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If you’re serious about earning an income with your art, then you have to be serious about marketing yourself. If you’re like me, you hate selling… you don’t like rejection, it makes you nervous and you think you’re no good at it. That’s why we’re artists and not salesmen. Fortunately marketing yourself is kind of an art form. :nod: Although I don’t have all the answers, I’d like to share a little of what I’ve learned about the art of marketing ourselves.

:bulletblue: Be Seen: First, make it easy for people to find you. Create a deviation with a list of the different kinds of commissions you offer, with a sample and a price for each. Put this deviation near the top of your profile so that everyone knows you’re open for commissions. Here’s mine as an example:

Commission Info by woohooligan

Join commission groups where people looking for commissions can find you. Many commission groups will expect you to have a commission sheet that’s been uploaded as a separate deviation like the one above, so make sure you do that first.

:iconclient-to-artist: :iconhungryartistsclub: :iconcommission-time: :iconhiddencommissioners: :iconcommissions-and-more: :icondacommissions: :iconcommission-central: :iconcommissionmission: :iconcommissionize:

:bulletblue: Keep It Simple: Don’t put huge numbers of options on your commission info sheet… I can’t stress this enough. Even when you want to buy something, weeding through a giant list of options isn’t helpful… actually it puts people off.

Imagine for a moment that you go into a grocery store and there’s someone with a table giving out samples of jam. Let’s assume for a moment that you’re a relatively social person and you like jam, so what do you do? If she’s offering 3 flavors of jam, you say hi, try a jam or two and likely buy one… or maybe you just buy one of each (since there are only 3) and take them home to try. What if there are more kinds of jam? What if there are 10 kinds of jam? What if there are 30? Traditional marketing theory says that the more options there are, the more likely a customer will find something they like and buy it, so more options means more sales. It turns out this is wrong. Scientists studying this subject found that more options mean fewer sales. (There are some exceptions, but an art commission isn’t one of them.)

What happens when the girl is selling 30 different flavors is that your decision becomes much more complicated and usually you’ll choose not to buy any because it’s too much work to decide. You say hi to the girl, she says “which flavor would you like to try?” You say “what have you got?” She says “oh lots, we’ve got 30 flavors!” At which point you think to yourself “uhh… right… I don’t have time for this,” and you leave… politely. (This is called decision fatigue. articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/… )

The same thing happens if you give people too many options in your commission sheet. People will mostly look at it, decide it’s too much work to figure out what kind of commission they want, and leave.

So the ideal commission information sheet will have just a handful of items the person can buy (I think 3 - 6 is considered ideal).

So if you do lots of different kinds of art, my recommendation is to divide your commission information up into several different sheets for different kinds of art. For example if you do illustration, 3D modeling and small ceramic works, don’t put several options for each kind of art on a single sheet – you don’t want to make people wade through all that if they’re only interested in one kind of art. Break it up and create a separate commission sheet for each kind of art: one for illustration, one for 3D modeling and another for ceramics.

Also if you just do one kind of art, like illustration, don’t give people a big a-la-carte system. And especially don’t make your clients do a bunch of math to determine the cost. They should at most have to add shipping cost and maybe one other extra for something like a background.

BAD EXAMPLE:

Sketch
  • Bust - $5 per character
  • Full - $8 per character
  • Simple Background +$1
  • Full Background +$3
Inked
  • Bust +$5 per character
  • Full +$8 per character
  • Simple Background +$5
  • Full Background +$8
Color
  • Bust +$5 per character
  • Full +$10 per character
  • Simple Background +$8
  • Full Background +$12
GOOD EXAMPLE:

Sketch $5
Inked $10
Color (Copic Markers) $20
All prices per-character
$5 shipping

Did you notice how much simpler the second example was? If you were trying to commission someone, which information sheet would you want to see? Which one makes it easier for you? The first example is daunting for most people and makes potential clients feel nickel-and-dimed. The latter example is more inviting; it makes things easier and helps them feel confident about purchasing.

