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Handling complex commissions.

I wasn't sure where else this could be discussed, so I was hoping the people here might have some good input.

As some brief background, I make plushies and I have a pretty standard price that I work with. I make my prices outlined clearly on my page so that people are aware of them (and so that if there is ever a price increase people are aware of that, too.) I already make < minimum wage at the prices I work at even with simple commissions but would rather continue improving and getting more practice in before I raise my prices again like I have in the past. I feel like certain skill levels are also worth certain amounts of money and I feel that my prices reflect what I feel the quality of my work is at this point in time.

Anyyyyway, the issue is that -- furries being furries -- you sometimes get commissioners that come in with insanely complex character designs. Considering that all of my plushies are made stitch by stitch and in yarn, an extra tail or set of wings or limbs or something of that nature is not simply a matter of a few more lines drawn on a page or something. Sometimes it's hours and hours of more work. Not that I'm not willing to do them -- actually, a lot of the time I enjoy commissions like this as they are a challenge and I get a lot of great practice.

I've started putting things like "65+" for a large plushie instead of just "65" just in case someone pops up like that and I feel it is appropriate to charge more for the amount of work I'm putting in.

Unfortunately I've had people in the past get really angry about it and almost demand that I charge them the minimum price for their insane, many-limbed, special snowflake character, or that they don't understand why I should charge more if they want clothes, etc., etc., because their character "always wears clothes like that so its part of their design" or whatever.

I'm just wondering how you guys deal with situations like these and how its more effective to explain this concept to commissioners that might just not get it. I've tried explaining that it takes more time, that I have other commissioners waiting on things and how its not fair to them if I charge the same price for a crazy complex character plushie as I did for their simple grey wolf or something, blah blah blah.

Also, is it more effective to have a list or something of things that make prices increase and by how much, or to just do it on a case by case basis?

I just don't want to be taken advantage of and I already have more than one thing on my queue for which I was underpaid, and as it is extremely discouraging to be paid little for a complex project, it doesn't do any favors for me or the commissioner.

Although I'm sure a lot of this is just me having to be more assertive, too, which I am aware of and working on. :<

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( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 29th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
Instead of just putting 65+, put 'Minimum 65, will add to for more complex characters, up to my discretion', then put somewhere that prices you give are final, as it is being paid for extra time and materials you must put in.

At the end, it all comes down to you putting your foot down. If people feel they can stomp their foot and yell and they'll get their way, they're going to do it no matter what you write down on a page.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
This. THIS THIS THIS. If a potential customer acts nasty and entitled before money has even exchanged hands, do you REALLY want to be dealing with them for the duration of their commission? For months, potentially?

I wouldn't. I'd rather wait a little longer for my next order than struggle with someone for months on end. In the end it isn't worth it.
(no subject) - cissa - Jul. 4th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - natmea - Jun. 29th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
It probably helps to calmly explain to them why certain commissions might cost more... if you clearly break it down by extra time/ materials/ effort spent, they might be more understanding. Also give them the option of not having to commission you, but the assurance that if they do, they will be getting their money's worth.
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
For stuff like that I say "contact me for a quote".
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
I agree. It is the simplest way to deal with it.

(Deleted comment)
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
Have a basic model be like a normal plush (standard body, 4 limbs, 2-3 colors, etc) and then have a step-by-step form for the extras with prices included so it adds up as they go along adding 16 tails and 4 wings.
(no subject) - coyote_feathers - Jun. 29th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
I solve this one by saying "start at." "Large plushes start at $100 and go up from there."

No matter what you do there will always be some people who pitch a fit over your prices. But for me at least this cuts down on the problems. :)

Also, as far as a list of things that affect the price... I did that for a while, but the problem I had was that it made my customers feel like they had to TELL me all those details even when they didn't actually care. Like I would say they could have all fabric paws, or have plastic claws added, everybody felt they had to specify all fabric paws, even though that really should be the obvious choice. It made my customers go through a lot of trouble, and made me go through a lot of trouble too, I feel, since people who really would have been happy no matter what I'd done ended up giving me huge lists of details that I had to worry over.

