Commissions: dirty word or exciting opportunity? I'll present the info and let you decide. Commissions can be an amazing way to supplement or even carry your art career, but they don't come without challenges. Read on for what you NEED to know about taking commissions.
1. How the H@ll do you get them???
All right, so you've decided you want to start taking commissions...buuuut how do you get them? Will folks come knocking down your door demanding artwork? Spoiler: NO.
You have got to spread the news far, wide, and wider that you're OPEN FOR COMMISSIONS! Shout it from the rooftops! If you feel good about your art, chances are that other people will want it, but you need to let those people know about the opportunity to work with you.
Social media should be the first step in making folks aware. Put it in the bio on your instagram and your facebook business profile. Tweet about it!
If you have an email newsletter (and you DO....right?), let your subscribers know. These people have voluntarily decided to follow YOUR art career, so don't be shy!
Third, work those connections boys and girls. Make sure all your artist friends are in the loop: If they have a full workload and get a commission request, they just might pass that request on to you! What other connections do you have? Stretch yourself here. Do you know any local businesses that might need custom artwork or a mural for their space? Don't be obnoxious but let people know you're available. Do you paint amazing pet portraits? Reach out to local animal shelters, pet owners, and doggy groomers! Find your niche and work it, girl.
2. Know when to say NO.
Congratulations! People are pounding down your door! Or at least...knocking. You might be so excited and honored that people are finally reaching out to you, but know that not every project is right for you and your skillset. It can be so hard to say no, but if the project proposal gives you a stomachache, that might be a good clue that it's not for you. Don't be afraid to say, "Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I think that so-and-so would actually be a better fit for this project and will be able to create a piece of art that you'll love!" No shame in that game.
Here are a few indicators that it might not be your jam:
- It's a subject matter you don't work in.
- It's a medium you don't work in.
- It's a size you don't work in.
- The budget is too small.
3. How and when and what should you get paid???
This is largely up to you, but here are a few suggestions.
Decide what you're worth: How much do you charge for your paintings normally? Ask for more for commissions. I promise you that they are more challenging and more time-intensive than your personal work, and your prices should reflect that. I base my prices on a few factors: how long I estimate the project to take, time spent talking with clients, how much materials will cost, and how large the piece is.
Decide when you want to get paid: Some people get paid upfront, some wait til the end. You have to spell this out with the client IN ADVANCE. Maybe you want to take a security deposit at the beginning and then have them pay the remaining balance at the end. That way, if they hate the work, you're not out the full amount...AND you know that they are serious about the investment.
Utilize invoicing: PayPal has an amazingly easy invoice system. I use it for all my clients. Even if clients don't have PayPal, they can pay via PayPal using their card info. Make sure they know the invoice is coming and let them know when you've sent it and when the balance is due. NOTE: Mark the box that lets them leave a tip if they choose. People will sometimes pleasantly surprise you!
4. Turn that sh!t around!
How fast do you work? Maybe you crank out a personal piece in one day. Kudos. Give yourself a week for a commission. They usually take longer than you'd expect. Let your client know in an email how long you expect it to take, but give yourself wiggle room. Instead of saying "I'll have it done in a week," say "I'll have it ready in 1-2 weeks". Don't put this in your contract! That way, if something goes wrong, like you get pneumonia and almost die, you're not legally bound to this. Most clients will give you grace if you're dying.
5. Let clients know what to expect!
Some surprises are nice. Others aren't. It's better if your client isn't really surprised at all. One way to avoid this is by doing a quick concept sketch to show the clients before you start on the final project. Make sure they like the idea and color scheme before you put your heart and soul into it! Another creative solution is to do several pieces based on their concept, and letting them choose the one they like best. This is more work of course, but if you're working on something like an abstract piece or a landscape, you can keep the ones they don't choose to sell to other people. Winning!
6. Be confident.
If you're not confident in your skills or in your business presentation, you are NOT ready to take commissions. Real talk. WAIT. Your clients will smell the fear and things will not go well. Promise.
See, commissions aren't that scary! Sure, you might not always be painting your favorite subject, but you're getting paid, right? Please just make sure that you are remembering that commissioned work is not about YOU. It's about THEM. Come at it with a heart of service and you'll be just fine. Happy creating!