Thank you all in advance =)
Price: Artist for hire, going cheap? Too good to be true? Well sadly it probably is. It’s not uncommon for an artist to offer work at vastly reduced rates if they are in need of the funds. But be wary – pay for peanuts and you can expect monkeys. Art takes a lot of time to create, and a lot of skill. Would you do it for minimum wage or under? All too often artists can bite off more than they can chew, especially if an emergency situation arises. So be mindful of what they’re asking for, and how much work they’ve got on their plate. Expect the price to reflect the quality of the art. ‘Cheap’ doesn’t imply a bargain.
Professional artists will price themselves according to their skill level and how valuable their time is. Carefully examine the price against the time-scale and quality of the work.
New artists often price themselves at lower rates than popular or experienced artists. This is usually how new artists break into the industry. This does NOT mean that they are unreliable or likely to produce low quality artwork. Use the tips below to decide if they’re still the right artist for you.
Payment Method: Pick an artist that offers a payment method that suits. Again, there is little or no point trying to make an artist accept payment using a method they don’t normally accept.
Workload and productively: Check how often the artist updates their commissions gallery. They may be slow, they may be fast – this matters little except how long you’re prepared to wait for your finished image.
But what you’re looking for is a consistent level of productivity and quality.
Do they have a list that shows their progress? How often do they update it? Look for a regular turnover; it’s a great indicator of an artist’s reliability.
And importantly, pick an artist who’ll work within a time-frame that keeps you happy. If they produce good work but only every month or two, don’t commission them and expect results in just a week or two.
ToS: Do they have a ToS online? Not all do but it can be an immense help. It should include how to pay, when to pay, their cancellation policies and what you as the buyer should expect for your money. A ToS is a good indication of how much communication you can expect from your artist as well.
Pick an artist whose ToS meets your expectations and needs. If you don’t agree with their ToS, don’t commission the artist. Attempting to barter with the artist or force them to change their policies can often cause undue friction, and a professional artist is not likely to accept your negotiations.
Communication: Every artist differs here. Some like many emails, others like to keep it short and sweet, but the frequency by which they update their journals and galleries are good indications. Pick an artist whose communication levels are likely to suit your needs and expectations. If you’re at all unclear, simply ask the artist how much communication they prefer, and how often you should expect to hear from them. Be warned, if the artist feels you are being excessive, they might think you are harassing or bullying them. As such, it’s a good idea to keep your communication friendly but to the point.
Quality: Is there a huge quality variation between the artist’s commissioned work, and their personal pieces? Artists are often more impassioned by their personal work and so the quality is generally higher. But if there commission work is very sloppy by comparison, you might want to reconsider your choice.
Style: Pick a style that matches your taste. It’s not advisable to choose an artist, then to ask them to draw like a completely different artist. Not only could this cause offence and tension, but the results very rarely meet expectations.
Identity: You’ve found that artist you’ve been looking for. But are they really who they say they are? See that email addresses tally up. If they don’t, you can mail each one that you find and check that they each match up to the same artist. Some artists do use different emails, especially when taking paypal payments. Of course your artist is likely to have multiple galleries and journals too, so check around and see that they all contain the same information.
Black listed: Is the artist known for poor service? Check LJ communities or do a web search.
Feedback: It can be pretty easy to contact prior buyers who have commissioned an artist. Most artists will express who a commission was for, and a DA/LJ/Google search can quickly find you the commissioner. There is also Furbid-SF auctions where buyers can rank their commission experience on a scale of 1-10.
And of course, there’s always referrals made by online friends, acquaintances and LJ communities such as artistrecommend. Check multiple sources to be sure of your artist.
Introduction: What follows is merely a guide some commission artists may find useful in spotting potential pitfalls. Remember, communication is always paramount, so be honest, frank but polite with your buyers at all times; you’ll find it goes a long way in avoiding unpleasant commission experiences. Never make the assumption that your buyer is being malicious or trying to con you, but be alert. Here is how to spot potential misunderstandings and warning signs early to avoid disaster later.
Before you start, you should have the following things online where your buyer can always refer to them:
• A commission portfolio that shows your most recent work and full range.
• A clear ToS including what rights you reserve, your cancellation policy, payment methods and what communication you expect from your buyer.
• A list that charts your commission progress.
• A working public email.
Before accepting a commission, be sure that you have communicated the following:
• The full commission specification – make sure it’s organised in one place for quick referencing.
• An agreed time-frame
• An agreed payment method and price.
Payment: This guide isn’t about how to take payment, but what to do to avoid being “burned.”
It’s very wise to have your payment method outlined clearly where the buyer can always refer back to it. This should include how to pay and when to pay. If a buyer tries to make you change your method, alarm bells should be ringing immediately. Never begin work on a promise of payment if this goes against your policy.
