Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why Charging More (or Less) Matters

My previous blog entry on knowing your value sent a fair bit of questions my way, and a good amount of discussion in equal measure. I thought therefore, I'd jump on some of that stuff and write a second post to cover a few of those things - most specifically questions centered around the idea of charging more over charging less.

I'll say that some people were a little angry that I didn't discuss the discount process when it comes to art, and the competitive nature of art in general as it pertains to what is sold on the internet, at conventions and elsewhere. It's true - most people you can commission on the internet for art are priced so ridiculously low that the typical layperson who only wants a pretty picture drawn will seek out the cheapest option, rather than what would suit their needs best. There's little room to specialize.

Or so you would think.
Hear me out -- I'm not saying making a quick twenty bucks on Deviantart for a sketch is bad business, because it's not and that goes double if you're just starting out. I'm also not saying you need to be a famous artist to warrant a higher price all the time. Rather, you have to consider yourself part of the equation when you are striking deals over your art. You have to consider what's worth your time, and what you'd genuinely enjoy doing, over the money. Don't follow the money because it'll never be creatively fulfilling and you'll never get work. Follow work you love and money will naturally follow. I guarantee it.

Let's take an example. I go to conventions a lot throughout the year. I'll often sit next to artists charging $60 and up for sketches, and most of them are worth every penny and quite often, take a substantial amount of the day for them to complete.

I however, I charge $40 max. It's not because I'm not as known -- often I have more published credits to my name than people around me charging more. It's a simple matter of supply, demand, and the worth of my time. I know that roughly half of my customers at any given show will come to me with a request for some kind of cartoony animal, which will take me approximately half an hour to draw well. Then there will be another 30% or so who want some kind of pin-up girl, which is something else I'm quite good at turning out with good quality in a short span of time. The remaining 20% will have more difficult requests which might take longer, and true I may tweak my prices for those, but I won't, often.

I charge low because it's rare that I run out of customers before I run out of time at conventions. These customers almost always want a sketch that doesn't take more than 30 minutes to complete. The math is simple: Ten sketches at $40 a pop ($400) versus three at $60 ($180) over the course of a convention is much more preferable.

The other side of the coin (no pun intended), which would be charging higher prices than a competing product, is even easier to argue for. Consider the benefits of a higher priced item, first:
  • Items set at a higher price have a higher perceived value. Again, see the previous blog entry on value for a lesson in this concept. In a nutshell, this means that people will, if the product appears to be of quality, take into consideration its overall worth as a factor when making a purchasing decision, noting in their minds that although it is more expensive than another artist's work, it must be worth more to be sold at such a price.
  • Higher-priced items attract higher-quality clients. And I'm not saying rich people are better people, here. The people willing to spend larger sums of money on things tend to view them in higher regard, take better care of them, and that means, as an artist, they're also seeing you in higher regard.
  • People who are not just looking to score a discount are more likely to call you back to do further work in the future, if you do a quality job for them. Broke people often don't call again, because they're more interested in swinging a deal. Too, if you set up a down-payment on the work you will be doing, as you should, the person requesting the commission is more likely to pay the balance when the job is complete.
  • Higher prices mean you won't be wasting your time on unfulfilling work. The fewer the people you have asking you to draw their Twilight Sparkle recolor for $5, the better, am I right?

As I said -- to command higher prices, you don't need to be famous or already established. All you need to do is make sure the job you do is an excellent one.

I hope this elaboration on the last entry has been of use to you. More posts about value are sure to follow, as this certainly is a hot topic. Remember to value yourself first and above all else, value your time, and value your art.

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