each element to add about 2 hours to the painting process.
If the client wants a background, simple ones would add around 2 hours, but complicated ones might add 10 hours.
If the client wants multiple characters in a single illustration, I simply figure out the time investment for each character, and the time investment for the background, add it all together and multiply by my hourly rate.
For example, a client wants a scene with 3 characters fighting in a ruined church. 2 characters are simple at 10 hours each (20 hours so far), the other character has intricate armour and large batlike wings, so I think it would take around 14 hours to paint (34 hours total now). The ruined church is also a more complicated background, and I estimate would take 8 hours to paint (42 hours in total).
The above example illustration would take around 42 hours, and at a $30 per hour rate would cost $1260.
These prices are assuming you are sending the client a digital file when the art is finished, and the work is for non-commercial purposes.
If the client wants you to print the art and send that to them, I would also charge them for the cost of printing and posting the art, as well as charge your hourly rate for the time you have to spend getting that handled.
If the client wants to use the art commercially, as in include it in a product like as a cover of a book or on the front of a t-shirt, you should charge extra.
How much extra you charge really depends on the project, but I usually add around 50% to the price to let clients use the piece for that one product. If they want to own the piece outright and do whatever they like with it, so the art no longer belongs to me at all, I would double the price or more.
You don't have to try to plan prices for every potential commission that might come your way - I would look at the kinds of commissions other artists are posting online, try to imagine how long they would take you to make, and thus plan out how much you would charge for something similar.
These are also just estimates - you'll find that as you do more commissions, you'll get better at estimating how much time a piece of art will take to make, and be able to price it more accurately.
If you feel your rates might be too high to get any commissions, remember this - marketing is king.
How much you can charge for your work is based much more on how well you market your art, than it is anything else.
Pricing your Revisions
I always have 2 revision periods during my process - one after the sketch and one after the final. The client can ask for changes in these periods, and these only.
Don't do unlimited free revisions for clients, only offer 2 per piece at most, perhaps 3 if the art is really big and complicated. If the client requires more revisions on top, I let them know that these will be charged at my hourly rate.
If you offer unlimited free revisions, most clients won't take advantage, but some will - you'll end up losing a lot of time and money on the commission.
As soon as the client asks for additional changes after your included free revisions, tell them that they will cost an additional $30 per hour, or whatever your hourly rate is.
Comparing your prices against other people's
Once you have your estimated prices, I would compare them to what you can see other artists charging, to see how your prices sit in the commission market.
But no matter how your prices compare to anyone else's, I wouldn't let their prices influence yours.
Some people, when they first open commissions, will charge too much - but most will heavily underprice themselves because they are scared they won't find work otherwise.
Not always, but typically, you'll find that it's the artists who are undercharging who mention their prices publicly - because they are using their low prices as a selling point.
Artists who are charging higher rates don't normally mention their prices, as they are letting their art be the selling point.
That's how you want to approach commissions - make good art, and have faith that you charge an appropriate price for it.
Only compare yourself so you know where you stand in the market.
Don’t compare your prices against the wages of people who are in normal jobs
As a freelancer there are so many extra expenses to pay, and there is so much work you have to do that you won't get paid for, like advertising. You don't get holiday pay, you don't get sick pay, and you don't get paid during your tea breaks.
Full-time wages don't include all of their employer's costs, and at most jobs you also get paid just for being present for 8 hours a day, not for being productive 8 hours a day.
If we look at this cost of an employee calculator you can see that a £50k annual salary employee, which is roughly equivalent to an hourly wage of £25, actually costs the employer around £100k a year, which is an hourly cost of £50.
(Apologies for the calculator using British Pounds, it's the best calculator I could find - £25 is roughly equal to $30 USD)
Further than this, if we look at this article on how much time the average employee actually spends being productive, in a typical 8 hour workday people are on average productive for less than 3 hours.
So, that £50k salary employee earning an hourly wage of around £25, is actually being paid £133 for each hour of their real productivity (which in USDis a $30 per hour wage translating into a pay of $160 per hour of productivity!)
Don’t compare your commission rates with an employees wages, because an employee earning $30 per hour is vastly different to a freelancer who charges $30 per hour.
If someone in a normal job tries to compare their wages with your hourly rate, they probably have no idea about the realities of being a freelance artist - ignore it and move on, or perhaps even show them this article.
Increasing your commission prices over time
As you become more accurate at estimating the time a piece of art will take, and figure out what kind art you'll be able to make quickly and what will take longer, you will find yourself adjusting your prices a lot.
