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Commissioning etiquette?

I apologize if this is not appropriate to post here but I figured this was the best bunch of people to ask these questions to.

I've been doing commissions steadily for a few months now, and while I've only ever had one complaint (that I know of) lodged against me, it was entirely my own fault due to taking on a commission at a time where I just getting ready to start college and was totally stressed out, blah blah. But even that was resolved nicely in the end, so really I haven't experienced any "bad experiences" since I've been doing commissions.

But I am pretty new at it, for sure, despite being pretty successful. I think the fact that there aren't a lot of people out there doing what I do helps xD. I crochet custom plushies & items (http://www.furaffinity.net/user/vombatiformes).


Anyway, I've noticed that by far here one of the most popular complaints is artists taking forever to finish or mail something out, and I had some questions regarding that.
1. What do you consider an appropriate waiting time for a full piece of art (I realize this is hard to adapt to my situations as crochet is different from traditional art, but I imagine both I and a traditional artist would take a similar amount of time to do a detailed piece of art).
2. Is it appropriate or inappropriate to work out of "line". AKA, is it okay to work on something that was commissioned AFTER another piece, or skip something and come back to it if you're just not feeling "inspired"?
3. I have a queue listed on my FA page that shows each and every commission I have to work on. I update it pretty much every day considering I work 7 days a week on commissions. I consider it my "job" for the time being, while I'm in school. People know where they are in line when they commission me as I make it clear to them. I generally have a LOT of people in my queue at a time, and it's hard for me to keep in touch with all of them unless they send me a message, in which case I always reply promptly. Is that okay? Should I be emailing them all individually myself every few weeks to let them know where they are or is it okay to just continue doing what I'm doing and letting them know when I'm working on theirs and when it's finished?

Also any other tips you can offer to make sure things stay good on my end and I keep my commissioners happy would be great. I'm terrified of disappointing people. It scares the crap out of me, haha, and furries especially are so scary when they're angry. xD

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( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
orcish_hugs
Aug. 20th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
1. It depends on the size, and the detail I want/have paid for.
TBH, Im a patient person, So I wait between 2-4 weeks, asking every now and again, how they're doing.

2. I agree, there's no point working on something you dont want to work on at the time.

3.It's okay the way you are doing it tbh, Maybe put this on your FA, to inform people.
koisnake
Aug. 20th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
Furries are scary when they are angry, lol.

1. It depends on you and the commissions. If people don't mind the wait, your queue list can be reasonably large. They have no right to complain if you are working on plushes (not slacking off) and they were aware that your list was large in the first place. When they commission you, you should mention your waiting list and direct it to them. If they see the list and agree to commission you, they just have to wait.

2. Sometimes it is appropriate to work out of line if, for example, supplies didn't arrive yet and you could be using the time to work on something else. Now, this is not good for deadlines. If you do not have deadlines, working out of line once in a once is fine. However, you shouldn't be working totally out of line. For example, if you have 10 people and you can't work on the first one for any reason, you shouldn't work on the 8th person, but you should work on the 2nd or 3rd.

3. I know how you feel right here. Since you have a huge list, you can't possibly always keep in touch with people whose plush isn't aren't close to the top of your queue list. Updating your FA is perfectly fine in informing your customers. It is THEIR responsibility to look at it.

You've been AWESOME with commissions. I commissioned you for 4 different plushes and you got them done in a timely manner. You are hard working and you make sure to get the job done. So, so far, you've been nothing but excellent about your commissions.
lavendergem
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
1. It is probably a good idea to set a time line upfront with the commissioner for each piece. They can't complain that you are taking too long if you told them at the outset, "This commission will take X amount of time due to the level of difficulty, my current work load, and your place in the queue."

Only you can know what is a reasonable pace for you to complete a project, and since your art is unique, folks really can't complain if it does take longer than a 2-D piece. If it looks like you are going to go over that time, then it is your responsibility to let the commissioner know of any delays or setbacks.

2. Appropriateness of "queue jumping" is up to you and your personal work style/ethic. Myself, I am not... methodical (I think very few artists are lol) and tend to jump all over the place when working on several projects at once. I wouldn't advertise that you aren't diligently working on the current queue piece if you have jumped ahead-- so long as you are able to keep to the agreed upon deadline. This is YOUR process, and no one has to know how you work it. Just be fair to the commissioner in being timely and upfront about legit delays.

