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Be it their reputation, their attitude or just the overall theme of what they want you to draw for them - we as artists and people have the right to say 'no' to offers placed upon our plates.

The question is, how does one say 'no' in such a way that it is purely professional and has that weight of finality to it that doesn't allow for weasel room. Lets figure out the best way to create a standard of etiquette for declining inquiries we don't want to handle!

I'm opening the floor to the community on this. Please feel free to advise or suggest ways to professionally bow out of offers for commissions or trades.

If you recall someone making a post or a comment regarding this in the past, and felt it was a big help to you; please link to it for everyone's reference!
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Do NOT repost your old bewares. They are being archived.


( 51 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 5th, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC)
I'm personally a fan of the direct, impersonal but not particularly unfriendly approach. "I'm sorry, I don't feel I'm the best fit for this commission, but I really appreciate your interest!". You can tack on a 'If you want to do something else..' if it's the subject matter and you'd otherwise work for them. If it's the attitude, you could simply say "Thank you for your interest, but I must decline." There's lots of ways you can say it, but it's important you don't give 'reasons' that they can argue against, and it's also important you don't come off like a big 'ol jerk.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, you just can't avoid a little conflict. Difficult customers will always be part of selling a service, and it's just as important as the above to be able to cope with this ahead of time. Work out what you're going to do about difficult customers, make a sort of policy and stick by it. It takes two to start drama and if you don't play along, they'll have nothing to pin on you. Don't get angry, don't be rude, and remember that you don't really owe them an explanation.

Edited at 2012-01-05 11:37 pm (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:06 am (UTC)
i definitely agree with the "I'm sorry, I don't feel I'm the best fit for this commission, but I really appreciate your interest!" Its probably the most relaxed and professional thing to say. you arent putting their interests on the spot, just simply stating that your probably not the best person to ask. With that, they can simply go find another artist. :3

Jan. 5th, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC)
I agree with Kayla. The shorter the sweeter, and there's no need to add explanations or anything. "I must decline, but thank you for your interest!" I don't really thing it's avoidable to keep from upsetting someone. The thing is to try and not let yourself get dragged into it. I made the mistake of explaining to someone why I was declining their commission, and what about their comments to me offended me and how I felt they had always been rude to me and it didn't... go well. I regret doing that and wish I had left it at a simple decline.

Edited at 2012-01-05 11:40 pm (UTC)
Jan. 5th, 2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
The less you say, the less there is to be argued with. Short, sweet, to the point. And always polite.

Edited at 2012-01-05 11:41 pm (UTC)
Jan. 5th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
You can be honest without being unprofessional. "I'm sorry, I am uncomfortable with that particular subject matter, so I am afraid I will not be able to do it," is honest, leaves no room for argument, and isn't screaming "Oh God get it away!!!" at someone. If their feelings are hurt over that... You probably don't want to work with them anyway. I've used that for things from people asking for humans (which I want to get better at before I take more money for them) to explicit porn.

And if it's not the subject matter that you have a problem with, you're just bored or burnt out on it, it could be phrased more like "I'm taking a break from (x) for the time being."

Both can be followed up with something along the lines of "Would you like to discuss something else?" or reccomending an artist that may be more open to draw whatever if it's a commission. I wouldn't point someone to another artist unless I knew thay had trades open.

If the problem with a trade comes up, and you're concerned about level of quality you'd be getting, if the other artist will flake out on you, or if you just don't want to deal with a customer for any reason, just tell them no. Don't be a dick about it, obviously, but every artist has a right to turn someone down with just a "I cannot help you right now," if you're being blunt. Again, this can be dressed up to be more polite, just don't leave wiggle room for them to try and guilt you into something.

I wouldn't say to just ignore someone, that's not polite or professional. (And "polite" doesn't mean you are friends with the person.)

I'm probably forgetting things I wanted to say if this ever came up, but I'll just have to remember them after a nap.
Jan. 5th, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
As others have said - keep it short. You're not obligated to provide a reasoning behind your decisions as you're not in a binding contract with anyone.

A simple, "I'm sorry, that's not something I can do for you." would suffice. If they question it, you could elaborate with a "It's subject matter (or whatever) I'm not comfortable with." and honestly I'd leave it with that.

Personally, I find trying to give reasoning kind of comes off as excusey, and potential customers never like to hear whining and that can be a turn off for people... though I suppose in this case you don't want their business anyway, but it'd still be a shame to burn a bridge for a future commission.
Jan. 6th, 2012 03:53 pm (UTC)
I think that short, simple reasons are best, if you feel the need to offer a reason at all. If someone I know would be a poor commissioner approaches me, I can simply decline saying that I don't think the project would be a good fit for me right now. There have been other times that I've been approached by someone that wants me to build an elaborate costume and I know I wouldn't be able to - I decline and say that I've not yet done something to that caliber of quality and don't want to offer it to customers until I know I am able to do it. I never have people fuss at me and say "But I'll paaaaaay you" or anything to that extent; they seem to understand, and I try to re-direct them to someone that can make what they're looking for.

