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Two Questions about Commissions

I went through many pages of tags and saw similar things, but not my questions exactly, so I hope these are okay to post here.

Is it ever okay to ask someone if they are still interested in commissioning you? If so, how long should you wait?
Two situations dealing with this one.
I make hats, as some people may know. It's nothing major right now but I post in teenycom and such sometimes. Anyways, one girl asked for a hat commission that would go over the price limit I wanted to do at the time. This was fine, though, as I needed money and it seemed like an interesting challenge, so I told her to PM me with exact details of what she wanted.

We discussed it for a while. Her hat called for two very specific colors, so I told her the commission would have to wait until I could get them. It took several different trips to finally find these colors. It was maybe two weeks later at this point, with me updating her that I had no luck after I went. Once I had found them, I sent her a message, providing pictures and a final quote. And then...she disappeared.

I'm pretty sure I messaged her about a week after that (this was over the summer so I've deleted the messages since then), since I know sometimes messages don't send and whatever. She's still active and I see her commenting and posting places, and I've always wondered if I should have nudged her more about the commission. normally something like this wouldn't bug me, but I doubt I'm ever going to be able to use these colors, so I pretty much threw that money away =/  Since it was so long ago, obviously I can't do anything about it now, but I'd like to know in case this happens again.

This next one wasn't exactly a loss but it still has me wondering. A girl found me through FA and was incredibly enthusiastic about my hats. As soon as I opened for them again, she messaged me, telling me she wanted a total of four hats, she just wasn't sure what they should be yet. I told her no problem, and to message me when she had figured it out.

A couple days later, she messaged me, including everything that she wanted. One of these hats was going to be for her Halloween costume. This wasn't a problem, but I knew there was no way I could get all four hats done and shipped in time (it was near the end of September and I had other commissions ahead of her), so she agreed to pay to have that one done and shipped ASAP and then I could do the other ones after.

Well, that transaction went smoothly and I noted her after Halloween, telling her I was ready to take on the rest of the commission. She said okay, changed some of the details and asked how much it would be. I told her, and she mentioned that she still wasn't completely sure about the details yet, so I told her to email me when she had everything final and I'd do her commission.

That email never came. She's still semi-active on FA, but less than she used to be, so I can only assume life got in the way. This was...four? months ago, so another lost cause, but I'd still like to know if it would have been okay to ask her if she still wanted the hats. It's frustrating because she made it sound definite rather than "just a quote", and honestly I was excited to do the commission. I guess I'm just afraid of sounding like some annoying, money-hungry artist, haha.

My second question, a much simpler one:
How do you deal with a nonpaying customer?
A girl commissioned me about a month ago for a hat of her character. I usually don't require payment until after (I know, bad on my part), but I trusted this customer because she is always 
buying art and has had lots of successful trasactions (at least from the looks of it). It went smoothly, minus a bit of a delay on my end because of some troublesome hand sewing.

I finished, sent her pictures, and she went on about how much she loved it. I then messaged her about payment (the price we agreed on before the hat was even started was $16 not including shipping). She said she was low on funds and asked if she could pay next week, and I said that was just fine as long as she kept me updated.

Three weeks later and still nothing. She's still active as ever on FA; in fact I see new [commissioned] art go into her gallery. To be fair, I guess the word "nonpaying" is a bit harsh, since she could still come through...but honestly I'm getting a little worried. Plus there's no way I could sell this hat if she ended up not paying, since it was of her character. I know I should probably contact her again, but how? I sent her another message three days ago with no luck. I've been nothing but polite and understanding about this but I think it's time to get a bit more demanding. Help?

[Oh, and I'm almost positive she's over 18]

I've gotten burned but I've learned my lesson. I am now going to require half payment up front before starting on any custom orders. Its upsetting that I have to do that, but I don't want to run into these kinds of things again.

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( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:18 am (UTC)
I've never confronted a customer about a commission slot if they asked before I was open. I just personally find it in bad taste. Also when other artists go to random people and go 'HAY IM OPEN!' It just seems rude and obnoxious. Some people find they get really excited over new artists but later they think on it and decide not to spend the money or go somewhere else. It's best just to get them to come back to you, not go to them. :C

Also I personally don't start ANY work before I get paid(or even half up front), just good practice. Also if someone is interested in a slot I give them 48 hours to send payment or someone else gets the slot. Usually if they don't have the money in hand they might have a high chance of flaking in general. (Not all I've trusted a few customers to pay when a paycheck came in, but that's repeat customers only.)