3. If you have set clear terms from the very start, and are able to manage keeping your queue straight, you shouldn't have to coddle your commissioners. If they have questions or concerns that go beyond what you have reasonably set as your "terms of service" they will contact you. Personally, I would create a generic "contract" and then personalize it according to the commissioners needs/requests, and your current workload/time table. Especially since you seem to be approaching this in a very business-like manner.
rizzy_rau
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
Coming from some one who also does hand made crafts, (plastic canvas stuff) I think your doing fine. I don't think people tend to get that these hand made projects can take longer to make/create compared to say hand drawn or digital art for example.

1. Depending on the size, and complexity, I'd estimate how much time it might take to create said piece based on previous creations before. This way you can try to give an estimated time on when it could be completed, thus leaving the commissioner with an estimate due date, but also lets them know that because its a more time consuming craft, that it could take a little longer.

2. Working out of line can be appropriate. You don't wanna burn yourself out or get frustrated on one project, and sometimes just need a change of pace. Doing this, allows for a better quality finished product in the end, than if it was rushed or worked on when you just weren't "feeling it".

3. Keeping in touch can be hard. If the commissioners are patient, then an occasional update when you might be coming up to start on their spot and when you begin, is a touch of reassurance. If there is a long line for a waiting list, then an occasional update on were your at for the entire group, is probably handy, as its a reassurance that you've not forgotten them. But usually for any other time they should keep tabs themselves, as busy artists can't always hold their hand.

Anyways I hope this makes sense. Trying to write from my view and how I've dealt, in this sort of situation. Either way, your doing very well in my opinion! ^^ I hope to snag a plushie from you myself soon.
starcharmer
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
1. Like a lot are saying, it depends on what it is. I don't think it's appropriate to have to wait more than a year for something, no matter what it is or what the artist has gone through. If it's that big of a deal, they should offer refunds or something? Mostly I'm thinking about myself. I have quite a few commissioners who have been entirely too patient with me and should be torch and pitchforking all over the internet. I feel extremely bad about it, but sometimes I just get work that I'm not really inspired to do or is a hard subject matter. Obviously that's not the commissioner's fault, it's really my own problem, but for some reason, I still can't make myself do a lot of things in a timely manner. Once I start getting a steady paycheck, I'll probably refund those people as well as finishing their art. I just feel terrible.
Anyway, tl;dr, waiting past a year for anything is terrible. I think a good turnaround is anywhere between a few days to a few months [4, maybe?] depending on what the commission is and what kind of load the artist already had at the time of the commission.

2. I...almost never work in order of commission. I don't even list my commissions chronologically in my to-do list. I list them categorically [badges, bookmarks, sketches, full digital, etc] and usually chronologically after category. I try to work on new and old equally so I'm not making the older commissioners wait even longer, but the new commissioners aren't having to wait a long time either. Once I get my queue a bit more under control, I will probably do them as in order as possible, though I may still skip around [like doing all icons at once since they don't take as long, even if I got commissioned for a full piece in between them].
But that's me. I'm actually curious to read all the comments and see if this is commonly believed or if I'm in the minority.
For the record, I am always willing to discuss deadlines with people if they need/would like their art in a certain amount of time and I rarely miss these deadlines except with HUGE projects like entire sketchbooks. :x I gave warning before I took those on that they would probably take me an inordinate amount of time, however.

3. I don't think it's the artist's job to chase around after everyone. Say you have 10 commissioners. Emailing each individually is a hassle and takes time that could be spent doing other things. If someone gets curious, it's not hard to shoot you an email, which you're obviously too happy to answer. I'm the same way. I always try to reply to queries promptly.
Aside from that, it's way WAY easier to just post general updates and like you said, you keep your queue listed in your FA and updated. If people need more information than is listed there, they can ask for it. Otherwise, I don't see why the artist should be expected to contact people on a weekly basis.
I think my opinion of this could change if the artist rarely or never updated publicly. I think the artist has some responsibility to keep people updated, but that frequent public updates should be enough where that's concerned unless the individual customer requires more.
(Deleted comment)
ellonwye
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
The best advice is to write out your terms, how you will work, what a commissioner can expect from you regarding times/contact/general policies and make this clearly available to anybody considering commissioning you. You can work how you want to, it's completely up to you. There are some standards that have appeared, but at the end of the day you set your own terms.

Encourage people to read these terms before commissioning you. If a commissioner starts making it clear that they haven't read them, direct them to it. If they insist you work outside these terms, cease the work, keep what you are owed, explain why you are dropping the commission and cease contact.

Obviously I don't mean be as clinical as all that, but they're good bare bone guidelines.
growly
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
1. 1-5 months
2. I personally do stuff in whatever order makes sense depending on people's deadlines and what materials I already have out, etc.
3. I would say send out a personal progress email biweekly or whenever you reach milestones in their commission. A WIP shot every now and again is good too.
squirrelly_kaku
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
Hey Vombati! -hugs- :D


1. Wait time varies due to details, media, and if there's a deadline or not. Unless someone has requested a deadline, waiting for a commission is just the way things goes.

