First I started off winning a commission from Barachan off furbid. I believe the winning amount went for around $160. (I'll go back and correct this). Since the bid went for so high for a 1 character, PG13 digital color piece with background, I decided to lay out some ground rules for this commission. The reason I did this was that she had complained about other commissioners being difficult, and I wanted to give her a method for how to deal with these customers and to price herself accordingly.
For a high end commission, you need to allow your customer to chose what should be drawn, but at the same time you need to be in control of the commission - ie they hired you to be the artist, so while you give them a bit of leeway, you don't let them design for you because it makes YOU look bad. That may sound like "isn't the customer always right?" violation, but you need to make sure that you were commissioned to do a work and you don't want it overdone by their influence. If the changes seem unreasonable find ways to steer it into a middle ground.
For each stage, from thumbnails to final piece, I was to sign an art approval sheet which you can get from http://www.creativelatitude.com/links/resources_downloads.html
I was to sign off each stage, and pay a fee if I had her go back after I approved a stage. The other thing I had her do was keep a timecard of her progress, and I was to see it. So the stages were Thumbnails/Concepts (4 minimum) Inks, Colors, Background. In addition she was allowed to sell prints of the character (though if possible I'd like them to send me a copy of the merchandise if possible - while the rest is sold). I wanted her to make as much money as possible and to see out of curiosity selling potential of the character.
So here we have the thumbnails
I asked her which one she thought was the best, and I also gave her my input which one I thought was the strongest. We were caught between 1 and 2 though 2 was a bit stronger favorite.
She then went and did variations of 1 and 2 had suggested blowing a "kiss" to give it personality. She rendered it on both hands.
I finally was happy with 2 A (the middle one) and signed off the approval form. I did chastise her for one thing I consider a rookie error. She gave me concept pictures all facing the same way. So I asked her to flip the image on 2 B
(Edit, in case you're wondering about that rookie error, I posted an journal about it here: Hand Dominance
For Inks, there were really no suggestions but you can see it here:
We then went with the coloring stage, and here we encountered a bit of my pickiness on anatomy and so forth.
I wasn't happy with the nipple placement (yeah the nipples! I felt one on the left was too far out) and the highlights on the legs. While it would curve in because of the femur's connection to the pelvis I felt it too extreme. We went back and forth on this a bit, so I had outlined my issue to see if I could be more clear.
Because I had her rework so much, I felt it only fair to throw in perhaps around 10-20 (I'll need to go back and check) for the changes.
We hit a happy point with this: http://www.anime.net/~arshesnei/baracommission/banimage3_4-changes.jpg
Barachan offered me a few background choices and we settled on the Blue one that many have seen on DA
Here you can find the variations as well as the stages I posted in this entry http://www.anime.net/~arshesnei/baracommission
If you look here you can see the final output.
I calculated her timesheet after all the work she did. She was making around 10 by the time she was done with the original stuff, but since I gave her extra money for some rework, she actually was around 11 dollars. This excludes her own equipment fees, research time etc.
Anyways, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. I hope you guys can get some insight that artists really do spend quite a bit of time on these, pieces and depending on quality you should also in return ask for more choice. If you're working on commissions over 100 dollars you should deliver concept sketches so that your customer feels they have some choice without becoming too picky over minute details.