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It's been a while since I posted here. Perhaps you remember, most likely you don't. This is a sort of follow-up to my previous post on this topic.

Where to draw the line between artist and friend? What about the line between a trade between friends and a business transaction? Is it advisable to commission your own friends or not?

It's always nice when you, as a commissioner, manage to establish a friendship with a really good artist. Sometimes, you get jumped to close to the top of the queue, sometimes you get a special discount for a piece -- or sometimes, you continue to get skipped.

Sometimes, the artist comes to you because the artist needs your money, art supplies, assorted goodies, et al, and is willing to draw you something back in return for your kindness. Most of the time, your friend will indeed return the favor; on some occasions however, you are expected to understand the artist because the artist is your friend.

Empirically speaking, I've had commissions been held up for close to two years now by a friend who is also an artist; said has repeatedly told me to understand that she has an artist block but however she does art for some pay sites and does produce art for other people. It is aggravating, but as a respect to the friendship, one could let it slide.

So, what to do when the friendship has gone sour? Had a friend whom I helped on several times, with an agreement to get a "commission" at the end. What if there was no actual transaction for the piece per se, but rather, a sort of understanding that a future service would be rendered in exchange for all the prior help.

Overall, after the friendship went sour, the agreement was pretty much nullified without any recourse on my behalf to contest it. In fact, prior to that point, at one point there was a threat that the agreement was not gonna be completed regardless, specially if I were to ask on its status. I still would like my piece of art *coughZoeycough*, but I highly doubt I will ever see it.

In any case, there are things I've learned from this. As you get close to a person, you get to see things a client might not be aware of. It is hard, because as a friend, you do want to help your friends who are artists, but concordantly, there is always the chance they can feel likely to slack because they do not feel as obligated as if it were a proper business transaction.

I've learned to not commission my own friends unless they possess strong business ethics. I also do tip more generously to commissioned friends that keep their side of the contract.

I'd like to know what others think, on both sides, commissioners and artists, and how can we keep things professional between both sides when there's a friendship in between. Specially because a bad transaction can end in a soured friendship, if not a complete split.
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( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)

I actually try not to sell to friends for this reason, because it's too easy to get reliant on how understanding friends are, and in time that can slip from understandable to mistreating them.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
I've been suckered by 'friends' who have 'given' me something and then later said 'Hey, that thing... when were you going to pay me?'

Also, I've done the same as you and helped out with the understanding that I would get something tangible in return that wasn't necessarily money.

But I will say this: A -good- friend, one that wants to maintain the friendship and not have things go sour, will offer or agree to a written contract. I have one right now with a friend and she agreed that it was a good idea to do.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
It's a wee bit ironic in my case, as they offered to the quid pro quo after I had help them out a couple of times already -- of course, with the friendship gone sour, I'd say that's no more the case.

It's important that you mention a written contract. Couple of times, these have been transactions out of the ToS due to the artists' circumstances and that they were in need of the money/goods/et al.
(no subject) - eveshka - Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zackfig - Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eveshka - Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
I guess this would fall under a similar category about doing business with family. If you're around them and see how they put off work, real life or otherwise, then commissioning them might be a bad idea. And while it's nice helping out friends, if they have that sort of habit loaning them supplies, free services, and money would also fall under bad ideas.
It's very easy to nicely and firmly tell friends that you aren't able to help, or even explain why you're hesitant to help. As i believe a true friend will be understanding. Yes it might hurt their feelings a little bit and it's possible that they may feel you're being a BIG MEANIE for not being understanding but the same could really be said of them for not understanding you in return.

Generally, if the people i call friends have bad business practices, i don't do any kind of business with them. I'm still their friend but i don't mix the two.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
I'm a costume maker myself, and I have this rule- with friends if I'm doing a performance with you, you pay for materials and the costumes are still owned by me. If I have nothing to do with the group then it's full commission rates with a contract.