2. As a common courtesy, it might be a good idea to leave a notice that you may work out of line. That way people won't get upset if they see you bouncing from commission to commission. As an artist, you have a right to decide which piece you're working on. Myself, I work on one customer at a time, and set up a waiting list, taking payment only one project at a time to prevent this from happening. But since you take multiple commissions at once, it might be a good idea to put up a notice. For the record, it's alright to work out of line. c: You can't choose what inspires you to work on something. Going with the flow is more useful to you, and your commissioners.

3. What you're doing right now is fine. I personally only update people on their commissions if I complete a major part (sketch, ink, base colors, shading), but only if it's taking me more than one day to finish it. But I'd say unless your commissioners ask for an update through note every once in a while, don't feel obligated to do so. You upload WIPs often, so I think that's enough of an update for people, really.


:D You're really pleasant to work with. And I'm grateful that you pushed my commissions ahead so I could have one-of-a-kind birthday presents for my two friends. I can't wait to recoup my funds enough to where I can finally commission you for a personal plush for myself. X3
jakejynx
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
1) I make fursuits, and regardless of whether or not it's a partial or just a set of paws, the people are in a queue based on first paid, first served. So the wait time for a new commissioner will always vary, based on what's in line ahead of them. I try to give a general turn-around time for new orders, but I tend to be lenient with it, as in, I'll say it will be a month, but I will likely have it done in 2-3 weeks. It makes it less likely to go over the projected completion date, in case something happens.

2) I don't think it is, no. The only time I ever do it is when we have a "rush" order, where they pay an extra fee to be pushed to the top of the list, to get their items in time for a certain date. I have also made small exceptions when I'm in the middle of working on a big order, and there's someone next in line who has something small that I know I can finish in a day or less. But I typically don't announce or show off the fact that the item is done until the items above it in the queue have been completed and announced. When it comes to "inspiration," if this your job, you do not have the luxury of waiting for inspiration. People paid you for a product, and you are under the obligation to deliver it in a reasonable time. I mean, if you were working at Burger King, you couldn't stand around waiting for the inspiration to hit before you flipped the burgers. That's what I always try to keep in mind when I'm not in the mood to work on things--it's a job, and even though I can't fire myself, I have to be responsible.

3) I don't typically contact my commissioners except in circumstances where they know I'm working on their items, but there is a delay for some reason. We recently ordered some fur to complete a commission, and it took a bit longer than expected, so I had to email the commissioner and inform them of a slight delay. Otherwise, my queue and contact information are always readily available, and people who commission me at conventions, I always make sure to give them a card and tell them that they can contact me any time for a status update.
spartanwerewolf
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)
*cough* I looked at your DA gallery and your website, and I really, really like your work :) I might commission you in future, assuming I get my other side's design down properly.
jakejynx
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
Aw, well thanks a bunch for the compliment. :D
weirdmisty
Aug. 20th, 2009 06:33 am (UTC)
I think my answer for all of these is about the same.

To me, the most important thing for an artist of ANY medium to do is make clear their policies to all customers and potential customers. How long you take on a piece of art is really unique to each artist, so it's hard to pin down a set amount of time it "should" take. What you, as a seller of art, need to do is make clear your timeframe to anyone who is interested in commissioning you. That way, prior to hiring you, a customer will know exactly what to expect, and if it's too long for them to wait, they can back out before the piece is started, and avoid any of the drama that would come otherwise.

Working out of line is another thing some commissioners will have a problem with, while others will not. But again, it's not a question of what's appropriate for you, as an artist, to do - if it's the way you operate, make it clear, so that your buyers will know what to expect.

As for your queue; I would recommend keeping in touch with them, even if it's only a quick update every so often, but I wouldn't say it's strictly necessary. The ones that you really need to maintain contact with are the ones you are actively working on.

It seems to me that you're very concerned with operating smoothly with your customers, which already sets you above many artists. Honestly, I would say that as long as you're very clear about how you operate, then you're not doing anything wrong. Just remember to communicate, and you should be fine!
lilenth
Aug. 20th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC)

1. Define full piece of art? I do a lot of different art, something might take me a few days or a couple of weeks. Either way, I usually try to have the work done within a month.

2. Personally I think it's entirely appropriate so long as you're not taking an obnoxiously long time to do one thing, but then I hop about on projects which means things get completed in stages.