And NEVER be afraid to say "sorry no." Remember that if somebody gets abusive at you, this is the internet and you can just block their e-mail/ims. :)
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC)
Another plush maker! :3 And after a quick glance at your LJ (...*is a creeper*) it looks like we have some other stuff in common too~ mind if I friend you?

Anyways, for the topic at hand...I'm not really good enough to do proper commissions yet, but from what I've seen, one of the most successful ways to do commissions for physical things (plushes, sculptures, all the way up to fursuits) is to give a rough estimate of the price range (like 'starting at (minimum price)') along with a quick list of cheaper vs. more expensive options; and then if somebody wants to commission you, they send you all the information, and you give them an individual price quote then. That way they're clear from the beginning (hopefully - it might help to state the minimum as the 'absolute LOWEST' that you'll charge) that they'll probably be paying a lot more than the minimum. Also, that'll allow you to adjust prices fluidly if, say, you're busier than usual, or you have an excess of some color of yarn you want to get rid of.

There will still be some furs that will kick up a fuss...just remind them that they can't get something for nothing, and if they're not going to pay, they're not getting a plush.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
Personally, I would make your prices something like:

"Plushes start at $65 for simple characters with four limbs and a tail. Several colors, complex markings, and additions such as wings or extra limbs may significantly increase the price of your commission. I will give you a price quote before beginning work."

If possible, you could give starting points for common requests, such as $30 for wings or $20 per additional tail, etc.

Naturally, you should treat each case individually and give your customers a quote before you start working - an extra fox tail is a ton of work, but a character with two bunny tails might not be. Agree on a price before you agree to do the work, and even in the face of nasty customers, stand your ground and don't sell yourself short. If someone is rude towards you just because you want to be fairly compensated, you don't need their business.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
This comment phrased my thoughts just about perfectly. Include a base price, what that means, and how the most common of requests might change the price and that an exact quote will be given before the commission is accepted (which is good for 2 weeks or whatever). Also maybe include what a price range would be for simple clothing? (I'm assuming it's like doll clothing, so maybe do a simple shirt and pants and say that the outfit would cost about x amount and that more complex clothes will cost more.)

I think that will eliminate the customers who whine and say that it wasn't in your base prices (as it's clear that the details might cost more) and they won't feel like you're tacking on something after the fact. Also just explain that while it's a pretty simple detail on a diagram, it takes a while to make. (Also, who is arguing that wings are simple additions in any medium?)
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
If someone gets a quote from you and demands you change it, you don't want them as a customer anyway. That would probably just be their first unreasonable demand.

I generally agree, wording on the website/commission info will clear up confusion. Fursuit maker here, but the principals are exactly the same. I've had suits where additional work adds £200 onto my base, and given quotes that are double the base. Some makers itemise additional expenses (eg: "add $50 for glass eyes, $100 for muscle padding" etc), others quote a base and make it chear additional work adds costs and quote individually, some don't even give BASE prices on their site and do everything over email (these tend to be the heavily subscribed makers). I would think the middle ground would be best for you.
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
I think I need to see some examples of your work :D

Also, don't be afraid to be assertive or to charge min. wage to yourself for labor. Remember that people are paying for your skill, not for some machine in China to spit out a product.
If someone wants to give you flack about prices, refer them to something like Vermont Teddy Bear where clones of the same 15" bear plush dressed up in different outfits start at $78. A custom bear costs much more.
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
Just chiming in with the crowd who have given you a lot of good advice.

I build puppets and it is amazing how people will try to guilt you into reducing the price for them because of ________.

Make sure you are as clear as possible like one color (or two colors) of fur is one price each additional color will be X number of dollars. Additional markings will be X number of dollars

Wings rang from A to B depending on complexity. Extra limb are Y. tails are Z.

