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Commission work - Understanding personal taste and pricing?


redpiano
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Wow this is a great topic. I know you were looking for answers to your plight, Redpiano, but you hit on a pretty big phenomena that anyone who paints mini's will at least consider, and will probably encounter at some junction.

 

I recently bough 03408 Female Victim on Spit, not because I plant to paint and sell it or anything, but because I joke on my personal RPG blog that she will NEVER get table time(I will now paint and mod her to continue this running joke). Her only use would be as a short gimmick/plot twist, and that's just not enough time to justify buying a mini, let alone a mini painted by a pro.

 

I use this as a general rule though. I would totally use a mini as badass as yours for my main character, as a Lawful Evil Blackguard.

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I hadn't sold on eBay in over a year because I'd had enough commission work to keep me full, but I'm planning on moving so I decided to throw some of my stash on eBay and see what happened. I walked away with a pocketful of sweet sweet paypal cash. The auctions were listed in June and ended over a holiday weekend-a notoriously bad time to have listings end.

 

Maybe I just listed the right figures at the right time. Maybe I had been out of the eBay market so long that people were just so excited to see me again. Maybe the stars were aligned properly and the gods sent me blessings. Here's what I do know helps me

 

-I have a Facebook page. This allows me to post pictures of my work more than anything. I don't post looking for commissions or anything but it keeps me in the public eye for those who have been interested in my work in the past. I also posted one link to my eBay auctions there

 

-once I sell a figure to someone via eBay or commission, they receive a business card with my eBay and Facebook names. Both can be followed so the customer is alerted to the presence of new paint jobs becoming available.

 

-I have killer eBay ratings. Even when not actively selling I make sure not to go too long without buying so I'm still getting recent feedback

 

-I try not to list when there are major miniature kickstarters active and I make sure there's an opportunity for a pay day between big kickstarters ending and the ending of my listings. Don't want to compete too hard for those hobby dollars.

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Plugging in on the right forums helps, too. I used to do a lot of modifications of plastic minis, and at one point made some pretty sweet side cash doing it, and by self-promoting on HeroClix and Mage Knight websites, I did pretty nicely for a while.

And then I became a teacher, and suddenly had no more free time...

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Market is very important, yes. I make maille jewelry and armour to sell, knowing my customers, offering custom work, and fan appreciation photos help. I do not use etsy much anymore, as I find storenvy to be a better deal. I also have a deal with a cosplay calendar producer, so my work not only can be seen on calendar, but the models often get a piece when production is released. Networking goes a long way, as does a whimsical name.

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For a couple years, I ran the gaming convention circuit, selling painted minis and my own line of terrains. There were shows where I sold every single thing I made for the table, and had to rush home/to the hotel room that night and work my tail off to get something more on the table the next day, and then sold that out, as well.

 

There were shows where I didn't sell a single thing, other than maybe a rulebook or other third-party thing I brought along to boost sales.

 

Sometimes there was already a lot of terrain at the show, and I thought maybe that was the reason they weren't buying it. Other times there was a lot of terrain and I still sold a lot. Sometimes mine was the only terrain there and I still didn't sell more than a couple of pieces.

 

There never was a clear short term trend I could latch onto (except for the one at the end of my post). There was a long term trend, and it is an ugly thing, but I think you have to understand it:

 

Gamers are, by and large, not reasonable people. Now, understand, I am a gamer. So I am in that boat, too. And I understand that all people, everywhere, no matter what their hobby, can be difficult and unreasonable. But gamers are a special breed in that most of them can convince themselves they can do it better than you can, even if you are Jen Haley. The sort of modesty and humility you see here on these boards is rare in the gaming world; most of them are out there scoffing at what you've done, in their hearts knowing you are better, that you are giving them a deal and they ought to buy it, but mostly giving in to their base emotion of contempt for the work of others.

 

Maybe it's because we are such an analytical bunch. We take things apart in our minds to see how they work. Makes it hard to just... LIKE something without criticism. That takes years of maturity and effort that this demographic sometimes just does not put it (maybe that's why most of my paying customers were old wargaming dudes and dads - people with gray hair and years of living under their belts; or lady non-gamers who just liked the model for their coffee table of mantel). And I think in a lot of folks' minds, being able to critique a thing, and then having a raw, unpainted version ready at hand, means they are going to (one day, when they finally get around to it) paint that thing better than you ever, ever could. Then, of course, then never paint it. And you've lost the sale, and they still don't have a painted mini, but then, it's a hobby and that's not the end of the world, is it?

 

Okay, I'm rambling. Maybe what I should do is just provide some examples of odd behavior that I saw. I imagine the same sort of behavior is going on when a potential buyer is staring at one of your listings, but lucky me - I got to see it all first-hand.

