Looking for advice for a young artist going freelance

Hi All,

I have a young artist at home looking into going freelance. She is looking at sites like fiverr and has some questions I cannot answer (my background is in IT.)

Any (professional) artist here who can give her some pointers? Some questions she has are:

  1. How can she “rate” her own artwork? She sees varying prices for face/half body/full body artwork (she is interested in doing manga/anime style artwork), but she has no idea what to ask.

  2. She is worried about commissions which might break copyright. People say e.g. fanart is basically illegal, but some copyright holders might allow for it under certain conditions. Now I can imagine drawing a Disney character like Mickey Mouse might be illegal, but what about drawing in the STYLE of Disney, i.e. it looks like Disney, but the characters are not relatable to any known work produced by Disney? Related to this, she sees a LOT of artwork which would break the rules on pinterest for example, so she has no idea what would be the best course for her to follow.

She is willing to share some sample artwork if someone thinks they can give some idea on what to aim for.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!


Hi Onno! I’ve been a professional artist for over a decade, but I’m the kind of artist who sells art at art fairs. I haven’t sold a lot of art online.

I can answer questions about pricing, though. She should charge what the market will bear. When you start out as a visual artist (and usually forever), you will not make what your art is worth. She should look at what her peers are charging for similar-ish work and charge slightly lower and see if that’s working. Once she’s established a presence, she can raise prices accordingly. After 10 years, I sometimes sell pieces for over $1000, but I’ve yet to do that consistently, because the market fluctuates and tastes change, and artists have to adapt to that.

She should never, under any circumstances, break copyright. It can be a VERY unpleasant experience. Especially never mess with The Mouse. Disney is highly litigious. Everybody online does it all over the place, so it’s tempting, but people do get busted all the time. And it’s a fine line, so she should educate herself thoroughly in Intellectual Property law before she does anything “in the style of” for profit.

She or you can absolutely message me with questions, but each artist’s road is different and only experimentation can tell you what will and will not work, as how to sell art is largely tied to what kind of art you create and what your target audience is. So my advice is to experiment, embrace failure, and adapt.


Some basic questions to ask her:

1.) Who is your target audience and how much money do they have? If your target audience is teens, you need inexpensive things that can be quickly produced, or prints of originals that can be sold cheaply. If your target audience is more mature, you can charge more.

2.) How much work are you willing to do at what rate? Some painters charge by square inches. Other charge by the hour. Others by judging how good a particular piece is. If the average sale price for work like hers is $50, how many hours of work is she willing to put into it for that?

3.) What will set her apart from the crowd? What makes her work special? Why should anyone choose her work over someone else’s? She needs to work very hard on developing that unique artistic voice, which is a lifelong process.

4.) Where is your target audience? Is it at Etsy? Instagram? A local art fair? I recommend trying all these things and seeing where her patrons are.

5.) She should find artists in her wheelhouse who are nailing it and study them. How do they promote? Where do they sell? How are they changing over time?

6.) What is a realistic financial goal? How many $20 prints do you have to sell to earn a real profit? Would she be happy if she got to a place where she was netting $20/hour? Or is she more ambitious than that.

Also, be wary of commission work. Very wary. Many people commission work because they have something Very Specific in mind and they want an art monkey to perfectly replicate that vision. And of course, that is really difficult to do. Most people’s experience with art commissions is that they end up making a dollar an hour to please a really demanding client.


I can’t offer an insider’s perspective, since I’m not an artist, but I’d like to mention an idea: in addition to commissioned work, there’s the world of ready-made “assets”.

I.e., she could create several thematically-related drawings in bulk, for example a bunch of cyberpunk or other genre characters, and sell the package on online marketplaces for game development and art assets.

Examples: Unity Asset Store, Unreal Engine Marketplace, Gamedev Market, Itch.io Assets

The drawbacks/caveats can be:

  • the price is low (because it’s not an exclusive licence)

  • it might make the art feel more like a commodity

  • the process is less personal than working on a commission for/with a client

  • there’ll be stiff competition from AI art generators in the present or very near future; AI-generated assets are already on the Unity Asset Store, for example

The advantages can be:

  • the low price might be (more than) made up for by the higher number of sales

  • it can provide a steady small stream of “passive” income without much additional work (after the initial work and setup); it can provide a buffer in the drought phases where there are no commissions incoming

  • no back and forth with indecisive, pedantic clients who are always changing demands for their commissions (though some customer support is still necessary on the marketplaces, of course)

  • it can be a means of acquiring clients for commissions; they buy the asset pack, like the style, and then realize: “ah, we need a few more cyberpunk NPC portraits in exactly that style, with this or that specific equipment; and corresponding inventory icons etc.”

    • and those follow-up tailor-made commissions will of course fetch a higher price than the mass-distributed asset pack
  • if she is technologically inclined, this might provide a sideways entry into the field of “technical” artists, who know both art and tech stuff (Visual FX, postprocessing, rendering, game engine tech – but this admittedly goes more for 3D than 2D artists) and who can be a sought-after bridge between “pure” artists and developers

As I said, I’m writing this without personal experience, so take it as just an idea which is possibly worth exploring.


I’m not a professional artist, but have made a decent chunk of change when I’ve opened up freelance commissions, often for a particular goal (in my case, paying for college related fees, (500$) and replacing a broken drawing tablet (330$), that sort of thing.

What’s already been shared in this thread is great! Honestly, I’d caution any young artist against pursuing it professionally to begin with- mixing money (clients, really) and passion is a really quick way to develop stress and burn out of a hobby. If she’s determined, though…

As a caring adult in her life, while you might lack an artistic background, I’d strongly suggest getting involved with keeping an eye on correspondence between commissioners- sometimes people can be quite nasty, and being polite but firm and professional is a daunting gauntlet to run.