Think of it as a Chinese menu where for a set price you can have one from column a and one from column b and one from column c. Then you start paying extra and substitutions are extra as well.

Spell it out and let them add it up.

I will chime in on the YOUR SKILL IS WORTH AT LEAST MINIMUM WAGE! I have that pasted up in my studio so I don't lowball myself on a project.

Good Luck!
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
I tack on the phrase "and up, depending on complexity" after the price.

Never had a problem with it at all, but given that it's plushies, if you feel the need, I'd include an extra phrase like "Extra limbs, wings, tails, etc involve more material, and details like horns and complex facial scales take a great deal more sewing time, which must be factored into the price."

After that, if they don't like it, don't take the commission--if they start by whining about the price, they're gonna whine about EVERYTHING, and your time is far too valuable to deal with people like that.
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
if they start by whining about the price, they're gonna whine about EVERYTHING

This. had a client for FREE art recently ask if she could see a pic before i mailed it... after bothering me a TON just about me doing it in the first place... uhm, no. cuz no way in hell am i modifying something that wasn't even paid for, good grief. >:(
(no subject) - bladespark - Jun. 30th, 2010 01:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grygon - Jun. 30th, 2010 02:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bladespark - Jun. 30th, 2010 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - harliquinnraver - Jun. 30th, 2010 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - harliquinnraver - Jun. 30th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kayla_la - Jun. 30th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - harliquinnraver - Jun. 30th, 2010 01:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cissa - Jul. 4th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Having also recently dealt with a pushy client (for FREE work no less *sigh*) I would a claus in your site or wherever you advertise that you DO hold the right to refuse anyone work. Just don't take on a dumb sparkle-dog character, unless you actually run across one that inspires you- aka you'll actually LIKE to do it. But for cases like that KEEP the + sign in the price and only take the client if they agree to the +, otherwise just cut communication cause some pushy clients there really is no talking to. :( Most people just don't get that art IS WORK and no we don't enjoy working for cheap or free just cause liek omg, their char is "so pretty and sparkly" or whatever.

Sorry, still a bit peeved over some attitudes recently. Talk about doing no favors- it kills your muse to be bitched at, huh? "Yes, this is a GREAT way to get the best work out of me... pester me until I am SO FED UP with you that I have to grit my teeth when typing replies just to try and remain civil in them." And then your work suffers, which they also refuse to understand.

I am sorry you're going thru this and I say modify your "rules" NOW- put in that right to refuse service and put in that rule about complex chars. If they can't understand it then show them the door.
Jul. 4th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
I don't have a clause; I am either "too busy" or "don't feel I am the best choice for your piece at this time (and wish them the best in finding a more compatible artisan)", or yank up the price until it's worth dealing with them (assuming they can't back out of paying, and I cover my materials up front).
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
I have the same thing with my suits. I have it listed as "$500-$700, price will vary depending on character complexity and colors. Price may exceed $700 with larger additions such as wings. Please contact me for more information."

Never back down from your price. There's a very good reason for what you charge. If you have to add X, and it'll bring their total to $80, then that's the total. If they complain, tell them that they can either take something off, have a payment plan, or find someone else to do it. You charge money for the material and for the labor. More details mean more material. More details mean longer work.

If they don't like it, they can go somewhere else, but will be told the same thing.
Jun. 29th, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
I tend to state that my base price is for a naked plush, clothes and such cost more depending on complexity.
Jun. 29th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC)
So I'm guessing you are Vombatiformes from FA?

Okay, first, your stuff is marvelous.

Second, most people who don't crochet/knit/sew understand how much time and effort goes in to it. Honestly. You will hear it a lot on various forums. Someone who only wants to pay ten dollars for a sweater made with tiny needles and thin yarn. This is an unfortunate side effect of being a knitter or hooker.

If somebody wants to bitch about how THEY can do it, etc, etc, stupid reason, tell them they're free to pick up yarn and a hook and try it themselves.
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