Stop Undervaluing Yourself! Why it’s so Dangerous for Freelance Artists to Undercharge for Their Work


There’s something that I see a lot when freelance artists are opening up their commissions: prices that are too low for the quality of work they’re offering.

There are many reasons why it’s dangerous to charge such low prices for artwork. Here are a few:

Lack of Financial Security

There’s a stereotype that being an artist isn’t manageable and doesn’t have much financial security.

Unfortunately, this stereotype does have a bit of truth to it.

The thing about freelancing is that you don’t know how much work you’re going to get in the future, and most freelancers go through dry spots in their careers. These dry spots can last for months at a time, so it’s important to prepare for them.

When you are getting hired, you have to make sure that your prices are high enough that you’ll have some extra money to help you by during those dry spells.

If you undervalue your work, then the money you earn during your busy periods won’t last during your slow ones.

If you can, you should also build up a buffer of money for the worst case scenario.

Lack of Benefits

Having a more traditional employment does come with it’s benefits. Some of these benefits are:

  1. Paid sick days
  2. Paid vacation days

Unfortunately, freelance work doesn’t include paid sick leave or vacation days.

You’ll need to charge enough for your work so that you’ll be able to take some time off when you need a holiday or are feeling under the weather.

Lowers the Value of Other’s Work

When you undervalue your own work, you’re also lowering the value of other artists’ work.

This is because artists will often look at what other artists are charging, in order to figure out how to price their own works.

If you’re charging your works too low, then some others might charge their work too low, in order to have competitive pricing. This leads to even more artists charging too little for their work.

In the end we have a lot of artists who aren’t charging enough, because they’ve seen other who aren’t charging enough.

Higher Prices Weed Out Bad Clients

I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about bad clients, and there’s a definite trend to them.

The trend is that the horror stories happen more often with those who charge less for their art.

This is because low prices makes your work more available to anyone and everyone. High prices means that only those who are serious about commissioning you will go through with it, which lowers the amounts of trolls and scammers.

You’re Being Paid for Your Previous Experience

Art is a skill that takes a lot of work to develop. When someone is paying for your art, they aren’t just paying for the time and effort it took to make that singular piece. They’re also paying for the time and experience it took to build up your art skills to the level that they’re at.

You’re Working to Someone Else’s Ideas

As a freelance artist, you’ll be working to the ideas of others. This can make it more frustrating and tiring to work, since creative constraints are being placed upon you.

Undervaluing your work means that you aren’t just undercharging for the skill and effort you put into a piece. It also means you’re undercharging for the emotional and mental labor that goes into your work.

It Isn’t Just About the Art

Most freelance artists I know don’t just spend all their working time doing art. They’re also doing administrative and managerial tasks such as finances, promoting, e-mails, working on websites, etc.

When you’re figuring out prices for your work, consider the time and effort that goes into the non-artistic side of being a freelance artist.

Remember that undervaluing yourself doesn’t just hinder yourself, it hinders other freelance artists as well. If you think you might be charging too little for your work, take some time to figure out how much you should be charging.

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