I learnt this the hard way with friends. A combination of friends wanting things and me not saying no led to me taking on far too much work and things then getting ugly when I couldn't do it all. I sorted that out but it did burn a friendship I'm only now repairing. Business is business even if it's a friend commissioning you!
Dec. 24th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
A good friend of mine's a costume maker and she does something similar, though she has the friends pay extra if they want to use the costume more than once (i.e. buy it from her rather than "rent,"). She's had similar problems with friends as well as friends asking for a costume in too short of a timeframe to get it done or whatever and when she can't, it leads to hurt feelings.

Also, very off-topic, I'm a big fan of your comic. I didn't realize you had an LJ or that you floated around here or I would've said something sooner!
(no subject) - khaoskomix - Dec. 24th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marus_puppy - Dec. 25th, 2010 12:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 23rd, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
I am good friends with a few artists who I commission regularly. We keep our business relationship separate from our friendship and it works pretty well.

It's a matter of knowing their business ethics (are they trustworthy in the first place? Do they have good turnaround times for their regular clients?) and not expecting special treatment (if they voluntarily give your commission a little extra pizazz or throw something in for free then great, but don't EXPECT it), nor making special allowances for them - no more than a regular client could be expected to, I mean.
Dec. 24th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC)
Dec. 23rd, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
And there are several artists who have been on the other end- where the friend of an artist is constantly expecting free art or art at a discount. This too has been the cause of (well, PART of one) that I had a friendship end. Whenever I did art for her she barely paid it any attention, doting on her writer friends who gave her drabbles as gifts (100 words!). It gets tiring from both ends. I've only heard your side here and it does sound crappy but also sounds like there wasn't any real communication about it.

In the end I have no qualms about friends wanting friend-discounts or wanting free art as long as they communicate to me and... respect the art I DO do for them? :( But there are a lot of people who draw the line at not working with friends for a reason, as you can understand now.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah, sadly, both sides can get the short end of the stick.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
I try and keep them as separate as possible. Do I give discounts and free stuff to my friends? Yes. Do I do that for my customers? Occasionally.

If someone does a favor for me, I personally mark it up in my queue the same as a commission, unless it is EXPRESSLY a gift, then it goes under my "hey do something nice for so and so at some point" list, that I call up if I need a commission example or something of the like.

I don't budge on my TOS for anyone though, not even close friends. If they respect me, they'll respect my work ethic too.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC)
What if the artist themselves are the ones that muddle the ToS? My concern was because one of them forego her own ToS when she asked for some favors (money amongst other things) outside the normal process, as such, it was a special kind of commission that the artist herself proposed.

I had already helped her out before, so when she needed my help again, she offered the "commission" as a way to repay the favor. Being that the friendship went south eventually and that it was not a proper business transaction, I ended up with the short end of the stick.
(no subject) - sigilgoat - Dec. 24th, 2010 03:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 23rd, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
Sure, I do commissions for many of my online friends...but I still treat it as business. Regardless of WHO you're doing the commission for, it should always be treated professionally. People who forget about their friends like that because "they'll understand" are not being professional, imo. That person gave you money. It was not a gift. It is a purchase, so treat it as such.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
If only more artists would understand this. Concordantly, I wish more commissioners would not try to get freebies out of someone just because they're friends.
(no subject) - misteroffense - Dec. 26th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 24th, 2010 12:08 am (UTC)
It's kind of like borrowing money to a friend: have a written agreement that you can and will keep them to if they threaten to fall short on keeping up their end of the bargain.
If your friend not keeping up their end of the bargain is going to cost you your friendship, don't commission them. If you already commissioned them, decide what's more important, the commission or the friendship.
Dec. 24th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
I try to avoid working with friends. I had friends commission me, and once the friendship went sour, it became less of a business transaction and more of a hurt feelings thing. (So I refunded them. Of course I didn't want them to be out their money! )

Too many feelings, etc that makes stuff awkward.