 

Example One: One time, I had a bunch of tabletop quality GW guys (two chapters of Space Marines, some skellies, some Chaos Warriors, etc.), on the table for cheap ($5 - $10 each, as I had given up trying to sell them in units - gamers will not buy units unless they specifically have commissioned you for them), and this little boy comes running by, stops at my table, and begins yelling "Daddy! Daddy! Here's another table with everything overpriced! They're all OVERPRICED!! COME SEE!!" The father comes over and calmly tells the child that these are different because they were hand painted by the person at the table (which was nice of him), but then the twosome continue to move about the dealer's room, the child leading and making his father proud by announcing what was overpriced everywhere they stopped.

 

Example Two: This is really a blanket example, as it happened so many times at so many shows I can't count them. Teenager #1 will saunter up, giving all of the work a long, scrutinizing gaze with a bit of a smirk on his face (this one is always well-dressed). Teenager #2 (always a bit of a slob) runs up a second later, takes one look and says to Teenager #1, "you TOTALLY paint better than that!" Teenager #1, to his credit, usually says "no, not yet." But then adds "but I'm still not gonna buy them." And the two wander off.

 

The converse of that one sometimes happens, too. You'll get some poor slob with no social skills who will come up and praise you for ten minutes about how great you are, and how he could never paint that well. You try to encourage him to keep practicing. Finally, he tells you he would never buy a mini somebody else painted, but good luck anyway.

 

Anyway... rambling again.

 

Point is:

It's a niche hobby.

It's not a necessity.

The adherents of the hobby sometimes have issues with maturity and self esteem.

There is a LOT of competition of various sorts (people think they can paint it better themselves and raw minis are plentiful, some people are loyal to particular painters, there are prepainteds, etc.).

Buying trends are difficult to predict.*

 

*Except in one instance. Never - NEVER - do conventions leading up to a presidential election. It is the one time you can predict that nobody will buy ANYTHING, and that is as true on the Anime, Comic Book, Sci Fi, Steampunk circuits, as it is on the gaming circuit. People are totally repressed leading into an election, sure whoever wins is going to steal all their money/tax them to death/are arguing politics, whatever. But the minute it ends... BONANZA!! My best cons were in the follow-up months after an election was over. The old timers (guys who had been doing those conventions for decades) would only nod their heads knowingly.

 

RANT OVER (sorry if anybody was offended)

Edited by Bruunwald
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That mounted figure is kinda warhammer fantasy specific. Particular army: Warriors of Chaos. I don't think that specific army is anywhere close to flavor-of-the-month at the moment.

 

Is that model an authentic Games Workshop model or is it from another manufacturer? like Gamezone or Mantic?

 

I think the problem might have just been timing.

 

Wait a few months. Re-list. Use all of Suden's keywording tips. Add the specifics of what figure he is from whose catalog and spell it all exactly correct. So it could find somebody who is googling for that exact model.

 

If it is converted mention exactly how...

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So I went and Liked every post here, because it is a great topic with a lot of useful answers. I am studying Web Design right now, and I can tell you that Wordpress has totally changed the game. It is no longer impossible for a non-programmer/designer to create a simple but nice looking page without knowing the least bit of code. Going on what cutebutpsycho said, I think it would certainly be worth it to take a look at what you can do with Wordpress or another CMS (content management system) to promote yourself as an artist and give your customers something to follow so they know when you've put a new piece up for sale.

 

Since redpiano already has a Tumblr site, I would suggest trying to make that as professional looking as possible (since Tumblr also does not require the user to have extensive knowledge of code), and including the link to your Tumblr in the eBay listing as well as on the invoice the customer receives. Good luck!

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So I went and Liked every post here, because it is a great topic with a lot of useful answers. I am studying Web Design right now, and I can tell you that Wordpress has totally changed the game. It is no longer impossible for a non-programmer/designer to create a simple but nice looking page without knowing the least bit of code. Going on what cutebutpsycho said, I think it would certainly be worth it to take a look at what you can do with Wordpress or another CMS (content management system) to promote yourself as an artist and give your customers something to follow so they know when you've put a new piece up for sale.

 

Since redpiano already has a Tumblr site, I would suggest trying to make that as professional looking as possible (since Tumblr also does not require the user to have extensive knowledge of code), and including the link to your Tumblr in the eBay listing as well as on the invoice the customer receives. Good luck!

 

I second this piece of sage advice. Wordpress has great templates, which has allowed me (terrible web designer) to see how utterly convoluted I can make a pre-designed site turn out.

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