Hopefully you can work out a solution to keep these things from happening in the future. We all learned the hard way at one point or another. I wish you luck in the future. :3
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:22 am (UTC)
Thank you =]
I'm still getting on my feet, so this is new to me. I guess it should be mentioned that I was opened for commissions in all of these instances. I thought it'd be best to just let them be (which is why I didn't pursue it further), but just wanted more opinions =]
Feb. 21st, 2012 07:54 am (UTC)
Ah, that would make more sense. I would assume if it's been a day or two of inquiring it wouldn't hurt to poke a yes or no out of them. A week is pushing it, and any longer is just kinda rude. (IMO, you can do what you wish lol) But yes. I think you did the right thing in not perusing. Sometimes overly pushy artists can turn customers off. (Not implying that you are pushy after a few days of them inquiring, later might seem so) If they really are interested they will poke you. If you sew it, they will come!

Edited at 2012-02-21 07:58 am (UTC)
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:51 am (UTC)
Agreeing here. On the other hand, if it's been just a short period of time it can be fine to ask if they're still interested. I sometimes open slots in journals, all slots get taken but others are interested. So 2-5 days later, I'll just comment asking if they're still interested since a slot opened and go from there.
Feb. 21st, 2012 06:44 am (UTC)
This exactly!
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:59 am (UTC)
I don't think it's rude to say "Hey we discussed a commission of x subject and a slot just opened up, so I was wondering if you're still interested. Let me know!"

-- but as sbneko said don't let it go too long... over two months since last contact is probably pushing it.
Feb. 21st, 2012 07:28 am (UTC)
I sent you a note here on LJ, because I suspect one of those situations involves me. All I can say is how sorry I am, and I hope to fix this.
Feb. 21st, 2012 08:44 am (UTC)
well as a plushie maker, I have to buy in expensive materials and my advice is to never buy the materials until you've been paid for the materials/commission. I've had a couple of instances when someone I though I could trust wanted a plsuhie, I've bought the materials and started only for them to either disappear, not pay, don't want to go through with the commission etc. I've also found that a lot of people are really enthusiastic until it's time to pay and then you never hear from them again. You can end up losing a lot of money on materials you're going to find hard to use elsewhere.

I know in the professional world, it's usually pay after delivery (even with plushies i've made for companies). But with these casual internet commissions it's better to get payment up front or the material budget at least becuase there are far more flaky commissioners or people out there who want something for nothing using these sites (esp FA).

Edited at 2012-02-21 08:47 am (UTC)
Feb. 21st, 2012 10:22 am (UTC)
I've had people be so enthusiastic about art and send me info etc. etc. and then poof when I had time for them. It's just part of doing commissions, some people change their minds or something happens and they don't have the money anymore etc. but they're too embarrassed to say so they just drop off the radar entirely.

All I can tell you is; don't start until you have some payment. That includes buying materials; you can always refund a customer if you can't find a specific shade of fabric or whatnot, recouping your losses when you buy things before you get a payment is more difficult.

Additionally, I've suspected some people think I'll get started on their work before they pay and hope they can get a free sketch out of it before I catch on to their intent of never paying. So yeah, at least a partial payment first.

But it is a huge waste of time and an annoyance if you spend over an hour talking to someone about their character and what they want, only for them to flake out.
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
"But it is a huge waste of time and an annoyance if you spend over an hour talking to someone about their character and what they want, only for them to flake out."

Oy, tell me about it. I had this one person on IM one time going on and on about this picture he wanted me to make so he could get it tattooed on himself. He didn't even know what kind of anthro he wanted. He tied me up for at least two hours. I politely told him to think of all the details (once we finally decided on what animal it was to be) because I had to go. I never heard from him again. Until I logged into GoogleTalk a month or two later and all of a sudden he wanted to chat as though we were buddies. It ticked me off.
Feb. 21st, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
I hope you get the first question resolved to both parties satisfaction.

Materials costs for me much be up front especially if it is something that I can't use for anything else but that particular project. I am a little more flexible if it is something I have that I use all the time (like certain fleeces) but not much.

I don't do "drop everything I'll pay you lots of money" commissions after I have been burned on those twice. And that included professional commissions (puppets for a show or prototype toy for example). They just never work out and cost me more that I get from them. But that's just me.

And honestly asking if you should hold the slot open or go onto the next person is a reasonable question that you put in your Terms of Service as to if response isn't given in say 7 day period (which allows for only checking e-mail on the weekends), the person will be dropped to the bottom of the list. You can always move things around if you want to because it is YOUR business but don't let people hang you up because they can't reply or they changed their mind and are embarrassed to tell you so (happens).

