AuthorTopic: What are you worth?  (Read 3444 times)

Offline Carnivac

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What are you worth?

on: May 11, 2012, 10:22:53 am
Maybe it's been asked before, I don't know, but I wanted to ask how do freelance pixel artists value their own time and work?  I'm never sure what to say when someone emails me and asks me how much I'd want to be paid for pixelling some project or other.  Is it a confidence thing?  I had a brief look through some topics in the portfolio section and I noticed one of them asking for the equivalent of just under double the minimum wage here in the UK (after I used a currency converter to change the dollars into the pounds) which seems like a lot to me (I mean if I charged that for my own stuff, I'm sure that guy's stuff is worth that).  I don't want to undervalue my own work when it comes to setting an hourly rate but I don't feel like it's good enough to charge much at all and I feel pressured to come up with something spectacular if I was to set it to that general amount I mentioned and then telling the employer to just have it for far cheaper than agreed because I believe I failed to do it to a standard I hoped I could produce (even if the employer says it's great and perfect or whatever).  The only project is recent years I actually took on was a set price by the guy hiring me and even then I felt it far too generous (it was the Atomica stuff shown in my portfolio http://www.wayofthepixel.net/pixelation/index.php?topic=13159.0 ) and felt a bit wrong taking the money.  I was actually quite happy with how the work turned out but I still felt like it was too much money for something some other pixel artist could probably have done far better.  So anyways how do other people here decide on how much to charge? 

Sorry I could have probably said that all a lot briefer but my mind's a bit of a mess at moment.  I hope this topic makes some sense though.  I just need some advice and discussion about it all.
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Offline Helm

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #1 on: May 11, 2012, 11:40:36 am
It *is* a confidence thing. The potential employer that is approaching you and not someone else obviously sees something in your work that cannot be reproduced by a different artist. You might not see it, because you're clouded by your ability to see all the deficiencies in your work that outsiders cannot. But they see it. Take their word.

Pixelling isn't flipping burgers. Not everyone can do it and few people can do it well. Have confidence in your niche skills and ask for a rate that you feel reflects that. The 'Atomica' artwork could absolutely not have been reproduced (let alone originally created) by many people.

Furthermore keep in mind that when a high visibility & skilled artist such as you undersells their talents because of confidence issues, they're hurting the market for the rest of us.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2012, 11:42:51 am by Helm »

Offline rikfuzz

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #2 on: May 11, 2012, 11:54:53 am
I think artists are terrible for valuing their work.  I do a lot of freelance work, mostly pixel art, but also some coding stuff.  I get paid a lot more for programming (a lot more for a lot less work), even though I'm much more of an 'expert' at pixel art than coding (or for modesty's sake, I should say I'm not a very accomplished programmer).  

It's weird, because there are many many more coders that are my level or above, but comparatively few pixel artists around, so you'd expect it the other way around.  Of course there are certainly more jobs for coders than artists (especially this far into niche), but that shouldn't make such a huge discrepancy.  Anyway, anecdotal for sure, and the work's scarcity is probably more to blame for a lack of 'standard' wage than artists' timidness, but we should all be mindful of it.  

Offline Carnivac

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #3 on: May 11, 2012, 12:13:00 pm
It *is* a confidence thing. The potential employer that is approaching you and not someone else obviously sees something in your work that cannot be reproduced by a different artist. You might not see it, because you're clouded by your ability to see all the deficiencies in your work that outsiders cannot. But they see it. Take their word.

I suppose.  I think it's related to the fact I don't have a lot of confidence in anything I do.  I'm a brown belt in shotokan karate and the highest grade in my class but that time where the sensei got caught in traffic and needed someone to take over the class til he got there?  I couldn't do it.  The next guy below me (several grades below me) did it instead because I simply lacked the confidence in my own training to be able to teach others.   I'm an amateur actor with local drama groups as well and lately I've realised I'm only ever comfortable at rehearsals once I'm being the character I've been cast as and tend to sort of stay in character even after my scenes are done because I find it easier than being myself and yet I don't consider myself a good actor at all.   I think you're right in that I see far more flaws in my own work (and my own appearance) than most people would.  Maybe that's an artist thing, that we probably notice more and study the looks and shapes of things even without realising we do it.  

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The 'Atomica' artwork could absolutely not have been reproduced (let alone originally created) by many people.
I thought that piece could because it was purposely deriative in some ways to 16 bit games (things like the logo especially) as the guy hiring me to produce that for his album specifically asked for that sort of era of pixel art.  The 16 color palette though was my own self-imposed limitation mainly because I'd been using preset palettes for a while (stuff relating to my game projects) and I wanted to see if I could still create a decent and flexible low color palette from scratch for that imaginary game's setting.  A personal challenge of sorts.

