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A Little Help? (Not a Warning)

I'm sorry if this is the wrong community for this, but it was the only one I could think of. If someone could direct me to where this question could get answered (if not here), I would really, really appreciate it. :)

But I digress. I've recently been trying to take on more commissions. I found there is suddenly a demand for my art, and it also helps when you can't seem to find a job. As for procedure, I've taken a lot of my inspiration from advice in this community. There's just one thing I'm a little foggy about.

Is it okay to work on one commission at a time, forcing those behind them to wait?

I took 2 full image commissions at AC, and have been trying to work on them at the same time to prevent people from waiting, but I find myself getting overwhelmed and stressed out. Is it okay to stop, focus on the first picture in line, finish it, then move on? I just didn't know if that seemed unfair to the rest of the people in line.

How do those of you who take commissions handle it?
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( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 9th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
I think it's perfectly fine to have a queue lined up to work on. A lot of artists, from what I've seen, tend to do this. It's generally less stressful and helps keep things in order, as well as ensures that you're "putting your all" into that one piece. It can mean longer wait times for your commissioners, but as long as they're aware of it I don't see a problem.

If you do decide to set the others back and do them one at at time be sure to email your other commissioners to let them know what's up.
Aug. 9th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
One at a time is perfectly fine. After all, you're making the person who commissioned you first wait longer if you work on them both at once, so no matter what you do, you're making somebody wait. So you might as well do what works best for you.

(I don't work one at a time, but my commission list at any given time has at least dozen people on it, and I'm definitely not working on them all at once, I work on two or maybe three at a time.)

I mean so long as you're meeting your estimated completion dates, how you work is none of your customer's business, frankly.
Aug. 9th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
The problem with me is that I know myself to well. I -CAN- work on 2-3 pieces at once, and have in the past with personal pieces. But I can almost guarantee that 1-2 of them will not see the light of day (Or I guess the light of FA?). If they do end up getting finished, it'll be the occasional 'I'm bored, let me finish something I never did' binge I go on, and I DON'T want that happening with commissions. You know, for obvious reasons.
Aug. 9th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
Figure out a way of working that is comfortable for you, that isn't going to frustrate or burn you out, and then be up front with commissioners about your method. If you can only work on one piece at a time effectively, tell people that at the outset. They get to make a more-informed decision, you get to devote your full focus and energy on the piece at hand, and everybody goes home happy. :3
Aug. 9th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
I really wish I had done this originally, though having only taken the occasional commission and, like I said, never more than one, I never had any idea that doing two or three at once would give me such I problem. I'll do that from now on though, because that's a very good idea. :) Thank you.
Aug. 9th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
Believe me, so do I, but that's the profit in benefiting from another's experience! It's a learning process, but half the battle is learning how to ask the right questions, which you apparently do well, so hey. :) No worries.
Aug. 9th, 2008 07:03 pm (UTC)
I usually do one or two small things at a time or more than one big thing, just...it's what I feel inspired to do at the time, really. I don't usually go in order of who paid first who paid second [which sometimes gets me into trouble with people waiting a long time for their art, but for the most part works out].

There is absolutely no problem with doing one at a time, though. ESPECIALLY if you let your commissioners know that that's what's going on. There's really no problem doing commissions any way, IMO, as long as you keep communication open with every commissioner you have and keep them updated!

That might be worded confusingly [I tend to ramble]. I hope it makes sense. :C
Aug. 9th, 2008 08:59 pm (UTC)
It made perfect sense. :)

Here's my question: when does communication become too much? Should I occasionally message the waiting commissioners and just be like "You're x spot in line, I'm almost done with the piece ahead of you. Should hopefully have a sketch soon." I considered doing this (thank you artists_beware for making me paranoid XD) but I didn't know if that would be seen as... redundant, I guess?
Aug. 9th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
Um...well, it really depends on how much contact you've had with them before, maybe?

Personally, I really like the surprise of SURPRISE, A SKETCH for people, rather than telling them "oh I'm sketching yours next". That way, it's kind of exciting instead of them expecting it.

But I think if you had two or three people ahead of them, contacting them and letting them know you were done with the person's ahead of them or whatever would be good.

Oor you can make a list on either your LJ or a gallery somewhere [dA or FA journal?] of everyone's commissions and if they've paid. This is mine, for an example. That way, they can see the progress happening with their commission just from looking at the waiting list or whatever. You don't have to email people or worry about people getting upset with the wait or anything. If they have an issue with how long you're taking, encourage them to email you and ask how progress is progressing. :D
Aug. 9th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
I've used lists in the past, though the reason I was hesitant to even do one this time was because the two commissions were from AC, so I didn't have anyone's FA or LJ. I just recently got one of the commissioners FA, and I actually just now went and made a journal with my list and an explanation of me doing things one at a time now. Just need to update the commission info tab now.

And I agree. I think I'll hold off on messaging the person until I have a sketch for them, because I do like that whole SURPRISE!!! thing. I should have the one in front of him done within the next day or so, so he should get one by the end of the week, so yeah. I don't think it'd do a lot of good to message him now only to message him a few days later with something. I'll link him to the list as well and hopefully get an FA page if he has one.
Aug. 9th, 2008 09:53 pm (UTC)
Sounds great to me. :) Do you have an FA page I can check out? :D
Aug. 9th, 2008 07:18 pm (UTC)
Most of the time I work on commissions in the order that I take them, one at a time.
However, if I'm really stumped and at a standstill on one, I might poke at others to get out of the slump.
I always try to finish them in order, at least.
Aug. 9th, 2008 07:24 pm (UTC)
I have a first come first served attitude towards commissions.

