When I was in middle school I started drawing on myself in class to keep my brain amused. It turned out to be somewhat explorative, seeing what patterns I could put onto my skin and which looked better on paper. I had new “bracers” almost every day and it became sort of a game. There were bit thick lined ones with classic Greek lines, there were more celtic knot style, and some creatures and other random patterns. I also draw in every single note that I wrote to friends. In fact, the first part of each class period was taken up by drawing an image of a character, sometimes brand new sometimes repeating if there was a story going on with the notes. It was only the last 10 or so minutes that the actual note was written. Mind you, I did take notes in class as well. I just couldn’t sit still during the talking and kept my mind busy.
At that age there were rarely characters that stuck around for more than about a week before we moved on to creating something new. I chalk it up to childhood distraction. As such, I used to charge “whatever’s in your pocket” worth of change. Sometimes it was a nickle, sometimes it was upwards of 5.00!
High school came and it was much the same, themes changed from mostly magical girls in middle school or high school academies, to werewolves and other supernatural beings. High school was also when I started charging for the characters I came up with for other people. They wanted me to draw things for them, and I enjoyed drawing so who was I to turn it down? The currency at the time? 5.00 a sketch or bring me curly fries at lunch. “Will work for Curly Fries,” could have absolutely been a t-shirt I would have owned.
It wasn’t until about my junior year that I started actually charging 5-10 dollars per piece that I did and even then it only sometimes equated to the actual amount of time that I’d put into a piece. This went on for quite a lot longer than I really wanted it to. Why? I didn’t believe that my art was worth more. Not with all the other great artists out there. After all, this was just a hobby right?
That moment when: You start actually charging what your time is worth.
I went through the rest of my schooling, which was 6 years at Central Washington University, with charging 5.00 per sketch up to around 50.00 for a fully finished piece. The latter of those generally took me around 20+ hours to complete. So let’s just round it off to 20 hours. That was still only 2.5 dollars an hour roughly. Figuring out what your time is worth and making sure that your artwork is appropriately priced was difficult! I didn’t want to feel like I was overcharging and was more concerned about that than I was about realizing that the time I put in was only being considered worth less per hour than a Starbucks latte. Thing is, I LOVE my coffee, especially from Starbucks. The question then became, did I love myself more than my coffee? The answer at the time seemed to be….yes.
It would take me going through two Kickstarters with Break From Reality Games (www.bfrgames.com) and into a third with them before I started charging clients at a steady 30.00 an hour and no less than 15.00 per character sketch. The feeling was incredibly freeing. While contracts for art were still fairly underused, I at least was now on the way to setting a standard for myself. One that I keep today. I also set specific hours for myself to “work” and be at my “art job.” Taking ones self seriously and considering your craft as serious work can really make all the difference, and it did.
Sure I still worked in my PJ pants, more often than not huddled up to my computer with a cup of coffee (now with organic lavender and organic chocolate powder, cause I’m “fancy” like that.) my headphones plugged into soundtracks from games, but I’m WORKING. I use all caps as a point of how serious I take it. Work can be fun, and more importantly, SHOULD be fun. We should all have the chance to do what we love for a living. Through working on art, I am finding a way to never go to something that is “just a job.”
With any “luck” and a good hefty chunk of “work” over the second half of this year will be doing artwork for people and companies. In the year to follow I am pushing to do nothing but freelance. I’m still learning what it takes to be a true “freelance” artist, and with now valuing my skills and time as much as a person should value a trained employee, I think I’m on the right path to success.
If I could tell every starting artist something:
Value yourself. Value your time. Value the effort you have put into honing your skills and the work that you can now create because of it. You’re worth so much more than a Starbucks Latte. So whether its friends, family, or strangers asking for your artwork, make sure to charge what your art is worth. You’ll thank yourself in the long run. You’re WORTH it.