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Furthermore keep in mind that when a high visibility & skilled artist such as you undersells their talents because of confidence issues, they're hurting the market for the rest of us.

That's a fair point and I'm sorry.  I haven't actually accepted many projects at all though in the past few years due to various reasons (this confidence thing being one of many) but I know what you're saying.

I think artists are terrible for valuing their work.  I do a lot of freelance work, mostly pixel art, but also some coding stuff.  I get paid a lot more for programming (a lot more for a lot less work), even though I'm much more of an 'expert' at pixel art than coding (or for modesty's sake, I should say I'm not a very accomplished programmer).  

How do you decide that you're capable of coding what they need?  It's much less of a visual thing than art so does it matter how efficient the code is or how it's presented (in case someone else needs to modify it in future)?
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Offline rikfuzz

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #4 on: May 11, 2012, 01:41:39 pm
I think artists are terrible for valuing their work.  I do a lot of freelance work, mostly pixel art, but also some coding stuff.  I get paid a lot more for programming (a lot more for a lot less work), even though I'm much more of an 'expert' at pixel art than coding (or for modesty's sake, I should say I'm not a very accomplished programmer). 

How do you decide that you're capable of coding what they need?  It's much less of a visual thing than art so does it matter how efficient the code is or how it's presented (in case someone else needs to modify it in future)?

I get a brief, I decide if I can do it in the time they need it.  It's a fairly binary decision cos it's much more functional.  Yeah you may have to worry about other people looking over the code, but in art you have to worry if they'll like what you do too, but it can completely depend on their own tastes, your skill level, or just how you did things that particular day; which I think is where a lot of hesitation and lack of confidence comes from. 

Offline API-Beast

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #5 on: May 11, 2012, 04:48:55 pm
You are a invidual, your time is worth more than money ever can be  ;D

What I mean by that is that your answer on that question shouldn't be based on what you are "worth" but on your needs: how much money you need to live the way you are comfortable with? When in doubt ask for a bit more, if thats too much they still can negioate.

Offline PixelPiledriver

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #6 on: May 11, 2012, 05:57:28 pm
Quote
I'm never sure what to say when someone emails me and asks me how much I'd want to be paid for pixelling some project or other.
Negotiate.
I like to offer them a range.
The range is usually wrapped around the exact amount that I want.
Most of the time when you present someone with a min-max situation they will instinctively choose the mid distance.
If you want $15 say $10-$20.
If you want $25 say $15-$35.
The range should have an obvious increment of some sort that isn't too large.
A silly exaggeration would be to ask for $10-$100.
Most people will not want to choose the mid distance of $50 in this case (yes thats fuzzy math, but thats the point).
They will just wonder why you are willing to take $10 for what could possibly cost $100.

I'm not as familiar with freelance work.
Most of my experience has been fixed pay or salary.
Around where I live artists start at $35,000 - $60,000 a year based on job, skill level, experience, etc.
Programmers start at $50,000 - $90,000 a year.
If you're not making that kind of money, after converting to whatever that is hourly, then I'd say you are significantly underpaid.
A good trick I've heard and used is "Take the cost of your rent and triple it. Ask for that".

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and felt a bit wrong taking the money.
Unless you are forcefully stealing you are not "taking" money.
You are trading product for payment.
Making enough money to continue to hone your skills in the field, as opposed to on your own time, is a good thing.
Art and programming are important skills.
Entertainment is play, but it is also business.
Personally I dropped about $80,000 on my education (that I didn't have, all loans), so making money is a must.
There's no shame in paying bills while trying to float a reasonable profit.

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but I still felt like it was too much money for something some other pixel artist could probably have done far better.
This kind of depends on who's paying you and how much they are turning around and using your product to sell their product for.
Bigger companies want good talent, but they also want to pay the least amount possible and make the highest profits.
They will have no problems with signing a contract that underpays you if it's your idea to be underpaid.
That will only make their numbers better, and that's what they want.
While it's not good to be greedy or ask for unreasonable amounts, it can be good to ask for something a little high and say that it's negotiable.
Like I said before I like to give a range so they feel like they are choosing what to pay, not just trying to talk me down from a single number that is way too large.

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Furthermore keep in mind that when a high visibility & skilled artist such as you undersells their talents because of confidence issues, they're hurting the market for the rest of us.
I've fallen "victim" to this many times.
For some of the more seasoned veterans in the pixel art world this means that they might not get paid as much as they should from a job.
For someone like me that falls squarely into the mediocre bucket it means that I have no chance of getting the job at all.
Can't count the number of times that I've heard back "Yah so, we looked on the internet for about 30 seconds and found tons of people that are better than you for cheaper. F'off pleez".
I'm not one to point fingers, and I'm certainly not now.
My skill level and ability to get work is no one's responsibility but my own.
But I've often thought that there is an ecosystem of artists and programmers that is affected by many variables.