:bulletblue: Reduce Uncertainty (setting prices): What’s the one thing we do when we’re either buying a commission or selling one? We worry. If we’re buying one, we worry that it might not be what we’re hoping for in the end. If we’re selling one we worry that the client won’t be satisfied; that we’ll spend too long working on it and we won’t make enough money, or sometimes that the client will try and get more than they paid for by continually asking for changes. (This last one was a popular trick with some clients when I was earning my living programming computers.) Since everybody has something to worry about, we should do what we can to reduce those fears and give us confidence on both sides of a commission. :D

We can’t totally resolve everyone’s concerns, but we can put each other at ease a little if we know how. The best way I know to do this is in setting prices. So how do you set your prices? I know this was a source of anxiety for me – and I suspect it’s a source of anxiety for a lot of us. There are two main schools of thought.

CHARGE PER HOUR:
:thumbsup: On the one hand you’ll know that you’re making enough money for your time.

:thumbsdown: On the other hand this makes things more complicated for your client and increases their anxiety level, because now they get to worry that the work may take too long and they may not be able to afford it.

FIXED RATE:
:thumbsup: This alleviates the client’s concerns because they know how much they’re paying up-front.

:thumbsdown: But now you have to worry again about not making enough money for your time. If you don’t make enough money for your time, then you might not be able to pay your bills.

There’s a third option that lies somewhere between these two options.

Work up several samples of the kind of commission work you’re selling. Use a clock or a kitchen timer to measure how long each piece takes. Then average out your times for that kind of work. So for example, you might do 5 sketches that take between 20 and 40 minutes each to complete. When you add them up and average it out, they take you an average of 30 minutes to complete.

Now that you know the average time for this kind of work, you can place a price for your time on that kind of piece. So if a sketch takes an average of 30 minutes, you can do 2 of them in an hour. So to make at least minimum wage here in the US, each sketch would have to cost at least $4. If you wanted to make more than minimum wage (which I definitely recommend), then you should charge more.

This does mean that some of your works will take longer and you’ll earn less per hour for those commissions… it also means that some of your works can finish faster and you’ll earn more per hour for those. The good news is that the clients get a fixed rate, which helps them feel better and more confident about hiring you for the commission, and at the same time you know that your rate will average out in the long run and you’ll be earning enough money to pay your bills. So this helps put both you and the client a bit more at ease. :D

There’s one other thing that everybody worries about when marketing commissions: setting your prices. I can’t say that I have any magic formula to tell you how high or low your prices should be… I definitely think they should be above minimum wage, but how much is up to you. It’s normal to worry about this. If you set your prices either too low or too high, you might not earn as much as you could.

Here’s my last bit of advice on this subject – it’s better for people to think your prices are a little high rather than a little low. When people see prices that are low, it gives them the signal that “it must not be very good”, and vice versa that “people must like her work” when they’re higher. So it’s better to give people the signal that your work is valued and appreciated (not to mention that you value your own time), rather than sell yourself short. Your own estimate of your work is probably low rather than high, and selling yourself short also results in people taking advantage of you much more often. So compare your work to some other artists you like, think how much you think your work is actually worth compared to their prices, and don’t be afraid to add on a few bucks. You're worth it. :nod:

:bulletblue: Blow Your Horn: This has two parts. First, just like when you’re dating, you don’t want to appear desperate. Is it attractive when you meet someone who's begging for a date? "Please, please, please go out with me! No one will go out with me! You're my only hope!" No, begging isn’t attractive. It sends the signal that “I’m unwanted”. So if you beg for dates, at best you’ll get a few pity dates. Begging for commissions will have much the same effect. So never say anything like “nobody will commission me” or “why aren’t I getting more commissions” or “damn I wish someone would commission me”. Those kinds of statements will drive away potential clients. To make yourself attractive you want to emphasize to other people that your art is appreciated and that others want your art. Getting your first commission may be tough if you haven’t had one yet; hang in there! :D

The second part of this is pointing out to your watchers and others the work you’ve done and letting people know that you’re available for commission. This is distinctly different from “begging”. When you finish a piece and post it online, add a little note in your comment saying for example “Did you like this? I’m open for commissions.” If you’ve done requests in the past, you can use those requests as examples of work you’ve done to encourage people to hire you for your first commission. Whatever you do, give people the impression that you’ve got plenty of art projects to keep you busy, so even if they’re not commissioning you, you’ll be working on something cool.