But whining and listing multiple reasons as to why you can't take their commission kind of comes off as making excuses; if it can't fit in a single sentence (no run-ons!) then it's probably not worth elaborating. Just keep it simple.
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
Agree with everyone above. Sadly it may sound automated, but as others stated, it leaves very little wiggle room. Also stating that, "I may turn down a commission for no particular reason at any time." in say your TOS can help you a ton in the long run.

I also have a disclaimer on my TOS that it's subject to change at any given time, which also is a easy way to cover your self in the case of an upset customer.
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
Kind of echoing what other people have said here. Really, it works for avoiding kerfluffles anywhere: Keep it short, to-the-point, don't give them room to argue, don't give them reason to argue, and save your feelings about it for your friends, not the person you're declining. I'm picky about subject matter, so I've had to decline before, but no one's taken offense when I did it like that. If you know someone that would be cool with it, you can always direct them that way, too. The old "I can't help you, but I know who can!" If they just happen to be very sensitive people and are stinging just because of a nicely-worded decline, showing them that you're still willing to help- by offering to draw them something else, or directing them elsewhere- can cool that.

Drama seems to happen most with other people when they spill their feelings and opinions all over the place where it totally wasn't warranted. "NO, that is ugly, I don't want to draw your stupid sparkle dog! Gosh!" and "Uhhh no, that really creeps me out!" or the like. Legitimate feelings, but that doesn't make them wise to say to that person if you're trying to keep professional and not step on toes. File your emotions away. Bringing them in to the equation is just trouble. Triple-check what you say, just in case anything unnecessary sneaks in there. Take advantage of how you can proof-read what you say before you say it on the internet.
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:28 am (UTC)
Just say "no."

Like telling a guy/girl you do not want to date them. Explaining too much just confuses them and not saying anything confuses them more. Short and sweet.
Jan. 8th, 2012 02:25 am (UTC)
Yeah. Also any information you give them gives them levers to work with to try and argue with you.

"No, I'm too busy to do it" "But it's just a little thing, it won't take that long!"

"No, I don't like tentacle boy scout porn." "Well then just leave the tentacles out, and make it boy scout vore instead!"

"No, I don't feel I'm the best fit for this commission." "But I love your art style, you'd do it perfectly!"

And then you have to tell them no again, and again and again. Just say "No." or "No, I can't take this commission." or "No, thank you." or whatever. Some people will still argue, but it's not giving them a foot in the door, they way excuses do, especially made-up ones.

Now if you *want* them to change things you can give the reason. If you turn down a particular fetish they might change what they want and you still get the commission, but if you just don't want to work with that person, you really should just say "No," without any other details.
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
"Hi, thanks so much for your interest! Unfortunately I must decline because [of your past commissioning history/I'm not comfortable with the subject matter/I don't feel confident enough to do your idea justice/I don't have time to take on more work*]. Might I recommend [artist] or [artist]? They do good work and have a similar style to me. Best of luck finding an artist!"

If they're a really troublesome customer though, don't recommend an artist, wouldn't want to be responsible for causing someone's headache if the artist doesn't know the customer is trouble. ^_^;
Also when recommending artists, I like to recommend people I've personally done business with, that I KNOW for a fact are reliable.

*only use the no time excuse if it truly is an issue of free time! Because they can and will ask again and again until you're free.
Jan. 6th, 2012 02:37 am (UTC)
I don't know if I'd condone the use of past commission history as a means of getting out of working with someone. It could certainly be true, but it might leave them open to argue with you or post a rant'n'rave journal about you. :/
(no subject) - growly - Jan. 6th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaulankris - Jan. 6th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marus_puppy - Jan. 6th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - crssafox - Jan. 6th, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
Would it be particularly gauche to just say "Thanks, but I'm not interested in taking this commission"? Seems direct, to-the-point, and final to me. If they write back asking why, you can just opt to not respond.
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
Yes, you can just say "No." but saying no without any explaination will usually not work. People want to know WHY you're saying no. So with that in mind:

Declining a trade offer:

Polite white lie: "I'm too busy/ I don't do trades/ I can't afford to do free art."

(even if you usually don't do trades, let's be honest- if an A-list artist like Blotch, Spunky or Dark Natasha offered to do a trade, not many would say "no.")

Fudging the truth: "I only do trades with close friends."

Brutal honesty: "Your art is so inferior to mine there's no way it would be worth my while to do a trade."

Declining commissions:

Easiest answer: "I don't do commissions/ I'm booked up indefinitely." Or quote a price you know is out of their range.

