Work related

Commission tips

Commissions are paid requests to draw something or someone, usually non-commercial in nature (meaning, they are intended for personal use by the client). I’ve frequently been asked for tips on how to price them by people who want to start offering commissions. Personally, I started out offering very cheap commissions and then gradually raised the price as the demand for my artwork grew. But looking at commissions through the lens of a professional artist, I find that many commission prices are absurdly cheap, and far below industry standard – including the ones I used to offer before I became aware of how art is priced in the professional world. However, due to the wide availability of cheap commissions, many people have come to expect and even demand these very low prices. If you decide to offer commissions, do not let anyone convince you that your price is too high – this happens a lot and you’re better off ignoring them and moving on. The best way to approach your pricing is to estimate how many hours would go into each piece, and to figure out how much money you feel an hour of your time is worth, and then do the math. For the rest, I would advise you to:

  • Agree on the deadline in advance, and stick to it.
  • Ask for your payment in advance, and if you can, use Paypal as the payment method.
  • Agree on what your payment will be if the commission is cancelled halfway through the process.
  • Show your client the rough sketch and a rough color version before proceeding to the next step, to ensure that the client is happy with where the image is going.
  • Establish with your client how many modifications can be made to the artwork based on the client’s feedback, in order to avoid a situation in which you might have to completely re-do your image.
  • Be dependable and communicate well with your client. Your reputation as an artist is incredibly important!
  • Stick to the agreements made before starting, and do not let yourself be manipulated into taking on a much larger workload, or smaller compensation, than initially agreed upon.

Finding work

A common question I get is: how do I find work as a freelancer? I find work primarily through my online presence. I try to make sure that my work is seen by as many people as possible, and so has a greater chance of also being seen by potential clients. I’ve also noticed that many of the clients who approach me have been following my work for a long time, and when they initially discovered my work, they were still students or just starting out in the industry. So I believe that maintaining my online presence over a long period of time has been crucial in finding work as a freelancer. If you are considering using social media as a way to generate exposure for your art, try sharing a combination of finished pieces and rough work. Also, be sure to show your process for creating your art. This way, you not only share your art, but also your way of working. If a potential client sees your work, they can get a sense of your process and can choose from different levels of finish; Sometimes clients, especially those in the concept art field, prefer to see rough work over finished work.

There are also many other options, like being active in smaller communities such as discords, being present at comic cons and industry events, and approaching clients personally. All of these are perfectly valid ways of finding work!


Many freelancers starting out are unsure of how to price their work. It’s totally up to you what you want to charge, so it’s important to look at your own specific situation first. The most important thing is that you need to be able to make a living off of your work, which is more complicated than it sounds. Besides being able to pay the bills, this also means you should factor in the cost of any student debts you might be paying back, and materials you need to run your business. You should also charge for your expertise as an artist. Remember: just because you’re an artist, doesn’t mean that you should be scraping by for your entire life – you should be able to grow and invest in your business, so you should be making more than just what you need to survive. I recommend first figuring out what you need to cover all your monthly costs, and then take into consideration the fact that most freelancers don’t do paid work full-time. They also do a lot of unpaid work in the form of updating social media, answering e-mails, managing finances, etc. If you spend about 50% of your hours doing paid client work, make sure your fee also covers the unpaid hours in which you manage your business.

It also helps to make friends in the industry and ask them what their going rates are, so that you can adapt your rate to what is customary in your field. However, NEVER charge less than you need to survive! When negotiating your fee, keep in mind that you can always bargain downwards, but clients are very unlikely to ever accept a higher fee after you’ve suggested a lower one, so it’s better to err on the side of a higher fee. Also, don’t let yourself be emotionally manipulated by clients who suggest your work is worth less than what you ask. Many of them are just using manipulation tactics to get you to lower your price, so don’t take it personally and just move on to a client that is willing to pay your fee. Also, never work for ‘exposure’ – the kind of work that has given me the most exposure has been my own personal illustrations and sketches, so if you’re considering doing free or low-paid work because you want to expand your portfolio, consider a personal project rather than work for a client.

“Art theft” or copyright breach

I’ve had my work ‘stolen’ (that is to say: my copyright breached) numerous times. A good example of a copyright breach is having your original artwork printed on apparel and sold for profit without your permission or knowledge. (Note: art theft does not include ‘style borrowing’ or ‘style theft’ – styles are not copyrighted!) Fortunately, with help from my fanbase, I’ve usually managed to have such items removed from circulation without having to take legal action. I’ve also sent out many DMCA takedown notices, and sent out cease-and-desist letters, which helped to remove the stolen work. People have asked me what can be done to prevent such things from happening. My personal opinion is that there is no solution that completely guarantees that your art will never be stolen, except for one thing: Never showing your art to anyone. This has the disadvantage of your art never gaining positive exposure of any kind, so I don’t recommend it. Any preventative measures you take should be weighed against the greater benefits you may receive from sharing your work. For example, I chose to avoid using large watermarks on my artwork because I find that disruptive. For every art thief who no longer has to bother with photoshopping out the watermark, there are numerous other people who enjoy the experience of seeing my work as it was intended and share it with others, which in the long term brings me exposure, clients and income.

One important thing you can do is avoid sharing high resolution versions of your work in any way, shape or form unless it is with a trusted client or business partner. If you find your copyright breached, contact the people who are doing it and inform them of the breach in a professional and straightforward manner. If they are not willing to remove the item or discuss the problem, contact someone with legal experience and, if you can, join forces with a lawyer, who can assist you in sending a case-and-desist letter.

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