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I wanted to ask for a price for a commission from an artist. However, my budget is lower than what I think the commission would be worth, hence I intend to only ask for the price and not buy the service. I am extremely worried that just stating my budget will offend or discourage the artist.

My goal:

  1. Ask the artist what they would charge for the commission.
  2. Let them know my budget, hoping they might be generous and pick up the commission. If they won't, it's fine.

How to accomplish those? I especially need help to approach point 2: do I need to tell them upfront that I think they're worth x, then state my budget y? Or state my budget first, then put a disclaimer that I think they're worth more? Or something else?

This will all be done via text, Discord, specifically.

  • What is your relationship with this artist? Have you bought from them before? Interacted with them in a non-economic way? – Rainbacon Dec 6 '19 at 20:43
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    @Rainbacon we are members of the same discord server - same hobby, but outside that, we don't know each other. – Vylix Dec 6 '19 at 20:48
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There is a saying "if you have to ask, you can't afford it." This saying isn't true. A simple and honest approach would be

I would love to have one of your works but they are so lovely, I suppose I can't afford them. How much would [a small piece, a simpler work, something like that one there] cost me?

Note the deliberate wording of "cost me" not just "cost" or "sell for."

The artist may surprise you by naming a price you can afford. That would be great for both of you. Or they may ask your budget. If so, I would reply

Please don't be offended or conclude that I think your work is only worth this much, but all I can afford is $x. I'm sure it's worth more.

The artist may say something like "some day it will be!" or otherwise respond positively to your praise and there may be a piece you can afford. Or you may be able to work out a price for a smaller piece, or a simpler piece, or a piece you don't get for 6 months because the artist sets it aside whenever real paying work comes in. Or you may both agree that you'll need to save up for a while to afford a commission. But you will have the information you want without feelings being hurt.

When people want my services and can't afford them, I'm not offended. If you make it clear you're not making an offer of what you value the piece at, just saying what you have to spend, I don't think the artist will be offended either.

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  • I'd note that this request is very different from the "Choosing Beggars" subreddit on Reddit. There, they try to get something for nothing; here, you're trying to establish a (reasonable) agreed-upon price and product. – baldPrussian Dec 6 '19 at 22:07
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    I'd give +1 just for the 'work out for a smaller/simpler piece'. Tried this, and just as you say, they are willing to work out the request if it's not too much detail. – Vylix Dec 7 '19 at 17:59
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    @baldPrussian The issue I see here it that that overly saccharine "I would love to have one of your works but they are so lovely, I suppose I can't afford them." sounds pretty much how a CB would initiate communication and might put a dent into the artist's first impression, especially when they have had prior encounters with CBs. – Suthek Dec 9 '19 at 13:00
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The answer by Kate is very nice if you already have something in mind, but if you dont:

Flip the question

Instead of asking what a specific piece costs, you can simple ask something along the lines of:

I like your work, but am limited in the funds-department. Is there something for me to consider in the price range of $x? Don't worry, I'm prepared for a "No sorry, that's not enough" answer!

That way you place the ball in their court. They can decide what they want to do and you've provided a nice way out. It might also make them think a little outside the box, the contraint might spark a nice idea.

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