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Its something that's on the mind of many of us who commission artists often, and its a fact of life that artist have to come face to face with once they step up to the plate of paid or trade work.

What is the etiquette for asking for updates from an artist? How long is too long? What's too short? Should the customer sit back and wait for updates from the artist or take charge of the situation from the get go? Should an artist 'punish' an overly concerned customer with slower progress or comfort the concerned that their work will be done in a timely manner? How about when other obligations make an artist tardy or potentially harder to reach?

I am opening the floor to the community on this. Please feel free to give advice on the various situations I've brought up or add to the list of potential 'what ifs'.

If you recall someone (including yourself) making a particularly helpful comment related to this topic in a previous advice post, please link to the comment (or you can copy-paste if it's your comment originally). You can also link to entire posts that match this topic.

EDIT: If you could, please add the particular type of art you do in your comment (ie: illustrator, costumer, jeweler, etc.) just to make it easier for people reading into why your beliefs are so.
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( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 30th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
First off, I'd like to say that personally, artists with a "don't contact me" policy send up a huge red flag and I'd never do business with someone like that.

As for when to contact an artist, that is highly subjective and it varies based on a number of things. If the artist has given you a deadline or even a rough estimate as to when it should be done by, if that passes without you receiving anything there should be no problem with shooting them an email or note about it just to touch base.

If there is no deadline but you haven't heard from them or seen anything and the window for a paypal dispute is coming up, it is also a good idea to contact them ASAP and see how it's coming along. I'm not saying to assume the worst here but it's just something to bear in mind for your own protection.

An artist should never punish a customer for contacting them. Being in touch is part of the customer service and if the customer is being unreasonable, for example barraging you with multiple messages per day even after you've updated them and explained the situation, refund them and wash your hands of the situation. Making them wait longer or ignoring them is petty, unprofessional behaviour.

Edited at 2011-11-30 09:47 pm (UTC)
Nov. 30th, 2011 09:47 pm (UTC)
This post looks familiar. :3

Anyway. I'm wondering how you should go around re-contacting an artist who has read your note and ignored it? I contacted an artist after a week of commissioning them and no reply. It's been another week (three weeks since commission) and I'm thinking about waiting another week. Is that too soon? Too late? I don't want to badger the person since I know it makes them not want to work on the commission.
Nov. 30th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
Personally, I don't think a week is too soon.
(no subject) - skittlewolf - Dec. 1st, 2011 12:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - myenia - Dec. 1st, 2011 02:18 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - faithry - Dec. 1st, 2011 08:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celestinaketzia - Dec. 1st, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kerstin_orion - Dec. 21st, 2011 04:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
I made a journal asking about this myself a while back but I have no idea how to go back and search for it :X I will add another comment if I do tho. Anyway being both a commissioner and an artist, I understand both sides of the coin.

From my personal experience when I commission someone I'm willing to wait upwards of a month before I start asking. In some cases I've never asked but I think a general rule is a month unless it's something that was suppose to be done quick and easy or there is an agreed upon competition time. I think the artist should take the reigns about updating the customer about the status of their commissioner. After all they have fulfilled their role of payment now it's time for you to do the same.

However if the artist isn't forthcoming about updates then you should free free to ask. BUT there is no need to ask every single day. At MOST I would say to check on your commission no more than once a week or two(I feel like even once a week might be pushing it depending on the project involved)

In the end it all boils down to communication. if a commissioner feels like you're not trying to hide from them, you're keeping the lines of communication open then more than likely their gonna be far more lenient then I say someone who refuses to update or takes a long time to do so. A break down in communication is what frustrates people the most and what I have noticed that a lot of artist tend to get defensive when asked about an update. I am not sure why however.

I would suggest all commissioners to point something like this out in their tos. So they can clarify what they would consider nagging. It would be there in black and white. This way both commissioner and artist are on comfortable grounds or put your status in a public

ok I am gonna shut up now! =3

Nov. 30th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
It think for one it depends on how fast the artist is. A large painting that may take months might be best to not ask for updates often.

Me personally, I've suggested my TOS this: I work with a list of about five people. If you are at the bottom, waiting around a month or a bit less is a great time before asking for progress. If at the top, a week or so. Course, I also encourage asking more (to a point of course) and feeling free to tell me about any concerns, but this is a good estimate for my art.
Nov. 30th, 2011 10:25 pm (UTC)
Personally, I try to contact all of my customers at least once a week to send updates. Usually, (especially on simpler commissions) it ends up being once every 2-3 days.
I think the longest I've gone without contact is 2 weeks? I was out of town, though, and had warned everyone beforehand.
I like to keep my customers in the loop. I have in my TOS, that if they want LESS updates, feel free to tell me. I don't want to over-do it. :)

When some artists have reaaaaally long queues, I can see going for two weeks to a month between updates. Beyond that is a big of a stretch, though. (Save for large scale painting or sculpting commissions which obviously take MUCH more time to complete).

