Furry artists earn a lot less than they could be earning. The linked blog post talks about furry art commission prices and how artists could earn a livable wage drawing furry art for commissioners.
Slightly longer answer
The mean annual spend for a furry on digital art commissions is about $175, according to the linked FurScience survey. Interestingly, the median value was only $40 for the past 12 months. This suggests a huge disparity in the responses received (i.e. there were a few whales in their data set).
It's not unheard of for an artist to earn over a thousand dollars for a single work of art, but there's no survey data to quantify this.
If you're an artist, you need to know two numbers out of the gate:
- How many potential customers you have.
- How much your potential customer is willing to spend on your work right now.
If the median furry only commissions one or two pieces of art per year, then it's likely that $20 or $40 is the limits of their budget. In this case, most furry artists are charging appropriately (although the work they're producing for this is incredibly disproportionate, and y'all are underselling your time).
But if you can scrape into the realm of the mean rather than the medium, you can expect to earn $80 to $175, depending on how many commissions this spend represents. These are much healthier numbers, especially if you don't want to have to maintain employment at a shitty company that grossly underpays and exploits its workers in order to keep a roof over your head.
Some of your commissioners will have budgets in the realm of the median furry. Others, the mean. Rarely, you'll encounter commissioners with above average budgets and generosity. They're not quite uniformly distributed within the fandom (I'd wager they concentrate in techy circles), but you never know where you'll find one.
Suppose you allocate 30 hours a week to your art commissions. The demand for your art is a grab bag of various types of commissioners with different budgets.
After benchmarking yourself, your price list and approximate time for a given type of art commission looks like this:
- Sketch (single character) -- $30 -- ~1/2 hour
- Line Art (single character) -- $50 -- ~1 hour
- Flat Colors (single character) -- $80 -- ~1.5 hours
- Shaded (single character) -- $100 -- ~2 hours
- Detailed Illustration with background -- $300 + $100/extra character -- 6 hours + 2 hours/character
If you have 8 commissioners that just want a sketch, 4 commissioners that want a lined sketch, 4 that want flat colors, and 2 that want a shaded colored picture, without any whales, you can expect to earn $960 off 18 hours of work. If someone came along and wanted to commission you for a detailed illustration with 3 of their friends' fursonas (a 12-hour undertaking, by these estimates), you could pocket their $600 and round off your 30 hour work week with a nice $1560 in your bank account before taxes.
If you could sustain this demand, week over week, this would result in about an $80,000/year annual income. (Of course, self-employment taxes make everyone sad.)
Despite prices that are well within the budgets of all commissioner types, this is far more than you can expect to earn as an assistant manager at some retail stores and restaurants, and they have to work 50 or 60 hours per week. Our hypothetical artist only works 30 hours per week and has time for personal art (which can, in turn, seed other furries' interest in commissioning said artist) and other hobbies.
The hard part is getting started and growing an audience of actual customers. Also, not being afraid to bill more for your time.