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I haven't actually accepted many projects at all though in the past few years due to various reasons (this confidence thing being one of many)
I've stumbled across your art over and over.
Your stuff is great.
It's obvious to me that it is not the quality of your art that makes you lack confidence.
However no amount of ass patting will likely change a personality.

It's a little rude to say, I really shouldn't, but it's kind of a shame.
Personally I think art (this includes all art forms from food to education to videogames) is for the people.
It comes at a cost, which ideally a fair to generous portion should be given to the people doing the work, but it's meant to be shared.
Of course I understand that this is not everyone's view or ideal.
I would not go so far as to say it is your duty or fate to make art for others.
That would be demanding and cheesy.

I have a very strange sensation from entertainment.
When I enjoy something I appreciate it.
I think "Hey some dude made this game/image/whatever, and it's fun. He had some good thoughts here. Thanks dude".
Your art has that quality.
It's fun to look at.
It's fun to enjoy.

All of this makes me curious what your Myers Briggs personality type is.
I've been taught to use it as a way to understand how to work with the individuals of a game team effectively.
Initially I had no interest in such a way of defining personalities.
But after playing with the idea of using it to interact with others in a positive fashion it's hard to deny how effective it really is.
While MB is something like a horoscope, which makes me giggle, it can be a healthy reflection of self.
My assessment struck me as "man that IS how I am" and helped me mentally reinforce my strengths and work on my weaknesses.

I can understand where you are coming from.
Being humble is a quality that I constantly strive for.
It helps me to keep peace of mind.
I'm not the best.
I'm not the smartest.
But I'm willing to try my hardest.
And I have full confidence in whatever that may accomplish.
Even if it lands short in my own or others eyes.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2012, 06:00:20 pm by PixelPiledriver »
And knowing that it is, we seek what it is... ~ Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Chapter 1

Offline Carnivac

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #7 on: May 14, 2012, 01:36:42 pm
PixelPiledriver thanks for the lengthy post.   It's given me some things to think about.   No idea what a Myers Briggs personality thing is though.  I'm currently trying to broaden my skills a bit by also finally learning how to do vector art (not for sprites, pixels all the way for my game projects) just to have more general skills in art.  Schu's recent Doctor Who images at http://bigfatrebound.blogspot.co.uk/ have inspired that decision and I think it would just increase chances of employment if I wasn't only skilled in such a niche as pixel art is these days.  Also something I haven't done in a very long time is just draw for the sake of drawing.  As a kid I'd fill sketchpads within days of all sorts of random drawings and I think it's hurt my drawing skills these days that I haven't done that in years.  Just drawing anything and studying forms again.  Maybe if I improve in these things then I'd be more confident as an artist and be more accepting of higher pay.

What I mean by that is that your answer on that question shouldn't be based on what you are "worth" but on your needs: how much money you need to live the way you are comfortable with? .

I need enough to find a home I can actually get some peace and relax in.  :)  Oh and to get me driving too.


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Offline CharlesGabriel

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #8 on: May 19, 2012, 06:40:28 pm
You need to handle your confidence issues completely Carnivac, as this is an area that will hinder your entire life, from successfully interacting with beautiful women, to successfully negotiating with potential employers, etc. Confidence is one of the four major key traits in a man that conveys to others an idea of who he might be, so don't take it for granted. Don't question it either, just accept it. And if anything, fake it till you make it haha.

So just practice acting confident about life in general and eventually, through repetition you will automatically feel confident about handling most situations that come across you. Another thing, you need to start taking on a lot of freelance jobs from now on, and work for different employers, and discover for yourself what you like, what you don't like, etc. That's how I came to a conclusion as far as how much I want / need to get paid and what jobs I wanna work and what not.

The way I put a price in my works is based on my current skill and time, compared to how much pixel artists of my level get paid. My range at this moment is from USD $12-20 hourly. I set prices on individual items based on the time required to make them, and also the quality demanded from the employer. Whether I work for pay-per-resource or hourly rate depends on the job offered, and also depends if the employer is willing to give the option (in which case I'll decide if it's worth taking on the gig or not).

Not everyone can make pixel art. We are unique in this world, we truly are. There are no more than 30,000 pixel artists in the entire world. Combine all the artists in Pixelation, Pixeljoint, Pixiv and a few other communities out there along with the Japanese, Spanish, Etc hobbyist pixel artists too and you will not get past that estimated number.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2012, 06:48:04 pm by CharlesGabriel »

Offline junkboy

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Re: What are you worth?

Reply #9 on: May 20, 2012, 05:33:40 pm
Step 1. Figure out what you're worth.
Step 2. Ask for the double.
Step 3. ....
Step 4. Profit!