looking to start out and would like some info.

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#1 Sir.SmallTIme on 11 months ago

Hey so I recently made my own prop for Debonair Jayce and it turned out great and i really enjoyed making it so i thought it would be a good idea to try and do some commissions in my spare time. I mainly want to start off with weapon props and such and I was wondering what price range you guys have when making a prop for someone. With the prop I have already made I used some timber for the detailed parts and to help with structure and I used foam almost everywhere else I could.

The reason I am asking is that I don't want to start out with some prices that are just way to low for the work I put in and I don't want to over price things and scare customers off. Any info you can offer would help a great deal ^_^

Thank you.

#2 walkerofdarknes on 11 months ago

Well, I'd look at the material cost you spent on your own prop, then try to calculate how long you spent ACTIVELY working on it (don't count time spent glue/paint drying). The next question is "How much is your active time worth?". Technically speaking, you could just charge $10 per hour, or go higher or lower. But if you're that skilled, I'm not sure you'd want to go much lower.

Let's say you spent $35 on materials (paint/wood/foam) and worked on it for a total of 12 hours. That would give you a cost (assuming $10 an hour labor) of $155. Shipping costs would be another factor (even if you're ONLY taking local jobs, you'd still want to cover the costs of gas for your car). And let's assume you want to make some profit on it. So we'll take that $155, include a 25% profit margin (roughly) and say you charge them $200 for their 12 hour prop.

Of course, that assumes a few things that you'll want your own answers to:
1. How much do you want to charge for labor?
2. Are there going to be additional charges for highly detailed props or unique effects on the prop?
3. How much is your shipping going to end up being because of the size of most weapons? (Remember in your design phase to include SOME way to ship objects).
4. What kind of profit margin are you looking to get?

#3 Chiagirl on 11 months ago

The three main things you need to factor in are

1. Material cost: AKA how much the materials you need to make it cost, including anything it costs to ship them to you if they aren't available locally. This is the bare minimum you need covered if you want to break even. New commissioners will sometimes only charge material cost + shipping (no labor fees) in order to build up a portfolio and have some reviews under their belt to attract more clients. Many clients will also want a receipt for the materials to help make sure you're not scamming them, so be prepared to provide that.

2. Labor: Determined by how much time you spent ACTIVELY working on it (hiatuses don't count) and what you think your hourly rate is worth. Your hourly rate should at least be minimum wage for your area unless you are trying to build up a portfolio as mentioned above. If you think your work is worth $10 an hour and you spent 9 hours working on the commission, then your labor charge would be $90. Also sending progress shots periodically is a good idea so they know you're working on it and not planning to scam them by taking their money and running.

3. Shipping: As props tend to be rather bulky shipping for them can be rather expensive, especially if tracking and/or shipping insurance is needed (it's probably a good idea to get both to protect yourself). When you give someone a quote be sure to tell them if shipping is or isn't included in that number, and if not ask for their zipcode so you can approximate how much it will be (visit your post office for more information on different shipping types and weight restrictions).

I absolutely DO NOT AGREE with adding on an additional profit margin percentage as your profits should be whatever you charge for labor as that only costs you time, not money. If you don't want to do commission work for $10/hour profit then up that number to $20 or however much you feel your time is worth, don't tack on an arbitrary percentage profit as many clients WILL ASK for a breakdown of how you came to that quote figure, and having what basically amounts to additional "profit fees" on top of what you're charging for labor is only going to get them to spread negative things about you and ruin your business. Profit margin fees only make sense if you're in a business like bakery where you can be out tons of money if your stuff doesn't sell before it expires as then you have to toss it. Most commissioners ask for a least half the material fees as an upfront payment as that way if the client bails you won't be out everything, and you can still likely sell the item off to someone else if they bail in order to recoup your material cost completely and possibly part of your labor as well.

Also a word of warning to new commissioners, DO NOT OVERBOOK YOURSELVES until you've done it long enough to know what you can handle and how fast you can get it done. You may work very quickly on your own cosplays, but find you work more slowly on those for others because you're less motivated when working on something you won't get to use yourself. And don't book people out months in advanced to start either as you may find you severely underestimated the time it would take or that commissioning just isn't for you, and the more people you have to push back or refund the more that will hurt any future business you do. Don't have a queue of more than 3 or so people to start with to make sure you can handle it; if it works out fine with them then feel free to slowly up that number to whatever you're comfortable with.