Lastly, if you really do have an emergency situation like your house was hit by a tornado or a flood – or a combination earthquake-tsunami-nuclear-disaster, it’s perfectly okay to tell people that you have an emergency need. This isn't "begging", it's just being honest about a problem. Many people look specifically for artists who are most in need when purchasing their commissions. If it’s genuine, go ahead and let people know you’re in a bind. You don’t want to do this all the time. If you do this every month, people will stop believing that it’s genuine (like the story of the boy who cried wolf), so make sure you’re only asking for emergency commissions when you’ve got a real emergency. If that’s the case, check out the group ForArtistsAid, a group designed to help artists out of these kinds of binds.

:iconforartistsaid:

:bulletblue: Be Friendly: Talk to as many people as you can. I don’t mean hawk your wares at them, just talk to them. Find out what interests them and talk about that. Share your own thoughts on their interests, especially if you have common interests. The more social you can be, the more people you can talk to, the better. When you write in your journal, remember to be optimistic. You should talk about your goals, things you’re looking forward to or want to achieve. It’s okay to mention problems or things that upset you, but don’t dwell on them and express hope that they’ll be solved. If you sound like Debbie Downer, nobody will want to commission you. On the other hand, if you’re optimistic that will help draw people to you – they’ll enjoy your company, want to talk to you and they’ll be more likely to commission you.

:bulletblue: Be Nice: This is the cherry on top of the sundae. On the surface it seems obvious, but there’s more to being “nice” than saying please and thank you. Obviously you should thank people when they hire you for a commission. If you’re sending an original in the mail you can go a step further and jot a quick note to them on a Post-It to put in the envelope. You may also want to stick a couple pieces of candy in there as well. I like to use Starburst for this because they’re small and they’re individually wrapped, so it’s easy to get a couple of them in the envelope. It’s a nice little surprise for your client and they’ll have fond memories of receiving their commission from you. :D

Good luck and have fun!

:icondererplz:
Add a Comment:
 
:iconroruroku:
Roruroku Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for sharing the Debbie Downer... I'm always up for a good laugh! :D This is a great post. :D
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks, Elizabeth! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D
Reply
:iconxerneasxx:
Xerneasxx Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2016  Hobbyist
Not sure if this is said or not but, make sure to not be all wishy washy, if the customer wants a certain thing, don't be all like, wanna add to that? Blah blah, it pisses people off since they just want it set. They want it? They want it. Don't stuff it in their face all like: "BUY THIS TOO." 
Reply
:iconyuir0:
YUIR0 Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2016  Student Digital Artist
My problem is I get favorites on commission info but nothing happens, I don't get any commissions. What am I doing wrong??
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Hi Yuir0. I'm sorry it's taken me a while to respond. We've been pretty busy since my mom moved in with us the beginning of this month and I wanted to take a minute to look over your gallery. Your info sheet looks pretty good to me and your art is certainly worthy of work. The only thing I see is that your gallery seems fairly small, it may be that not having published much content on here might be contributing to the lack of commissions. Also on a related note, the more content you publish, the more visible you become on DA, so that, and being active and social in the community, commenting on others' forum threads, journals, etc. can help get your name out more. Good luck! :hug:
Reply
:iconsweetbream:
sweetbream Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I have that same issue unfortunately ;A; All you can really do is advertise a bit wherever allows it and post your info into lots of groups. maybe even make a forum post??? it's hard out here ^^;
Reply
:iconwillymutuku:
WillyMutuku Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2016
thanks alot woohooligan, that was helpful.
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
I'm glad you enjoyed it. :highfive:
Reply
:iconlizzychrome:
LizzyChrome Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks so much for the advice !
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks, Liz! Glad you enjoyed it! :hug:
Reply
:iconzingydoodle:
ZingyDoodle Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
"Help draw people to you..."

