I was hashing out a plan with her for free use art (stuff she could reproduce and sell that had my drawing on them). I did a sketch of a female impala as a personal exercise. About a month later she said she couldn't afford the whole project but was willing to try and compensate me for the work I had already done. I said the time I had spent was worth about $20-30, but if she was hard pressed, she could paypal me whatever she could afford. This was in May and I haven't heard a peep. Sent two or three more emails, nothing.
I am not concerned over the money, rather the rudeness of not replying to my emails was what irked me. If she wanted to lie about some "issue" that prevented her from making a payment or even send a quick note in the offhand chance that she actually was having problems I would easily accept the flimsiest of excuses. I'm not hard to please and I really don't mind a charity sketch or two. But ignoring my emails and not bothering to write back a quick- "the IRS has a price on my head" note is just annoying.
So if this person commissions you, get the money first. Don't bother doing any work that isn't going to be appreciated.
I repeat once again, I'm not concerned with myself getting ripped off, in this case I had fun drawing the sketch. I normally wait for payment before starting anything but when a subject sounds cool I do draw it if it inspires me (even before getting paid). But I said I would post a warning about her if she didn't respond to my emails and I'd feel bad if someone else had to deal with the frustration of a disappearing act. I wasn't even asking for money at that point, just contact of some kind.