If you want to have people abide by your ToS entirely (which is something I didn't do regarding the prior mentioned situation..) then it might be okay.
Dec. 24th, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
I have mixed feelings on it. I have had transactions go fantastic between friends when I treat it like any other transaction and don't give a discount etc

Recently, I finished a large oil painting that was started two years ago. Because he was a friend, I significantly underchaged myself (we're talking 1/5th of what I should have asked for, even at my skill level) and only took half that upfront. I warned before taking money that due to my situation it would take at least a year (oils required me to work in a certain room in the apartment which was only free for long periods of time about once or twice a week) he understood. He knew I undercharged him and we agreed it would be without a deadline. It ended up going on for nearly two years and was a nightmare for several reasons:
1. I got MUCH better in the span of a year. It was insane. The composition and anatomy were unfixable in the painting at this point though making it misery to work on....I admit, I dragged my feet towards the end because I hated looking at it and I knew it was flexable.
2. I ended up paying out of pocket for materials, the deposit wasn't enough
3. I kept him updated etc, but after the year it was a bit strained when he visited. Most of it was my own anxiety, but it was driving me insane.

Lastly, when I finished the piece and gave it to him, he didn't pay me the second half. I was so embarrassed that it took longer to finish than I expected that I haven't asked him for the rest and I admit, it bothers me a little that he didn't offer it (and yes, he knew it was due on completion). Not a good experience at all.

That said, smaller commissions I am more than happy to take from friends. I do sometimes give a free commission for Christmas and haven't had issues with that yet. I don't offer discounts and find that has the psychological effect that I don't expect them to be lenient with me in return.

Dec. 24th, 2010 01:54 am (UTC)
I don't know if there is much of a friendship in the first place if your pal there can't put their nose to the grindstone and get the work done.
Dec. 24th, 2010 06:01 am (UTC)
I disagree, as an artist. When I first started out I gave steep discounts to friends--this worked out BADLY and has for most people I know that do anything remotely similar. I find giving any kind of discount leads to having that "oh, they'll understand I need the money from this other commission right now and will get to their commission soon" feeling that can quickly get over your head. It has nothing to do with not being a good friend and is usually more related to undercharging and expectations.

I've found the only way business with friends goes well is if I charge full price. That said, I give my friends a lot of gift art, so it balances out.
(no subject) - sovy - Dec. 24th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stormslegacy - Dec. 24th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - stormslegacy - Dec. 24th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 24th, 2010 04:09 am (UTC)
I try to be friendly towards anyone I work with, but I'd only call maybe one or two artists friends. And then, when I do, I treat it as a business relationship - I pay promptly, and I abide by their TOS and expect the work by the typical deadline.

As for my RL friends (because I have a couple who are extremely talented in their various art fields)... that gets a bit tricky. I don't do trades or anything that's like "I won't pay you for this in money, but I'll do something else for you later on" because I can't guarantee I'll be able to get my part done due to school and because that sort of loose agreement worries me in general. Since I've not done anything involving money transactions, I will probably draw up an official contract because agreements between friends can go south in a hurry and I really don't want any hurt feelings if that can be avoided.
Dec. 24th, 2010 05:47 am (UTC)
To be honest I have been screwed by a friendship with my work.

Basically this guy I worked with used me as semi-free labor. then when I had the audacity to ask to be paid he strung me along where he could... paid me a few months ago. Of cource I eventually did deliver a "fully finished" DVD to him... and he's not attempted to sell them at all.

I'm still trying to find a good way to "quit" with him. Letter is looking like the best option because walking to the guys house and just going off on him is out of the question.

I still have what he wants, but he's gonna pay through the g*ddamn nose for it because I will NOT be pushed arround because of this "friendship".
Dec. 24th, 2010 10:52 am (UTC)
Hah, yeah... I always sort of cringe when friends commission me because I worry. I get so worked up over making it UBER PERFECT that I get gridlocked into fear and aren't nearly as efficient as I am with, say, a stranger's piece. This is why I am trying everything I can to NOT take commissions at ALL unless I absolutely must...

I know you had to wait on art from me FOREVER. O____O GAH.

I guess... if they've proven their turnaround with other projects it's fine, so long as business/friendship are kept separate, but... it's dangerous for anyone to have emergency commissions/commission people for emergencies, since the time isn't really budgeted usually. Is crazy.

So sorry things turned out that way for that friendship. :(
Dec. 24th, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
Hah~ But I did get my commission eventually and it was great. So it all worked out in the end =P

Did u get my card btw?
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