Is that a pun I smell??
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Why? Did you inhale? ;P
Reply
:iconzingydoodle:
ZingyDoodle Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
fortunately, yes xD
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
xD
Reply
:iconbananimationofficial:
BananimationOfficial Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks so much! I'll definitely be employing all of these strategies!
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks, Anna! Glad you enjoyed it! :hug:
Reply
:iconpurple-oort-cloud:
Purple-Oort-Cloud Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for this information, it's really helpful! I've gotten a few commissions over the last few months, though I'm not looking to sell art for a living, I think it would be nice to get at least a few more commissions than I do. This gave me some ideas, and a little while ago I realized I was giving too many choices for commissions, so I altered that. Thanks so much! :D
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Glad you enjoyed it! :D
Reply
:iconlydiakencana:
lydiakencana Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is really informative! Thank you for sharing ^^
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Glad you enjoyed it! ^^
Reply
:iconsoocatart:
SooCatArt Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
nice journal with good information, i get alot of requests so i thought i would start doing comissions but im not quite sure how people are going to pay me, i know alot of people do paypal and stuff but im not sure how you do that, could you give me a tip? also do you think my art is good enough to do comissions?
Reply
:iconsoocatart:
SooCatArt Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
also, just wondering but if you take a comission, do you need to send what you draw physically to the person that buys it or is it something you decide? also do people upload comissions they do or just send the buyer the drawing?
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Edited Dec 1, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
:nod: I've seen plenty of people making commissions with your level of skill.... Looking through your gallery, it looks like the most popular pieces there are lined by another artist and you've done the colors. If you're only offering colors, just make sure it's clear up-front that the person requesting the commission needs to supply the line-art.

I can't really offer advice on setting up PayPal in particular. I know PayPal is a bit different in other countries because they have to conform to the local banking laws. But the basics should be the same - you have an email address you sign up with and then once you have your PayPal account, people can send you payments through that email address. You may have to manually convert from US dollars if people want to pay you in US currency. Someone recently sent me $5 in Canadian currency and it's sitting in my PayPal account labelled $5 CAD because I haven't converted it to USD.

Good luck! :highfive:
Reply
:iconsoocatart:
SooCatArt Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ahh, nice, thank you for the tip, and yes i do quite alot of colors but i also draw stuff myself, just not that often, so maybe ill do comissions for both :D
but ive never really wanted to do comissions because it feels weird taking money to draw if you know what i mean :D anyway ill try :D
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
LOL You mean it feels weird taking money to do something you enjoy? :bucktooth: 

Yeah, people have been saying that for centuries... weird little thing we do in our heads, we're told growing up, "work doesn't have to be fun, it just has to pay your bills"... but then... if all you did was pay bills, why would you even bother? So why not enjoy what you do for a living? :nod:
Reply
:iconsoocatart:
SooCatArt Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ikr :D i kinda know u have to take money in the end to work with it so...
some times i write different than i think, if i think about it i wont feel that bad to take money xD
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
:nod: But we do have to make ourselves think it through to get over that feeling.
Reply
:icondarkhartinc:
DarkhartInc Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
The thing i find is that people from the US dont seem to understand why i charge based on the British Pound because that is what i get at the end of the day. So there is a covertion rate... Another words if you are paying with Dollars its more expensive than with pounds. I dont make this up.. its just how it is. 
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Well it's currently more in US dollars because the Dollar is weak to the Pound... but in theory, it's supposed to be the same amount of "buying power" either way... that is, if I can buy a flashlight here, I should be able to buy a flashlight there... the fact that it's a larger number here is immaterial. So what they're saying is like complaining that "oh, but the trip from here to school is so much longer if I measure it in meters instead of kilometers!" ;P Yes it is, welcome to different units of measurement. (That's directed at the people asking you for commissions, not at you.) But it might be largely because of the age of the people asking you for commissions that they're saying that -- they're not yet familiar with the ins and outs of international commerce.