And NEVER CHARGE THE CLIENT FOR A MISTAKE ON YOUR END. If you break the prop halfway through and have to start over, the extra materials come out of your pocket, not the client's. You eat the labor charges for anything up to that point that is now unusable as well; it's not fair to make your customer pay almost twice as much in labor fees because you goofed. And if you quoted them at $200 but it ended up taking a lot longer than expected and the additional labor fees made it come out to $350 instead, don't expect them to be happy to pay for it. Eat the difference yourself and learn to allow for more labor hours next time; this is why it's generally better to estimate a little high for the amount of time it will take. Hope that helps you.

#4 DancingFish on 11 months ago

I do commission work but for sewing. The way I charge is basically what people say. The material + labor + shipping. I would like to offer you some additional advice to help you start out also though.

Since you are starting, your portfolio might be so small so it might be hard to find people willing to trust you. If you find that is the case, you can probably put an investment in yourself and try to find some things to make that will represent your skills well. You may even be able to sell it (of course not for a commission price) but you might be able to get your material cost back. This way you will have a portfolio to show off.

Once you start getting commissions, make sure to ask for reviews when you are done. I honestly hate doing this since I hate making people do extra stuff for me but this honestly will help you out a ton. It is a scary world when people have to pay for stuff they haven't seen so reviews help make you trustworthy. Very rarely will someone leave you a review unless
a) you ask them to
b) you messed up badly and they are going to leave you a negative review

Depending on how long you have been doing props, you may already have an idea of this or not but as Chiagirl said, do not overbook. This will lead to stress on you and your customers. For now, you should calculate how long it will take you to do something, including the time it takes for paint or glue to dry. This is not your total labor time. This is your total time it takes for start to finish. Take this time and double it. This leaves you room for things to happen. Like glue might take longer because it is to thick, or even like you had friends come over when you were planning to work. Once you start getting the hang of things, you can narrow down your time. This doesn't really hurt anyone either since it gives you wiggle room and even if you finish early, you can just start on the next project and the next customer will be happy you are able to start early.

Right now since you are not filled up on the waitlist it isn't to bad but if you start getting a good waitlist, do not take bookings until people pay you a deposit. I use the deposit towards their material so its not like one of those deposits that go to nothing. But this way, they are invested into the project also. Lots of time people tell me they will work with me but with a waitlist that is months long, plans change and they drop out without word leaving me a week of no work when I do get to them. Lots of anime and stuff come out so there are lots of things people want to cosplay. Plans change and stuff so you need to cover yourself for it when the time comes without being an inconvenience to your customers also.

Make sure to check your postal site for rates with the size and weight of the prop you are planning to make. I admit I am to lazy to do this sometimes and the price of shipping is higher then I thought. This is a mistake on your part and you need to cover the extra to ship it out. Like if I am sad that my package was 10$ more to ship, the customer will be upset if I told them they have to pay that. And yea 10$ isn't to bad for me (which is probably why I am to lazy to check the postal site) but I just do clothes but as a prop maker, the range of props is huge so you might end up losing a lot more if you don't calculate the cost right.

Make sure to include communication time into your total time from start to finish. Once again, this is not included in labor cost but it should be added to your total time for your wait list. You need to send progress pictures to your client. This not only is for them but it is for you. Once you send it, wait until they give feedback. Like if you buy the paint color, paint just a scrap piece, let it dry, and then have the customer approve before painting the whole piece. This will make your client feel safe to be able to see what they are getting but it is also good for you. Like if you paint it all and they end up hating the color, you will have to get new paint and repaint. And this might be a grey zone since you are working off a picture which clearly has a certain color but monitors can be different and also things show up in different color with different shading in animes so the color can slightly vary to things your client will not like. It is just best to ask if you ever have any questions. And yes, some commissioners will charge for this kind of change but imo, that is wrong because the client didn't know what you were going to do if you didn't send them a pic so they shouldn't be charged for it. Once you send the progress pic, if they approve and later change their mind, then that is on them.