Tougher answer: "I don't feel comfortable with this material" or "Artist (X) might be a better choice for your (hyper rape pedo diaper) picture than me because I don't do this material."

Mercenary: Charge them such an exhorbitant price it would be worth your while to do even the most heinous commission.

Brutal honesty: "You're a sick fuck! Get away from me!"
Jan. 6th, 2012 01:02 am (UTC)
I can't say I agree with some of what you're saying. Telling a person "your art is so inferior to mine there's no way it would be worth my while to do a trade," does not seem very professional to me. Neither does telling them they are a sick fuck. Quoting a very high price is also not a good strategy because a) they may be willing to pay it or b) they could tell others that your prices are ludicrous, and drive away business.
(no subject) - celestinaketzia - Jan. 6th, 2012 01:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - martes - Jan. 6th, 2012 02:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jakejynx - Jan. 6th, 2012 03:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - martes - Jan. 6th, 2012 04:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - neolucky - Jan. 6th, 2012 09:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grandioze - Jan. 6th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - neolucky - Jan. 6th, 2012 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - martes - Jan. 6th, 2012 04:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celestinaketzia - Jan. 6th, 2012 11:35 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 6th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
I recently turned down a comic commission. When I was approached, he pretty much made me beg to hear what the idea for his comic was. I deleted the copies of PMs from InkBunny, but luckily I still had the PM notification (which contains the PM content) in my email trash bin...

First he lets me know he likes my art... So I thank him very much.

Dancing around asking for free art (I assume). So I replied and let him know what my prices are.

Makes me ask him to hear about his story instead of just telling me. So I said "Well, you are going to have to tell me about him so I can see if I can do the comic! :)"

Making me ask again. I was annoyed at this point and reading the PMs to my sister who was visiting. She was telling me to just ignore him, but I didn't want to be rude, so I told him I was up for it.

Not telling me yet! I was about to go all Giant Squid of Anger (though not at him, just flailing in my living room) at this point. So I said "Yes."

He finally tells me! But by this point (even if his comic idea was interesting... which it isn't) I didn't want to work with him. Communication doesn't appear to be his strong suit.

So I wrote back and said: "I've read your story, but at this time I don't think it is something I would like to illustrate. Thanks a bunch for considering me and I hope that you can find another artist soon! :)" My sister thought I was silly for doing it and that I should have just ignored him, but I sent it anyway because I think it is the right thing to do.

Thanking me. After that, I didn't respond though.

I find it best to just word rejections as nicely (but firmly) as you can and hope for the best.
Jan. 6th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
When I open for trades I strictly say "not first come first serve" and let people know to leave their character and if I find their idea interesting I'll note them.

This keeps me from having to actually say "no" to anyone.
If it's someone who just randomly approaches me and the theme or their style isn't something I want in a trade I just tell them I'm not interested in a trade currently.
I've never had someone ask me to draw a theme that has made me uncomfortable but I'd be honest and just say I'm not comfortable drawing their theme.
Jan. 6th, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)
Oh! That's a good idea! I've been wondering how to approach the possibility of turning away trades. :c I hate lying to people, but I also don't like to hurt feelings if I don't want to trade with them. But this is a great approach, thanks for posting about it!
Jan. 6th, 2012 01:36 am (UTC)
My answer is figure out what you want the outcome to be.

If you want them to not bother you about another ever again I'd simply say:

"I'm sorry, I have to decline your commission." If they insist on a reason "I don't feel as though I am the right artist to complete this commission for you."

If it's something smaller, but just don't feel comfortable at that time/with that subject:

"I'm sorry I must decline your commission for the time being,/but if there is another commission you might be interested in please let me know."

In all cases I feel like it's appropriate to accept that you are the one declining it, regardless of what their behavior or commission is. This is ultimately your choice to decline the commission (even if for good reason), so do not push the blame onto the potential client. In addition, it's harder to argue with the artist's personal limits.

In case of something you don't particularly want to do, I don't have much trouble with the artist saying something like:

"I don't particularly enjoy drawing ____, but I am willing to for $xx"

However, I feel like this works much better in terms of subject matter or technique rather than not caring for a potential client. It's something that you want to be fair across the board with. Just be sure that you're actually willing to do it for said amount.

Edit: It also never hurts to add "But thank you for your interest" to any of the above.

Edited at 2012-01-06 01:38 am (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2012 02:12 am (UTC)
I was JUST handling this last night. A specific client who's been featured here once before approached me via a public aim, asking for something completely out of line and something I'd never draw, (He requested his characters sexually with mine, and in a lewd way).

I simply said "No, sorry. I don't take commissions of this kind, nor do I have the time to. Please refer to my journal ____ for further info, thanks!"

Unfortunately he kept on, and I blocked him after a while of whining and begging. But I figure my reply was good enough!
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