That's just me, though :D
Nov. 30th, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
"Beyond that is a big* of a stretch, though."
bit** not, big.
(no subject) - beetlecat - Nov. 30th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spiffystuff - Nov. 30th, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oceandezignz - Nov. 30th, 2011 11:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
It depends on too many factors to make an overly general statment on this.

How booked is the artist?
How involved is the thing they are making for you?
What medium is it in and does it conflict with what they are working on now (ie you can't mix something dirty wih something clean in the same room so one has to be finished 100% and cleaned up first)
What does their ToS or FAQ say?
How do they personally work on their art and deadlines?

If it is an icon, then a month is too long. Unless they are a popular artist and told you from the get go that it would be a 3 month wait.

When making fursuits, it can be annoying when a person contacts me once a month asking for an update when I've already said nothing will be done for another year.

Should an artist 'punish' an overly concerned customer with slower progress or comfort the concerned that their work will be done in a timely manner?

They should do neither. If you are selling art then it is a business and the artist should treat their clients as such. Each one gets the exact same treatment as another.

I am not going to become angry if a person is concerned because what exactly would that solve? Being slow just means I will have to drag this situation out longer and harbour bad feelings on both sides.

But I am also not going to bend over to a needy manipulator. I will answer their questions and lay down how it is going to be and they can chose what they do from there on.


When you first hand over money, make sure you know from the start what the deal will be and if the timeline/service/etc is acceptable to you.

If you are worried, then talk to the artist. How long it has or hasn't been is immaterial since you are not going to randomly get less worried over time. Hopefully, they will clear things up for you and you can both go on with your business.

Nov. 30th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
Should an artist 'punish' an overly concerned customer with slower progress

Well that's pretty much a "NO, NEVER" :P Artists don't have to necessarily rush/linejump a pushy commissioner, but they should never "punish" anyone except with a refund if they don't wish to work further with them.

The proper timeframe of course varies with what the artist has said to expect and also what the piece is. In general, except for a really big project which has longer deadlines, I would say once a month contact at least should be acceptable.

It's a good idea to ask the artist before commissioning what sort of turnaround to expect.

Lastly, personally as a rule I do not go more than a week without updating a commissioner/showing progress, usually more like DAILY (because I just don't accept commissions I can't work on immediately, that is too stressful for me).
But, though I tend to talk pretty harshly here I'm actually usually very forgiving of artists I've actually hired. There's one I've been waiting like two years on and I think I've only asked once :P (but it was a friend I knew could be kinda slow on coms and not for a lot of money so it's just like... friendship donation. There just won't be further commissions until/unless that one gets done :P)

ETA: I only do illustrations, usually inks, rarely digital coloring.

Edited at 2011-11-30 10:56 pm (UTC)
Nov. 30th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
Generally I'd say it depends on the length of the work.

For short pieces where there are not work in progress, I'd say at least a few days for further guidelines somewhere around the half-way point.

For longer pieces I'd say the same guidelines as above for each step (e.g. if you're due a WIP in 2 weeks, wait about a week before asking).

If if it's a long term project without firm deadlines, I'd wait a week or two before checking in.

And of course this can all be addressed with the artist by asking for a time frame of how they'd like to be contacted and find a happy medium for both.

Personally, I'm much more open to being checked in on if there's a reason for the deadline (e.g. SO's birthday), or a reason if I might be falling behind (e.g. posting about my being sick). Otherwise, I'd rather people not doubt me. I'll do it, and you'll see when I send the preview. I'd rather not be doubted when I've never given them a reason to doubt me.
Nov. 30th, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)
Also just to clarify, it should never be less than a few days. Once you're past that point, then I'd look for about a halfway point for a guideline.

For waiting for a slot - I'd say go with the half way guideline.

An artist should never "punish" someone for asking about progress, but that doesn't mean they can't ask or warn someone to stop, ignore multiple request for updates, or even cancel if it gets excessive. What matters is that the customer is given the same courtesies as the one not bugging the artist, but not more.
Nov. 30th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
It kind of depends for me. I don't usually get people asking for updates, because I always keep the list on my front page good and updated.

Whenever I do get asked, I politely direct them to my list, and give them a reasonable timeframe of when to expect their next update (I send sketches, then flat colors, and then finished work).

I never punish anyone for asking, nor do I give them super special rush treatment.

The worst case I ever had was about a month or so ago. Someone commissioned me for a chibi, I sent him a sketch, and then two days later he asked me for progress. I was polite and professional, and directed him to my list. I also told him that I do my work in batches, in almost an assembly line, because it's just the easiest way for me to manage myself.