Once you've started taking commissions, one of your goals should be to work on improving your commission income.
This is a very deep topic, but for now here are a few things to consider:
Increasing your hourly rate
A lot of artists are scared to increase their hourly rate, because they are scared of not getting any jobs.
Whenever you get more work than you can handle, raise your hourly rate.
Once I have more than a months worth of work queued up, I raise my rate, and thus my commission prices, by 50%.
If your queue still keeps on growing, raise them again, and again until it stays steady or starts shrinking.
If you're actively accepting new commissions and increasing the demand for your work, it shouldn't be long before you're able to hit $30 per hour or more.
If you are struggling to build a big queue of work, then you need to work on increasing the demand for your commissions.
Increasing demand for your commissions
In order to grow your queue big enough to increase your prices, you need to have large enough demand for your art.
Increasing demand largely comes down to finding your target audience - people who like your work, and who actually have spare money to spend on art commissions.
If you need more places to advertise your commissions, check out this article.
You can also increase demand by improving your advertising process, and simply (or perhaps not so simply!) by creating better artwork.
Increase your supply of art
On top of trying to increase demand, you could also try to find ways to increase your supply - make your commissions process more efficient, so you make the same art in less time.
If you can halve the time it takes for you to complete a commission, congratulations, you just doubled your hourly rate!
A lot of commission artists develop a specific process that they've made as efficient as they can, so they can produce art faster without a drop in quality.
Things like using 3D models as a base to draw over, or changing their art style slightly to something that's faster.
I know this has been a long article, filled with all kinds of different formula and rules, so here's a small summary of the key points:
- Hourly rate = 2 x monthly income goal / monthly work hours (max 100)
- Projected maximum annual income = hourly rate x 1000
- Commission price = hourly rate x time spent
Don't charge less than $10 per hour under any circumstances. Don't offer unlimited revisions- have a set number of revision stages and charge hourly for more. Don't feel insecure about your prices, and increase them by working on your supply and demand.
Time to start getting commissions!
If you don't have a portfolio set up to show people your art, this article will explain how to set up a free and simple art portfolio.
If you have some sort of portfolio set up and you've figured out your commission prices, you're ready to start advertising!
This article explains the best places I use to get art commissions.
I hope this article has helped you out. Good luck!
How much should a beginner digital artist charge? ›
The consensus? New artists will almost always undervalue their work. Most comments say they sold their early works for $5-20 per commission.How do you price art for beginners? ›
Multiply the painting's width by its length to arrive at the total size, in square inches. Then multiply that number by a set dollar amount that's appropriate for your reputation. I currently use $6 per square inch for oil paintings. Then calculate your cost of canvas and framing, and then double that number.What are the starting prices for art commissions? ›
On average, the price for a commissioned painting from an experienced artist starts at $100 and can go as high as $10,000. Generally, there are 4 simple guidelines to help you get a sense of how much you should be paying for you a personalized artwork by an artist.What do beginner digital artists buy? ›
- Wacom Intuos small. This is the cheapest, most portable and smallest drawing tablet available to digital artists. ...
- Wacom Intuos pro tablet. ...
- Huion 1060 plus. ...
- Apple Pencil. ...
- iPad stand. ...
- Apple pencil grips. ...
- Paperlike iPad screen protector. ...
- Two finger artist glove.
FORMULA 1: Square Inch × Dollar Amount
To get the square inches of a painting, multiply the width of the work by the length. Next, multiply this number by a dollar amount that makes sense for your reputation and credentials. Then round to the nearest hundred.
Example: If your company sells a service for $500 that has a commission rate of 10%, a sales rep would earn $50 each time they sell that service.How much should I charge for a digital art piece? ›
Prices for digital art can range anywhere from $10 to around $250, or even more. The price depends on the quality of the product, the artist's pricing model, the average market price for similar pieces, and the reputation of the artist.What do beginner artists sell? ›
You may want to sell original art pieces, art prints, stickers, calendars, cards, T-shirts, mugs you name it. Just make sure you don't sacrifice the quality of your work when you decide on products to sell your art on.How to price digital art on Etsy? ›
Start by thinking about how much you would charge for the item if you were printing it, packaging it and mailing it. And be sure to consider how much time you put into each design and what you would consider a reasonable profit. Then, add on expenses like Etsy fees to settle on a final price.How much do digital artists make? ›
The average Digital Artist salary in the United States is $70,695 as of February 27, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $59,985 and $81,777.