I am also very honest where people are in the Que. I try to keep people informed when they move up and if my estimated time is getting butchered, I inform my clients of my revised estimate for delivery.

This with the understand that professional gigs which pay my bills take slot #1 since I usually have a lot less time to work in.

I do try to keep going on my other projects while I am working on those.

I hope that made sense. I am a bit dehydrated and am trying to get my system back in working order.
Aug. 9th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah one at a time is fine, better to keep a steady pace than rush things, actually I think in the overall scheme of things it would be faster to do one at a time and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

I would also like to suggest that maybe there be a warning to commissioners that there will be a queue, otherwise they might thing you're working on theirs right away.
Aug. 9th, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC)
This is the problem that I find myself in now, in fact. When I took them the two on at AC, the 2nd person had called me and asked for some progress. I had told them I had only done a few thumbnail sketches and I had not started the piece yet. When I got home, I had to deal with medical issues, so I let them know that once I was well enough to start working again, I would start work on their piece. So, as far as I know, they are under the impression that I'm currently working on it. I think I'll go e-mail them now...

From now on, I'll need to make sure to definitely put up a warning to people so this doesn't happen. I'm really kinda cursing myself now for having not thought of how I would proceed with commissions, but I guess you can't know how you'll do something until you do it.

Thanks for the advice. :)
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Aug. 9th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 9th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
I personally work on those that payed first and do it in line of who's cash/payment came first so I have a nice little list to work down. It's a lot easier.
Aug. 9th, 2008 09:39 pm (UTC)
I usually do things one at a time myself, and I haven't had a problem.
MOST customer understand that there are people before them and are willing to wait a while before theirs is started and finished. :)

If someone decides to be overly impatient and annoying, then they aren't worth your time anyway. :P
Aug. 9th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)
If you can only do one piece of art at a time, that's all you can do. Not every artist can multi-task huge quantities of art. For personal work, I can have five or six sketches going on simultaneously, but I can only be coloring one picture at a time, maybe two. If I do more than that I start dropping projects because I get distracted/disillusioned/stressed. For commissions I go on the safe side and try to work on just one or two at a time.

Just let people know where they sit in your queue. Most won't have a problem with it, as long as they aren't kept in the dark.
Aug. 9th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)

Personally I take it one at a time, finish the first and move onto the second. My commissions are on a first come first served basis and they get done in the order I receive them in.
Aug. 10th, 2008 03:56 am (UTC)
I have a queue. (I'm a metalworker, not an illustrator, but still.)

Basically, people enter the queue when they put down a deposit. While I do work on several items at the same time- there are delays for anealling, pickling, etc.- #1 in the queue gets worked on first when I have a choice, and the others get worked on in the gaps. Once #1 is done, it goes off and #2 moves to #1 etc.

I think first in, first o0ut is only fair as a general principle- even when/if some quick stuff gets done faster in the gaps of the more complex things.
Aug. 10th, 2008 08:31 am (UTC)
I've never had more than 1 commission to work on at a time. But generally, when doing art for myself, or art trades, i find it easier to work on several at a time, as i get bored working on one piece for a long time. But, thats MY way - you have to do whatever is more comfortable for YOU - and whatever will give you the best results.
Aug. 10th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
One at a time is really the neat and simple way to do commissions, and it's fine to make clients wait, as long as:

1. Commissions are completed in the order you received them.
2. You don't make the line too long. I would limit the queue to 5 or 6 slots at a time, and impose a waiting period for returning clients so that everyone gets a chance.
Aug. 11th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC)
I usually decide how many commissions I'll take on at once based on what the commission is. If it's artwork, for example, or con badges, then doing several at once isn't difficult. As long as I get them done by the deadlines I said I'd meet, I can work on them in turn as I get inspired/tired of them. With something more intensive like making a fursuit, writing a story, jewelry-making, etc., I tend to do one at a time. On long commissions, I don't like to have a queue waiting, because in a month or so, when I'm done with the first, my circustances may have changed. I may no longer need the money, I might have a vacation coming up, or I might get sick. I try to be really cautious about getting 2-3 months blocked out in freelance work, because life is life, and occassionally it can keep me from being able to work in a timely fashion.

If you give yourself specific timelines/deadlines, always meet them. Always. If taking on more keeps you from getting things done, then cut back. What may also help is having a status list somewhere - on your website, or creating an LJ that is solely for your commissions. Make a list of the commissions in order, note to people that you update the status once a week, and that they can check this place to see where they are in the list. This means you *must* update the list as regularly as you say you will, but it also saves you the occassional person emailing you every DAY asking, "When will you start on mine?!?"

Finally, I'd say it depends on how you set prices. If you have a list of set prices for your work, then yes, you can easily have a queue of people waiting. If you generally auction your work, like I do on Furbid, then having lots of auctions can be a detriment. Why bid on the more expensive auction when you can get the other one going on that's fifty bucks less? It also hangs on how much of your free time you're willing to devote to the project. An art piece on average takes me twenty hours. A twenty page story generally takes me a hundred hours or more. I won't queue story commissions, because they take so long, and in the event of needing to refund money for some unforseen reason, Paypal has a time limit on how long you have to refund money. Some commissions are simply too draining to take on more than one at a time.

This is just a general tip, but never be so broke that you can't afford to walk away from a commission. Of course everybody takes commissions on because they need the money - we all do. But at the same time, never be afraid to say, "This isn't working out. Let me refund your money, and you can hire someone else to do "x" for you. If you do good, timely work, there's no reason you can't find someone else who's less trouble to work with. Being so financially stuck that you're forced to continue working with a jerk or someone who is unrealistic in their expectations is MISERABLE.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )


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