Keep at it, you've got some nice work in your gallery. :hug:
Reply
:icondarkhartinc:
DarkhartInc Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much, i just struggle with (i think younger) people from the US or other dollar using countries (i know the Canadian dollar to the US dollar is a big difference in price), saying that it should be the same price for them as it is for Pound users like myself. But the exchange rate is there and i can't do anything about that >.< and i have to make a living so i can't just give my work away for pennies >.<. 
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
:nod: No, I totally get where you're coming from. :hug:
Reply
:iconpocketsnowflake:
PocketSnowflake Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for this! I'm doing commissions for a hobby right now but this really helps for my future.
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Hey, thanks, Lorna! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :hug:
Reply
:iconlampshdethis:
LampshdeThis Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm still new here, but I have one question I've been pondering on. How much does a good artist make for commissions a month?
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Hi Sarah! :wave:

Man, you know... I think a lot of people wonder that, but I don't think anybody really knows... Most people are pretty private about their income... there are a few people who post all their commissions on here and you could compare the commissions they've made in a month to their commission sheet, although that would take a fair amount of effort and you might still be guessing about the amount of those commissions. But in the long run, I'm not sure it's really a question that needs answering -- I'd say the real questions to answer are how much do you want/need in a month, and how can you improve yourself (your art skills, your marketing skills, etc.) to get from where you are now to reaching that goal?

Good luck! :hug:
Reply
:iconlampshdethis:
LampshdeThis Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hi Samuel :)

Thanks a lot for your humble reply! It really made me aware of some important concepts!
I've noticed how most commissions center around drawing OCs, so since I'm at that level yet, I've decided to join 'draw my oc' contests, since it's not a commission, and if my artworks made it to top three three times in a row that means I'm ready for real commissions.

I'm not sure if it's a good idea, sorry if I'm bethering by asking too many questions.

Sarah~
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
You're welcome. :) That sounds like a pretty decent plan, actually. :nod: You've got a good tangible goal to strive toward, just make sure you work at it every day and just try and get a little better every day. :)
Reply
:iconlampshdethis:
LampshdeThis Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank You :)Hug 
Reply
:iconcutesweetshop:
CuteSweetShop Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2015  Student Artist
do you have to ship a commission? or like just scan the finished artwork and send it?
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
It depends on what you're offering. Most people do ship their commissions if the work is traditional media. A lot of my commissions have been digital works, so there's no physical media to ship in that case. If you offer traditional media and don't plan to ship, make sure your commission info sheet says clearly that the originals are not shipped and clients will probably expect a discount on the price if they won't receive the original.

Good luck! :hug:
Reply
:iconcutesweetshop:
CuteSweetShop Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2015  Student Artist
ah i see.. thank you ^^
Reply
:iconsky60148:
sky60148 Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hello all. As a new member to Deviantart, where can I find list of ways to market my art to others? Also, I how do gain "watchers"? 
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Hi Sky, welcome to DA. :highfive:

There are a list of groups for marketing commissions in this article you commented on. Other similar groups to help you market yourself can be found via the DA Groups search page. groups.deviantart.com A search for "marketing" produces several results.

There are also a number of groups with a focus on watchers including both GetWatchers and Get-Watchers
Reply
:iconsky60148:
sky60148 Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the reply. when you say looking for "commissions", what does that mean exactly? 
Also, where can i find the "what's new" section on this site
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
I'm not sure I understand the question? Are you asking for a definition of "commissions"? Or asking what I meant by "looking for"?

I don't think DA has a page labelled "what's new", but there are a few places you can look for information about recent changes to the site.

The HQ Blog: hq.deviantart.com/
DA Timeline: deviantart.com/timeline/
Reply
:iconsky60148:
sky60148 Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
asking to define commissions.
Reply
:iconwoohooligan:
woohooligan Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
A commission is a piece of work you make on specific request from a client. So someone asks for a particular piece, they give you all the details and then you make it. Basically it's just like hiring a contractor to build you a house with your own design, except it's a piece of art instead of a house.

By default, the artist retains the copyright for the work, which prevents the client from selling prints or other reproductions of your work. There are two cases in which you would not retain the copyright because the law defines it as "work-for-hire": 1) if you are a full-time employee of the client and the art being created is part of your job description 2) if there is a written "work-for-hire" contract which transfers the copyright to the client.
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