What are average commission prices? ›
However, the typical commission rate for sales starts at about 5%, which usually applies to sales teams that have a generous base pay. The average in sales, though, is usually between 20-30%. What is a good commission rate for sales? Some companies offer as much as 40-50% commission.What should I pay for art commissions? ›
- Use an online payment gateway.
- Use a third-party marketplace.
- Use email invoicing.
- Use mobile payment apps.
- Use eChecks with ACH processing.
- Use cryptocurrency payments.
- Use electronic bank/wire transfers.
- Etsy. You can't talk about sites to sell artwork without mentioning Etsy. ...
- Amazon. These days, people buy just about everything on Amazon—and that includes art. ...
- FineArtAmerica. ...
- Saatchi Art. ...
- Shopify. ...
- TurningArt. ...
- Have a Website Dedicated To Your Artwork. ...
- Create Social Media Accounts for Your Artwork. ...
- Build an Audience Using the Right Content for the Platforms. ...
- Promote Yourself on Forums and Communities. ...
- Go Offline and Participate in Local Events Where You Can Meet Other Artists and Collectors.
The most popular art subjects have generic themes and include traditional landscape painting, local scenery, and local landmarks. Seascapes do well, as do animals and figurative work. Art buyers like paintings with a background and composed with a distinct focal point.What kind of art sells best on Etsy? ›
- Abstract Digital wall art set of 4 prints square office art semi abstract wall art cheap wall art best selling art Livingroom wall art. ...
- Nursery Prints Typography Print Inspirational Prints Best Selling Items super Quotes Print black white nursery prints superhero printable.
- Select Your Subject and Aesthetic. First of all, you need to decide on your subject matter and style. ...
- Choose Your Artist. All artists are different. ...
- Establish What You Want. ...
- Create a Contract. ...
- Stay Connected With Your Artist or Their Studio. ...
- Be Patient.
- Revenue Commission Structure. The simplest and most common commission structure is variable pay as a percentage of a sale amount. ...
- Gross Margin Commission Structure. ...
- Tiered Commission Structure. ...
- Draw Against Commission. ...
- Multiplier Commission Structures.
Commission is compensation paid to an employee for conducting a piece of business, and it can be either a total or partial form of compensation. Types of commission include straight commission, salary + commission, and bonus commission.What is the formula of getting commission? ›
A commission is a percentage of total sales as determined by the rate of commission. To find the commission on a sale, multiply the rate of commission by the total sales.
How much do I charge for digital images? ›
“How much should photographers charge?” Questions about photography pricing can be both reasonable and complicated to answer. A good answer might be $100-300 per hour or $75-350 per image for professional photographers in the United States.How long does a digital art piece take? ›
How long do I take. I spend on average between 10 to 20 hours to make a detailed digital piece. Sometimes I take longer and sometimes shorter. On quicker speed sketches, I spend between 1 to 3 hours.How to do digital commissions? ›
If you're talking about the basic process of commissioning digital art, it's very simple: A client contacts you and orders you to draw something, you get paid, you draw it and you deliver it once it's done. Traditional and digital commissions are very similar and their processes are almost the same.How do small artists make money? ›
The primary way musicians make money online is from mechanical and streaming royalties. That's a fancy way of saying revenue from online sales through platforms like iTunes as well as streaming income from Spotify and other services.How much can a beginner artist make? ›
How much does an Entry Level Artist make? As of Feb 26, 2023, the average hourly pay for an Entry Level Artist in the United States is $17.40 an hour.Is selling digital art on Etsy worth it? ›
Selling on Etsy is worth it because it's the easiest way to set up an eCommerce store dedicated to handmade arts and crafts and vintage goods. Etsy is quick to set up and learn. It's a low-cost, low-risk sales platform that rewards volume sellers with low prices, and 5-star reviews.What size should I make my digital art for Etsy? ›
For art prints, you want it at least 16" x 20". (Unless you're using Adobe Illustrator to create the art. Then it can be resized as much as you want.) Keep in mind that when using a raster-based program (pixels), your art can only be sized down, not up.Do you need a license to sell digital art on Etsy? ›
Etsy's seller policies do not require you to have a business license to sell on their platform. However, the inquiry doesn't end there. A seller of goods on Etsy may need a license or permit from municipal, county, state, or federal agencies regulating businesses. Your Etsy shop is either a business or a hobby.Are digital artists in high demand? ›
Across various industries, there is now a high demand for digital content creation, management and distribution. For those interested in a career as a digital artist, you may be wondering how to elevate your work. Don't fret, you've come to the right place.What is the highest paying digital art job? ›
- Technical Artist. Salary range: $64,500-$133,500 per year. ...
