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Following my previous post, and from the feedback received, here are my two guides for artists and buyers. Of course these are just guides and are open for discussion and further alteration (also feel free to check my spelling and grammer). Ideally I’d like people to add their own ideas so we can create something comprehensive and practical, and hopefully improve artist-buyer relationships within the community.

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:
• Harassment
• 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.
Artist's beware has moved!
Do NOT repost your old bewares. They are being archived.


( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 17th, 2007 05:01 am (UTC)
I think I love you a little bit right now. This is really cool, totally going in my memories. Thanks!
Jun. 17th, 2007 05:43 am (UTC)
these are very good guidelines, especially the bit about harrassment. I have cancelled commissions based on people being rude to me or causing drama around me and I wanted to cancel the commission to avoid POTENTIAL drama, and I got huffy attitudes in response, but it is my right. Just because I took your money at one time, if I give you a full refund in return I owe you nothing else.
Jun. 17th, 2007 07:23 am (UTC)
Well done Rachel. I still love your commission guideline kitty!
Jun. 17th, 2007 07:57 am (UTC)

Thanks for this, Neon, some great tips here, and it reminded me to get my ToS up. *procrastinator*

Jun. 17th, 2007 08:57 am (UTC)
My TOS includes the sentence "I reserve the right to decline any commission for any reason" and am a firm believer that it should be included in everyone's TOS.
Jun. 17th, 2007 09:20 am (UTC)

Here's a little tip for artists which was accepted with gratitude previously, so I believe it has merit. Of course, it's just a tip:

Produce a list with limited slots for commissions. With that, I mean you should have a number (for instance, four) imaginary slots which you can fit commissions into. Once these are full, refrain from accepting more commissions until one of the slots has been emptied. The reasoning that spawned this idea was simple: Several artist friends of mine complained about having accepted too many commissions at the same time and suffering from burnout due to the amount of time they felt they were forced to spend on commissioned art rather than their own.

A fictional example of such a little list would be:

--Faithry: Black swan in purple armor, holding a blade.
--Faithry: Two horses wearing nothing but riding tack.
--Opal: White dragoness roaring with a moon in the background.
--Lilly: Pink vixen wearing a flower dress.

Until one of these commissions is completed and a slot is 'emptied', you should not accept further commissions. That way, you can stop accepting commissions at any time with a maximum backlog that's only as long as the amount of 'slots' you have.

Oh yes, and one final, seperate tip... keep a little directory (or use your desktop!) to gather and store all the information of each individual commission. I'm suggesting this mostly because I get a little annoyed when an artist goes "Can you send me the description of that commission again? I know I was supposed to have it finished by now but I forgot to save the commission details.".
Jun. 17th, 2007 08:35 pm (UTC)
Slots are a good idea. They keep you productive, too.
Those Question Sheets I hand out to buyers are ideal. I make it clear that if the information is not on the sheet, it's not my fault if the detail isn’t included in the image (and it makes it so easy to draw/colour when the information is neatly arranged). Sometimes buyers really need a hand communicating their concept that way.
And I always keep tidy records for each commissioner in their own folder, so I'm with you on that tip as well.
(no subject) - mistresslk - Jun. 18th, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 17th, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)
Very well written! Thank you for taking the time to create these guidelines. :)
Jun. 17th, 2007 10:21 am (UTC)
For customers, Workload and productively: If you want artwork by a certain time, ask the artist if they are willing and able to meet said deadline. Preferably before you transfer the funds.

Also, boundries.
A commission is a business transaction, it doesn't make you friends with the artist. Even when they're happy to make a little smalltalk with you during the transaction doesn't mean they'll continue to do so afterwards. Unsolicited intimacy is right out, overstepping personal boundaries and attempting to get the artist to share extremely personal information, asking for cybersex or invading someone's personal space IRL is bad, making an artist feel like their payment or reputation depends on it is worse.
Even sexually explicit commissions are only a business transaction.
Artists aren't leading you on by being nice to you during the transaction, they're just being professional, you can't buy someone's friendship (and what would it be worth if you could anyway?)

For artists about their rates: Don't lower your prices.
If you lower your prices people take it as an admittance that your work is not worth the full amount of your standard pricing and indicates you have no confidence in yourself and your work. Also it can attract vultures, hagglers and other undesirable customers who will happily chip away at your confidence further if it could save them a buck or two.
If people aren't buying just work to improve on your style and your service. Be sure to meet deadlines, keep customers well informed etc.
Customers, especially ones who have been conned in the past, will definitely think the service is worth the money.
The only things you can lower your prices on is for example old prints in order to clear them out, but then not limited prints if they previously cost a considerable amount. It's bad form to lessen the value of things your customers have bought in the past.

Also, artists, please keep your angsting to a minimum. If you keep complaining that nobody will buy your work you'll start convincing people your work isn't worth buying.
Similarly, if you're confident about your work and that it's worth the amount you're asking for it, other people will be convinced that it is.

Buying from a happy artist is more attractive than buying from an emo artist who's always in financial trouble.
Jun. 17th, 2007 10:30 am (UTC)
Also, while customers like to feel they're part of the creative process don't confuse them with lots of detail. Remember they're paying you to worry about the technical details. And don't give them too many options especially not options which you don't have.