Yes there are a lot of scary stories with people getting scammed but it happens both ways. I've been scammed multiple times and chances are you will be one day to. This is not to discourage you because every business is susceptible to bad people but you will learn and you will update your policies and try to protect yourself. I do not share these stories publicly as I don't want to teach people how to scam their commissioners, but if you would like some help with this, feel free to pm me.

#5 CapsuleCorp on 11 months ago

Props are harder to price than sewing, and that's why I've never offered them, only sewing. The advice above is all spot on but I'm going to add one huge caveat: be very very careful taking commissions after only doing one prop.

It's true, when you're new you don't have a portfolio to speak for you, so you definitely have to have something really good to offer to people. I know a LOT of my clients are also in search of prop commissioners and have no idea where to turn, and I don't know where to send them, because like sewing commissions, the excellent propmakers are booked solid and the people with the lowest prices/most availability have a bad rep for poor work. A new commissioner can probably get started really quickly in that black hole of "available, AND good" so make sure you're good at what you're doing before you start taking money. Get some honest friends who are willing to tell you the truth gently to critique your work, and ask them what they'd pay for such and such finished piece. If they have bad news for you, work on your skills and then start looking into commissions later.

Also, when it comes to props, remember that "props" is a very broad category and includes lots of items made from lots of different materials, so if you only have experience working with one or two, you're going to have a hard time when clients start coming to you asking for props made of things that you've never worked with. Alternately, you can make a niche for yourself by only making a certain kind of prop (e.g. weapons) and make it clear that you only make your props using wood and foam so plastic, resin, 3D printing, etc is right out. It's tough to turn people down but you have to be honest with them and yourself. If you don't know how to make book props or wands or duel disks or shields or harps or plushies, don't offer them until you've picked up the skills. If you only want to make swords out of wood, then do that, do it hardcore and do it well.

#6 Sir.SmallTIme on 11 months ago

Hey guys, sorry for the super late reply to my thread, I just came back from being on holidays and pax with my friends. That being said, thank you all for the responses, it has actually helped a lot especially with what you had to say Capsule Corp. Im actually a carpenter by trade and I take a lot of pride in what I make so I intend to put some absolutely amazing props out there and learn a lot along the way.

I'm waiting to hear back from friends with pictures of my full cosplay but il for sure post some so you can all take a look and give your opinion, good or brutal, all criticism is welcomed :D Here is a pic I took at home though of when I was finished painting it. Being my first prop though there is a lot I now know that I could have done better.

[URL="https://imgur.com/a/mpHY5Ir"]https://imgur.com/a/mpHY5Ir[/URL]

#7 Sir.SmallTIme on 11 months ago

sorry for the double post, still getting my head around this site and just figured out that mods check things before its actually posted

#8 CapsuleCorp on 11 months ago

Hot damn! Good work. And if you've got professional experience, you probably could carve (haha) a decent niche with wood props. In that case, definitely make sure you make it clear what you can and can't do, if people come to you for a prop that probably would be too heavy, look wrong, or be too difficult to make out of wood. On the other hand, wood sword replicas with a nice bevel and proper sanding on the hilts and pommels could be a good market for you.

#9 Frozen Angel on 11 months ago

@Sir.SmallTIme I do not do commissions of any kind but I agree with the advice that the others have given you. Myself, I write reviews for the sole purpose of informing the cosplay community about who's safe and who's not, even if my blog isn't big or anything. It's a given for me and I know how important the feedback is -for good or bad- for the commissioner/company and community. Because when it comes down to it, nobody wants to get scammed or give their money to someone who turns out to be an asshat.

Regarding your skills, gotta tip my hat to you and say that you definitely have a chance to make some money with those prop making skills! I would personally commission you immediately, if our countries weren't so darn far away, lol :thumbsup:

With that being said, best of luck and have faith in yourself and your skills! There are people out there who are willing to pay nicely for quality work ;)

#10 Sir.SmallTIme on 11 months ago

Thank you ^_^ great to hear some good feedback. Im actually starting to make myself a gladiator draven cosplay so hope I get the axes looking good. I gotta do some research though because im not to happy with the finish of the foam on my last prop.

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