- Visual Effects Artist. Salary range: $97,500-$120,000 per year. ...
- Storyboard Artist. Salary range: $52,000-$100,000 per year. ...
- Digital Art Director. ...
- User Interface Artist. ...
- VFX Artist. ...
- 3D Modeler. ...
- 3D Artist.
What is a good commission only rate? ›
The average commission rate for sales sits somewhere between 20% and 30% of gross margins, but this depends on the sales structure. Some workers may earn their whole salary through 100% commission, while others earn 10% on top of a base salary.How are commissions set in price? ›
Pay yourself a reasonable hourly wage, add the cost of materials and make that your asking price. For example, if materials cost $50, you take 20 hours to make the art, and you pay yourself $20 an hour to make it, then you price the art at $450 ($20 X 20 hours + $50 cost of materials).What is a good commission structure? ›
The industry average for sales commission typically falls between 20% and 30% of gross margins. At the low end, sales professionals may earn 5% of a sale, while straight commission structures allow a 100% commission.Do I need to pay taxes on art commissions? ›
Do You Have to Pay Taxes If You Do Art Commissions? As long as you get money from the art commissions and you also earn a profit, you will have to pay taxes. Only when you are doing it as a hobby, without making any profits, can you get your tax money back.Do you own art if you commission it? ›
Title to the artwork passes to the client or commissioning agency/organization upon their written acceptance of and payment for the work, but copyright belongs to and remains with the artist.Should I use invoices for art commissions? ›
Step 3: Pick your payment schedule
Typically, it's best practice to send an invoice before you start any commissioned project or your client receives any artwork—as an assurance that you will get paid for your hard work, and that the client will pay you faster in order to get your artwork in their hands faster!
The average hourly wage for a Digital Artist in the United States is $34 as of February 27, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $29 and $39.How much should a new artist charge? ›
Pay yourself a reasonable hourly wage, add the cost of materials and make that your asking price. For example, if materials cost $50, you take 20 hours to make the art, and you pay yourself $20 an hour to make it, then you price the art at $450 ($20 X 20 hours + $50 cost of materials).How much should I charge as a freelance artist? ›
Generally speaking, you should work out your daily rate based on an 8 hour day. So let's say your hourly rate is $40/hour, your daily rate would be $320 per day. Now, for clients who ask for a weekly rate you can give them a small discount, maybe 10%, this is up to you.What is the typical day for a digital artist? ›
Depending on the company they work for, digital artists may wear many different hats and contribute to five or six projects at one time. Most of their day is spent developing an interface for a project, drawing pictures, assembling the art, and making buttons for users to click on.
How much are digital artists? ›
Digital Artist salary in India ranges between ₹ 1.8 Lakhs to ₹ 8.6 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 3.6 Lakhs. Salary estimates are based on 99 latest salaries received from Digital Artists.How do you value your art? ›
Consider finding an appraiser to determine the value of your artwork. Appraisers are trained specialists who work for a fee. They evaluate your piece and give you a written statement of its value. Although the following organizations do not provide appraisals themselves, they each publish a directory of their members.How much should I charge to manage an artist? ›
A standard management fee is usually around 15% - 20% of your earnings. Your manager takes a cut of proceeds from album sales, any label advance, and from the earnings from deals they have negotiated.How do I price myself as a freelancer? ›
- By the Hour. The first pricing model is by the hour. ...
- By the Day. The next method is to charge by the day. ...
- By the Word. ...
- By the Project. ...
- By the Client (Retainer Packages) ...
- By the Added Value You Bring. ...
- Start from Your Desired Salary. ...
- Don't Work for Free.
How much does a Freelance Artist make in USA? The average freelance artist salary in the USA is $48,750 per year or $23.44 per hour. Entry level positions start at $41,925 per year while most experienced workers make up to $97,500 per year.How do I calculate my freelance rate? ›
Determine Your Baseline Freelance Rate
Start by dividing your desired annual salary by 52 (for a start). That gives you the dollar amount you need to earn per week. Then, take that amount and divide it by 40. That gives you the hourly rate you need to charge clients.