Something your IT background may lend itself to is helping set up a professional looking portfolio website. It doesn’t have to be expensive- it’s very common for young people (about my age) to use carrd.co on the free plan and to customize the tabs to show pricing, rules, art examples, etc. Common rules might indicate turn around time, subjects that are a no go like NSFW, detailed gore, furry art, mecha, etc. She’ll also likely want an email reserved just for inquiries/talking to them to keep things organized.

Deciding on if she wants a flat fee before work commences, (or what I did, 50% of the commission upfront) as well as number of updates or adjustments (I would do minor adjustments like adding a particular mole for free, but a new hairstyle would be for extra money) and the expense associated would be good. Most artists I know who do these casual commissions do not sell the rights to reproduce on merch, or to use commercially like in a game, and would negotiate more for these.

How to accept payment and adjusting for platform fees is important too! I’ve done just direct e-transfer only with close friends, (and only for smaller amounts of money, like 20-40$ character portraits) but typically have used Paypal (NOT on the family and friends option) and charged USD$ since it has more buying power than the CAD$ normally and many of my clients were American. Lots of people I know use Kofi, due to fewer fees and being able to hook that up to Paypal or Stripe I think, with very little fuss on the payer’s end- though this can take a bit to process funds if you use Stripe, I believe. This is something you as the IT adult can probably handle, as well as potentially filing taxes on the income depending on how much she makes.

What worked for me was finding a niche audience and settling on a style I could reproduce very quickly. I would not do my usual painterly portraits, (though did one for 500$ as a one off for a friend,) but instead often did simpler pixel art styled ones I could finish in about 30 minutes and charged 20$ or so. Targeting specific communities with high ratios of people without strong art skills but a high desire for customized art, (Stardew Valley, Dungeons and Dragons) as well as areas I already knew and participated in (like the independent original character role playing scene) helped a lot.

People liked seeing that I was passionate about the hobby space, (I’ve played SDV for 700+ hours, and been a DM and player for about a decadeish) that others has gotten similar work from me and were happy, and felt good about supporting a fellow enthusiast. Freelancing depends in part on curated personality- especially in smaller, close knit communities, and you get a lot of referral or ongoing work that way.

I would suggest she look into more passive means as well, like the asset packs mentioned. Itch.io has some, and there are options like Bullet Journalling digital stickers or planner layouts on Redbubble or Etsy. She might look into doing background art for visual novels on Itch.io, (there are many character artists and asset packs, but fewer strong background artists doing the same), and networking in spaces like DevTalk (a visual novel Discord), where paid work is possible and both amateurs and professionals interact on gamejams, long term projects, one offs, etc.

Best of luck! I hope she remains creative, passionate, and stays safe!


Totally agree with advice offered so far.

I’d like to add a bit about the perspective from the other side of the table. I have commissioned artworks on places like fiverr.

Prices vary enormously. I was looking for characters & backgrounds for IF games. Some artists were fantastic at characters whilst being poor at backgrounds, and others the other way. In fact, i couldn’t find anyone to do both.

Characters cost me between $50 and $100 and roughly the same for backgrounds, depending on detail.

You mentioned manga, I’m still looking for a Manhwa style artist. Standard Manga doesn’t stand out over everything else.

However, my experiences with drawn art for games was a failure. The results were too hit and miss. Consequently, i now make all art with 3D renders. The assets are about 10x cheaper, which is also quite shocking. And i can easily make changes and different camera views.

However, there are a number of games i plan to release that will need hand drawn art because their subject matter is so different, there’s no way i can get the 3D assets - except to model them. I can elaborate on this if interested.

One last thing, people mentioned licensing etc. Most platforms will insist you go with their licence if you sell through them. Also, as a customer, there is no point in a commission if it does not come with a commercial use licence. Sometimes also the customer will want legal title too - ie usual “work for hire” rules. I depends obviously on the purpose and prices.

Best of luck.


The feedback so far has been gold!

It wasn’t clear whether she was doing physical art or digital art. In either case, there are lots of web sites specifically for artists to share their portfolios, sell their work and look for jobs. The two I use the most (mainly when looking for inspiration) are deviantart and artstation. These have great communities. There are no doubt others.

If doing digital art, she might also consider licensing her works to the many stock image libraries. These probably work on a commission basis where you make a small amount of money, but you can potentially sell to hundreds of customers and the web site does all the hard work related to image search and sales. However, your images are competing with thousands of others.

I think we all know that being an artist is hard work for very little return. I’d recommend that she has a “real job” so that she has a steady income until she gets established. You need to have a really good name and be in demand before you can turn this into a full-time career.

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Then why not use non-standard? There’s plenty of different styles available when you start looking beyond AAA mangas. Sort of like how One Punch Man differs between indie and published. Or Girls Last Tour manga vs anime.

IMO, as long as you’re imitating a style, you’re not being honest with yourself. Why not just go with original style? I can recommend Mark Crilley books for guidance. The style is simple, yet memorable. Yet, he’s perfectly capable of photo realistic drawings. What’s your style?

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Im sorry, you’re quite right. I didn’t really explain exactly what i was looking for.

my concept of “standard manga”, and i admit, there’s no such thing as a “standard” here, is disproportionate body sizes. I wanted to get away from oversized heads and eyes.

Ive been looking for a semi-realistic style with accurate body proportions. It can be manga like in other ways, for example face details. But I also want something better than simple cell shading.


Don’t give up and be positive. Do what you love.


Some manga/anime examples:

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