If you have various ways of (for example) colouring offer sample images, it's the easiest way for the customer to tell you what exactly they're looking for and for the customer to form an idea of what they're going to get and feel in control. List pros and cons so they can compare for themselves, and their various prices, if a medium takes longer you should charge more (obviously).
(no subject) - neongryphon - Jun. 17th, 2007 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Jun. 17th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Jun. 17th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 17th, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC)
Excellent guides.

I'd like to add to what some of the others have said, though.

If an artist cancels a commission, the money should be returned to the buyer. I've heard of too many stories where a buyer had their commission canceled (for time, workload, harrassment, what-have-you) and the artist *kept* the payment (usually for something along the lines of "pain and anguish"). Um, no. Commissions are a business. If a buyer pays and doesn't get the product, they get their money back.

I especially like the section about communication. I can be pretty patient as long as I'm made aware that my commission is still pending.

What thaily said about commission lists should be SOP for artists.

I am currently in a situation where I paid someone in full (who had a good rep, good updating, quick turnaroun, etc) MONTHS ago (i.e. December/January) for two pieces. They put up a commission list on their page where people could keep track of the pieces. Then, this person apparently suffered one major life-altering tradegy after another, after another. Now, I was pretty cynical about not seeing *any* work done for months, but because they were nice and they did update with "I'm still working on commissions," I kept my peace. Occasionally, a personal piece, or an old piece would show up, but at least they were still uploading stuff...

However, when they put up another "call for commissions" I got *steamed*. I didn't think it was right for this person to be calling for *more* commissions when they hadn't even completed the ones from several months before. I did contact them at that point, asking for a timeline for completion. (This was MY fault for not hashing that out ahead of time, but I had an airy "sketch in a week" conversation previously) They replied that they were still working on the original commission list, but didn't respond to my query for a timeline (at least for a rough sketch). I mentioned that if my commission was too much for them, I would take a refund in order to lighten the workload. No reply.

This person has since gotten back on their feet and posted five of the pieces from their commission list. But I know that my experience with them has made one of my friends sheer off from commissioning them, and I'm rather put out by the situation. I'm keeping my peace right now, but the whole experience just smacks of unprofessional conduct.

Artists: you are selling a service- your time and talent. People pay for that service. Treat it like any other business transaction. If a car mechanic took your car to work on and it sat for days because the mechanic "didn't feel like" working on it, but then fixed up three other cars in the meantime, wouldn't you be upset? This is a similar experience to what commissioners feel when artists linger on commissions for no good reason.
Jun. 17th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)

I'm guessing you're talking about Jace? I'm still waiting on commissions from.. oh.. 2001, I think? 1999?
(no subject) - tyrrlin - Jun. 17th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - neongryphon - Jun. 17th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tyrrlin - Jun. 17th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tyrrlin - Jun. 17th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Jun. 17th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tyrrlin - Jun. 17th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thaily - Jun. 18th, 2007 05:48 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 17th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
I agree with what everyone else has posted! The only thing I can think to add is "Age" for the buyer guide. If an artist is underage, be wary that attempting to settle should they not provide the piece is tricky to impossible. Not all underage artists are shady (I was doing commissions at age 15) but some of them are not of a maturity level to complete a professional business-like transaction. And we should not always expect them to be- they have school, and perhaps they are using a parent's computer for internet and/or drawing. What if they get 'grounded' from the internet? It happened to me a few times (oops!).
So, check up on the underage artists, and if they have a good track record- go for it! These are often the folks that are struggling to break into the art world and your commission could mean the world to them. But, if they don't have a good record, be wary.
Jun. 17th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
Good point. And of course their school work can easily get in the way, making their schedule unpredictable.

Does anyone know the min age for paypal? Is it 18 or 16?
(no subject) - keaalu - Jun. 17th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 17th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
That's a very good and useful guide. Thank you for sharing!
Jun. 17th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
Very useful, and complete. I don´t know what to say to help it grow larger :)
And I have to write my ToS. I never thought about writting them down, but hell, you are right they can be useful for commissioners.
Jun. 18th, 2007 01:32 am (UTC)
Very helpful! 8D Thanks a lot!
I have a question though. o3o

If I should cancel a commission, for whatever reason, and I'm working with the "Pay When You See The Sketch, (will complete after money is received)" method, and they had already paid, how much should be refunded? o_o
Jun. 18th, 2007 05:49 am (UTC)
how much would you normally charge for a sketch?
If they paid 50 for a single character colour and your single character sketches cost 15 bucks you should keep 15+shipping (if applicable) and refund the rest.
(no subject) - ghostneko - Jun. 18th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 19th, 2007 12:32 am (UTC)
I am not a bad buyer of commissions. I paid everyone I commissioned thus far. I do wish more would commission me, though...
Jun. 23rd, 2007 08:57 pm (UTC)
Oh man; thank you SO much for making this.
I recently made a TOS/Policy I ask my commissioners to agree on if they want to start. I thought I was being excessive, but I see it's very recommended.
Jun. 24th, 2007 02:13 am (UTC)
I don't know many professional artists without a ToS. Certainly not overkill by any means. =)
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