Do not allow yourself to be bullied into lowering your prices or forgoing any payment due. Always make it clear to your buyer when you expect payment, how to pay, and exactly how much. If they can’t settle the bill in the expected time-frame, you should not make exceptions based on trust.
Some buyers (as genuine as they may be) may give you long explanations as to why they can’t pay at that specific time, or using that particular method. Do not feel guilty or pressured by this. Stick to your policies. If they can’t pay, don’t feel bad if you need to cancel the commission. Remember, you are running a business. Refer them back to your ToS when you need to.
Paypal tip! If using paypal, be aware that there is a scam which involves buyers e-mailing fake payment notifications from paypal. Always log into your paypal account and check that the balance really is there. And remember, an e-cheque is not a guaranteed payment. Wait until it clears before you proceed.
Communication: What IS this buyer saying? So you’ve been receiving emails, but you’re struggling to read their English. You can’t be sure they understand you, and you can’t seem to understand them. There could be numerous reasons for this, but by no means should their level of English imply bad intentions. So never be rude and don’t go correcting them as this can be of great insult and embarrassment to your buyer. However, if you can’t understand your commissioner, there is little point continuing. Don’t feel guilty if you need to end a commission because communication is poor.
Bullies and harassment: As previously stated, communication is key. But some buyers can take it too far. Just because you are selling your art, it doesn’t mean you are selling your soul.
Always have a clause that explains that you will not be harassed or bullied by your commissioners.
If a buyer is incessantly emailing you, take stock of why they are doing this. It’s advisable to offer your buyer regular updates of their commission in progress, whether this is through email or a regularly updated URL. But if a commissioner is emailing reams of irrelevant or excessive information, you should nip it in the bud. They may not realise they are being excessive. Some buyers just like to chat, so never ever be rude. Politely but firmly express how much feedback or communication is acceptable. Should a buyer ever become aggressive or insulting, do not hesitate to end the commission.
Age: It is often much more difficult to run a transaction with a minor, and due to certain legal defences, it is not advised. If you believe the commissioner is too young, ask them to have a parent/guardian complete the transaction for them.
Friends: When completing a commission for a friend, be very cautious indeed. Business relationships rarely blend well with friendships, especially when it comes to the tricky point of payment. If a friend really does want to commission you, let them know that you have to stick you your commission policy. This isn’t just to avoid any hurt feelings later if things go wrong, but also to be fair to your other buyers. You should never have different policies for different people. Don’t jeopardise a friendship for a business, or vice versa.
Style: So you have all your artwork on display in your galleries, and your potential buyer asks you to draw like another artist, and in a style you’ve never attempted before.
When a buyer asks Artist A to draw in the style of Artist B, they’re normally also expecting the artist to demonstrate the same level of skill. Not only is it likely to be difficult for you as the artist to imitate another, it’s highly doubtful the results you produce will meet the buyer’s expectations. Perhaps if you’re very skilled you may believe that you could reproduce the style the buyer wants. But of course copying a style opens up a whole new can of worms: originality, copyright, professional courtesy. If you feel at all uncomfortable about the style they want you to draw, politely decline.
Content: The buyer wants you to draw something that you’re uncomfortable with, or perhaps something you do not believe you have the skill to achieve. It’s always a good idea to have an outline of the items you will and won’t draw online somewhere. Direct the buyer to this and make your preferences clear. You must both be happy with the content before accepting a commission. Forcing yourself to draw something you don't want to will often end in bad results and unhappy buyers.
Feedback: If you get an inkling from any of the above that a buyer is trying on a scam, consider asking around in LJ communities such as artists_beware. Remember, don’t assume that they are. And even if you become adamant that they are trying to con you, never ever accuse them of it in an email. Your ToS should always cover your back, and whether it’s through non-payment, delays or harassment, you should not feel guilty if you choose to implement your ToS and end the commission.
Your Right to Cancel: This guide was obviously not intended to tell artists what should be in their ToS or how to run commissions. Everyone is different. But a ToS must be public, and it should always be fair. Stick to it and never act spitefully or unprofessionally towards your buyer. A cancellation policy should be included and cover you for the following:
• Delay on the buyer’s behalf
• Delay on your behalf
Here is my current ToS. Please do not copy this page, but do feel free to use it as a guide if you wish to create your own. There are many more out there, so check them out and write one to suit you:
Some artists may also find my method of running commissions helpful. It can be found here: http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/50584868/
And here: http://www.neongryphon.com/commissions.htm
Again everyone is different. Don’t try to pick a method that will appeal to all buyers – there simply isn’t one! Pick a method that works for you, and in turn you’ll receive commissioners that you can happily work for =)
In summary: never feel bad if you have to say no. It’s often better to cut your loses at an early stage than to struggle on regardless and still be no better off by the end.