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What's a good answer to "What's your budget?" when you don't actually have a budget?

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You contact an artist asking for a quote. They come back with "What's your budget?"

The truth is, you don't actually have a budget. Not in the "I want to pay zero" sense, but rather the "I could probably pay anything for this" sense. But in the same vein, you don't want to give the artist a blank check either.

 

I just had a run-in with this, and having been commissioning art for over 20 years now, I decided to skip the back and forth and lowball a number I was willing to pay at that precise moment, but could easily get more at a later date (which I stated in my reply). Instead what actually happened was the artist never spoke to me again. So, I guess I lowballed too much.

I want to know what others do or have done in this situation. Or what the "actual" response is that I should have given. The back and forth between this "quote me" - "no what's your budget" thing is really annoying, but I also had not encountered it for years. So I'm looking for advice in case it happens again.

 

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For me this is frustrating too. May I ask, did they have a price sheet? It's pretty odd that you'd have to state a budget/how much you're willing to pay, as that is just an invitation for trouble in itself, from my POV.

Personally I'd just ask how much the piece/item would be, and if they insist on asking for a budget / what you'd be willing to pay, I would say that I don't know and would rather been told a flat price. If they keep on going, I'd say that their procedure is making me uncomfortable and that I would cancel it here.

PS, that's just how I personally would deal with it, because guessing with prices can always turn out sour and you're basically walking on eggshells in trying not to offend the artist and to guess a "right" price. Clients don't know what a good price is for each individual artist. Too stressful to me.

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They didn't have a price sheet. It was an irregular deal all around. I was asking to buy rights to use something they had, they said they were uncomfortable with that but were willing to draw something similar.

I said that works, and listed off things I wanted quotes for. They came back with "what's your budget?"
They said they worked hourly but didn't have an hourly rate listed anywhere I could find. I'd always worked with flat prices before. It was something I was willing to work with at the time, but it was definitely uncharted waters for me. Maybe I should've just dropped everything and straight up asked what their hourly rate was, but I thought it was already covered when the previous email I was asking for quotes...

This particular experience is definitely out of the norm and doesn't really apply to my question at large. The project I wanted the art for ended up going in a different direction anyway so it's worked out for the best that I ended up not getting it.

 

But the experience had me wondering what the general consensus would be for the debate at large.

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Posted (edited)

My personal experience would be to ask them how much time would they normally take to do a sketch phase/line-art phase/flat-color phase/shaded-colored phase with one character then see how much they would charge per-hour and base it off of that (with maybe 1-5 hours extra depending on which phase you choose). If they have the capability to stream, see if you can find a stopwatch or a stopwatch program/site to help with getting a better idea of the range while you're watching the artist work.

Edited by VosurAekira

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