He blew up on me, saying that because I made him pay up front (I've been burned by too many people to accept half before sketch, and half after), he had a right to "constantly be on top of me" and make sure I got my work done. And then he went on to say that doing my commissions in batches was unfair because the people at the end of the list would have to wait longer. And that the way I do my work (in batches) is terrible, and stupid.

Soo yeah. Waiting two days is definitely too short to go asking the artist for updates, unless they said that they would have something to show you. Unless they send you a message saying "AMG AM SICK" or something else that would keep them from getting work done.

I'd say maybe waiting a month or so to ask for updates would be reasonable, unless they give you a shorter deadline.
Nov. 30th, 2011 11:29 pm (UTC)
I try to keep a completely updated queue on FA that states the status of their commission with dates every time I have made a change. It can take anywhere from a week for sketches to a month for flat colors and up. I've always tried to maintain speed, but it seems with the more things total in life on my plate, and the more I'd like to improve my art, the slower I've become.

With that said, I really don't mind people poking in for updates. The only thing that has been "annoying" to me is if someone pokes me like a day or two after taking payment. I've only ever had this happen once in my entire time of doing commissions.

Now as someone who commissions art? I will attempt to contact the artist for a status update at 3 weeks. If they answer, I don't bug 'em until another 3 weeks has passed. If they don't answer, however, or my note is ignored (which has happened before) I only wait a week to a week and a half before asking them again. That is my singular peeve with commissioning artists. It doesn't take that long to simply answer someone, and I speak from experience. No matter how long I am taking, I try to answer emails promptly.
Dec. 1st, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
Man, there are just soooo many variables at play here!

An artist should never 'punish' a client for anything. If it's not working out between the two of you THAT badly, for heavens sakes, break it off. A "sorry we couldn't see this to completion, please accept a refund" type notice is in order in that case.

I am a slow artist. My commission work is 90% paintings, and some are large involved paintings, and some take months of work to do. My paintings have anywhere from 10 to 300+ hours of work in them, and thus completion times do vary. If I have a project that's taking a long, long time then I try to ping the client once per month just to let them know that I'm not dead and that I'm still plugging along. Less involves commissions, I try to ping the client more frequently than that. If a client is feeling insecure or anxious and they contact me more often than that, it's cool... I will let them know where I'm at with things and make sure that the schedule is still all right with them.

The only time I've had someone checking in 'too' often to the point of me becoming upset at the situation was at a convention setting, where a few times I've had customers that swung by my table once every 20 or 30 minutes, all day... despite me telling them that I'd likely have to finish overnight once I could focus on my work better. In those cases, when I started to feel annoyed, I asked politely if they could just check back tomorrow morning please, because I wasn't going to be able to do anything for them during the day. It worked out all right.
Dec. 1st, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
There are so many different artists out there, the best thing to do is ask up front on how frequently you can expect updates, and in turn how frequently you can request them. Some artists work fast, some work slow, and some do art 10 hours a day, some have a different job and can only work on weekends. Some artists take too many commissions at a time and don't necessarily start work right away. Its going to be different with every artist and I think its inappropriate to take any single answer as correct.

Personally, I'm not a slow artist, I'm actually quite fast on some things. But, I don't do it for a living, I have another job. In addition to that, my job has me traveling Monday-Friday, which means I ONLY work on art on SOME weekends, because weekends are also my only time to do EVERYTHING else, not just art. I'm smart enough to only take convention commissions, but plenty of artists try to multitask.
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Dec. 1st, 2011 02:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 1st, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
I do purely digital drawings and Once I start, I finish in one or two days... so I don't generally get people asking for updates. Anything less than a week is too soon. After that, as long as the person wanting an update isn't asking every day, I would be cool with it.

I wouldn't take the initiative to give updates on my own other than "I am starting your commission now, so you can send your payment to *email*!" after that, the commissioner is free to ask me whenever they want after a week has passed. Unless it is a commission that requires sketch/lineart approval. Then I send emails out for those.
Dec. 1st, 2011 06:26 am (UTC)
Artists: Set a rough timeline of completion with your customer. Set it a little longer than you think it will actually take you, to make up for any unforeseen issues. If something comes up, contact your customers. Sending periodic updates, (ie. Haven' started yet, but you are on my plate for this weekend), will help to comfort your customer. Take it seriously like a job. If school/work/life gets in the way too often, re-evaluate your choice to take commissions. Have a dedicated way for your customers to reach you.

Customers: Suggest a completion date if you need it by a certain time. Let the artist work. Contact if the dates get close or pass with no update. Hounding is unacceptable. No point in asking "have you started" if a deadline has been set. Don't send payments through paypal as a gift, so you can retain your right to dispute if work is not completed.

Each side: Treat each other the way you want to be treated, that should solve most problems.
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