3. I keep my list up and up-to-date so people can see at a glance what stage their work is at and mail anyone if there is anything they need to know or if they mail me. Most of the time I'm pretty good about staying in touch. Basically I'd only change your style of working if there's an issue with it, ie a commissioner wants more frequent updates.
spiffystuff
Aug. 20th, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
1 - it depends. Hopefully you know your work well enough that you can give a reasonable estimate on how long it will take. DO give estimates up front, but make them realistic, not "hopeful". It's not reasonable to violate the timeline unless a serious emergency comes up. And the type of person who constantly has emergencies that delay deadlines probably shouldn't be taking many commissions.
Regarding 2 - I figure it's OK as long as you're not jumping something that is overdue, as per question 1. I understand the whimsy of the muse, but I also understand art is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration (to steal a quote). I really do think people can knock out acceptable art work even when they aren't necessarily "feeling it". Maybe it won't be inspired brilliance, but on raw mechanics alone they ought to be able to meet certain standards and make someone happy. Worst comes to worst, redo it at some point when they are "feeling it". I feel this is better than leaving a customer hanging on the vagaries of the artist.
komickrazi
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
1) 2 weeks to 1 month

2) If art is your JOB you can't just NOT work on something because you don't feel like it or are uninspired. You do your job to make money, sometimes you may love it, sometimes you may hate it, but you can't just put off a commission because you aren't in the mood to draw a penquin that day.
I always try to respect my queue. It makes it easier for everyone when you can say "You paid me first so I work on yours first"

3) As long as people know there's a Queue and know where they can view it at any time, you don't have to e-mail them every day/week. Just be sure to e-mail them once they are #1 in the queue or almost #1 so you can discuss little details.
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Aug. 20th, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
ischer
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
1.
It depends on the artist and the picture type I've requested,but if it takes over a month,it gets on my nerves a little.but if I'm getting a WIPs and being told that how long it would take them to finish the picture,I don't get that feeling easily.


2.
well,I guess it's okay.
but if you just keep pulling out that 'uninspired' card and neglect the commissioner,that's no.


3.
unless it's really important updates you feel like you should let them know individually(e.g.>commission would be delayed inevitably),I think your current method is just fine.
herraardy
Aug. 21st, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)
1. If you have a long queue I think it's fair to warn people that there are people ahead of them. I know these kinds of things usually take a while is why I asked what the approximate wait would be.

2. You work daily and quickly from what I've seen from your updates, so I don't see it really being a problem to work out of order just so long as you don't keep skipping the same person over and over. X3

3. Unless it's a progress update I don't believe it's necessary. If they're curious they'll message you.

I think so long as you keep up good communication when people message you and don't take on more commissions than you can handle everything should be fine. :>
cissa
Aug. 21st, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
I make jewelry, and at this point my wait from deposit to completion is 8-10 weeks. I keep people apprised of this.

I do my best to do first-in, first-out. That being said, some pieces are more complex than others. Also, if my schedule allows it (right now it doesn't), I may be able to work some extra time to fit something in as a "rush," for an additional fee- as long as the regular queue isn't impacted by this. For my stuff, this isn't a s much to do with inspiration as it is with the complexity of the work and the efficiency requirement to make use of down time, but that does mean that my FIFO is a bit loose rather than really tight.
stormslegacy
Aug. 22nd, 2009 05:08 pm (UTC)
1. Appropriate is whatever time-line you gave the commissioner. Turn around time for my stuff is generally under 2 weeks so far but I have one commission (a large painting) that I can only work on under certain conditions (I share an apartment and there are gaming events here 4 days out of the week. I can't work with this kind of paint near my animals, so I am limited to when the kitchen is free). That is for a RL friend and he was aware when he paid me how long it would take and why. He wanted it anyways. Because he was patient, I quoted half my normal price for that kind of thing.

What I'm trying to get at is what would be unreasonable for one person is reasonable to another provided everything is said up-front.

2. Yes and no. You should not make a regular thing of it. In the above case, the person is fully aware I'm making commissions between times I can work on his. I also work smaller things between larger projects. However, if I took two large sculpture orders, the first sculpture would be done first, no matter how "inspired" I was by the second. The second needs to be done eventually and isn't going anywhere. Tiny projects are fine, and I use them as a "reset."

I don't really believe in "inspiration." Commissioned art is a job, and that means that it needs to get done in a timely manner. It also depends on your deadlines though.

That all said, make sure you make a distinction between time for commissions and time for personal stuff. If you are meeting all of your deadlines, make sure to get some stuff in there for yourself so as not to burn out!

3. Give them a link to the queue so they can check it themselves and make it clear that they are free to ask you questions in the meantime. Other than emailing them when it's done, and maybe when you start there's I don't see the issue not emailing once a week or so. Peoples can be smart animals.
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