5 Lessons Learned When Taking Art Commissions

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I’ve been taking commissions and turning my client’s ideas into reality for about 8 years, and I’ve learned a lot. Last week I talked about my biggest mistake when taking art commissions. But with that experience, these 5 things are what I learned to be a better illustrator and a better business owner.

Read

For the love of God, read. And read again. Make sure you understand your client’s needs and determine if you can meet those needs. If someone is looking for a web designer and you only work in character design, or they’re looking for a commercial commission, while you only provide work for personal use, please don’t take the job. Misunderstandings happen when clients or artists don’t read what the other has typed. More misunderstandings happen when both parties fail to…

 

Communicate

Being clear with what is needed in a commission and what can or cannot be done is crucial to converting a request to a working partnership.

Should any delays arise, please let your client know. They should never be in the dark when it comes to an investment of their money into you, your business, and your craft. They’re the reason why we get paid to do what we love! Find a schedule to report back to them. I usually like to give myself a buffer of two days to reply to someone (just in case the offline job hours start getting crazy). This all depends on your personal schedule. If they haven’t heard from you in a week, shoot them an update email. A repeat client of mine and I worked out a weekly update system where I would send him a progress shot every Friday of his commission until the project was done. This resulted from our ability to…

 

Negotiate

Sometimes one party might need something and another party might be reluctant or unable to provide it. Negotiation, to me, is making sure both sides are happy before work has even begun. Things like pricing, payment, payment scheduling, and even down to the format of the final artwork are just a few things that should be discussed.

Be open and willing to negotiate throughout the project. There will be some things you must be firm on as an artist, but other factors in the project can be more flexible. Think about what you provide, what you can provide, and what you haven’t provided before and how firm or flexible those things can be. While negotiating, it’s time to

 

Use a Contract

Always use a contract when being commissioned. This is the safest way to protect the client and the artist. I just started implementing a contract this year, and I must say, it helps me out significantly when working with others.

Some quick things about contracts:

*These are for both parties

*A contract is negotiable (see “negotiate”)

*They can be scary to introduce! That’s okay! There’s no need for the walls of legal-speak. So long as you have something in writing (or in type) that both sides understand and consent to, you should be fine. If a potential client runs away at the mention of “terms of service” or “contract,” they… probably aren’t someone you should work with in the first place. (This goes for artists, too). Being a professional artist with contracts and legality and emails can be a stone-cold gig, but that’s why it’s important to…

 

Be Approachable

I see commission work as a business transaction, but making the client feel comfortable creates an excellent personal experience that they will come back for. It’s always awkward when starting a project with someone online, but once the ice is broken, then it’s time to make that experience and your delivery memorable.

Do you have any tips to add? Share them with me in the comments below!

Until next time!

 

~PK

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