Nonpaying customers have only been a problem a very few times since I do require money up front before starting a project. But they can be such problem because they try to nickel and dime me to death to get it at "a better price". I say upfront that I don't bargain my prices. I have very carefully calculated my time into the price along with materials and I don't work for less than US minimum wage. Not worth my time anymore.
Feb. 21st, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
For the commissioner where you finished the hat and they didn't pay, you need to give them an ultimatum. Tell them, "I need payment within a week, or else I'm selling this to someone else." Don't take commissions from them again unless they pay *in full* prior to gathering materials/working on it.

I do not see any problem with going up to someone who said they wanted a commission and asking, "I know you were interested, I'm just checking in so I can mark off whether you actually want one this round or not. Otherwise I'll be closing my commissions."

I find it insanely rude when someone asks me for a commission, gets a quote, sounds interested and says they want it... only to never reply again. If you don't have the money right now, or no longer want it? That's cool! Just let me know, so I'm not hoping for that money to come in. :c

So I've taken to just straight-up asking, after a week or two without a response from them, if they're still interested in it (and I try to politely slide in a "when will you want to pay/get it commissioned" so I have some idea of when I might get money, assuming they still want it).
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
A lot of what I was going to say has already been said, but I just wanted to add that for the one you finished without payment posting that client here is always an option. If they really buy so many commissions, a post here (or a threat of one) may spur them to resolve things. You can always sell it later.

For the one you bought supplies for, you're pretty much out of luck. You don't have a contract with them (if I read correctly). There is nothing wrong with wanting a deposit for materials, but you both have to agree on the whole project first. If you can't find them all, you can just apologize and refund the entire deposit.

Although it's been said already, always get some money down unless it's something you're willing to do for free. It's never a good sign if the client won't invest in their own idea.
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
Just a small addendum, if you don't know the price of some odd material (which sounded like part of your problem), go ahead and quote higher than you think it will be. If it is that expensive, you're covered and if it's less you refund the difference. No customer will be upset that it cost less than the quote.
Feb. 21st, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
What you learned from this is exactly what every artist who takes any sort of commission has to learn: get the money before you do the work. Getting a downpayment for those special colors required for the one hat would have saved you the trouble of purchasing items you will never otherwise use.

As for contacting people who just sort of disappear? I personally don't do it unless there's an established deadline, and then I only contact them to warn them that if they want the deadline met, they have to send payment by X date. I don't think it's in bad taste to contact someone with a "hey, haven't heard from you, get back to me if you're still interested, otherwise I'll assume you're not and any quotes will be void," etc etc.

As for the nonpaying customer? Send notes, page shouts, emails. Whatever you have to do to get a response. If you never get the money, then you never get the money. Post about her here and let it go. But don't be quiet about it. It's on you that you didn't get payment up front, but make sure that other people know the name of the person you dealt with.
Feb. 22nd, 2012 04:31 am (UTC)
Chiming in to agree with the general consensus on the first one in particular. I require a down payment that covers materials costs before I'll buy said materials or do any work. That's just the way it is. Even if what they want uses nothing but fabric I already have on hand, I still act as if I have to go out and buy it, because otherwise you end up thinking you have dozens of commissions when half of those people will never actually follow through and pay you anything.

Even if you just ask for $5 to reserve a spot on your list, you need to get *something* from them before doing any work of any kind at all.

But you know that already, at this point. :) I don't think it's at all rude to send them a message saying "Were you still interested in that hat?" or whatever, that's perfectly fine! In my opinion it's never too late to go "Remember that thing we talked about? I have time to make it now, do you still want it?" If you're worried about sounding pushy you can include something about how it's okay if they don't, you just wanted to ask.

And for the deadbeat, at least it's not drawn art and they have it in hand already. :) I'd send regular reminders about payment and if another few weeks go by with no response, it's time to put their name up in this community as somebody to avoid.
Feb. 22nd, 2012 08:55 am (UTC)
Echoing others
Most people doing business on FA require payment upfront because they have been burned or the high possibility of burning. In a business revolving around customized products you should DEFINITELY require upfront money. I work in digital art and accept payment before or after ONLY because it works for me and I'm willing to risk it. Digital stuff is easy to alter and still looks good in a portfolio. However, if it was a LARGE art package with multiple pieces? Probably money upfront.

As for poking vanished customers...maybe they did you a favor. If they're so flakey that they would do that? What kind of customer could they be for you? If you're curious what to do with future customers just ask them, when they inquire initially, if they would like to be contacted when you open again...sort of like a "premium" list...lol...I dunno what you'd call it. But if they like the idea of getting notified when they can buy from you again you would at least know right?

There are a few fursuit makers that I would kill if they had that sort of system...getting a short "hey I'm now open" email would be a HUGE help
Mar. 5th, 2012 11:27 am (UTC)
My rules are "payment up front", so if a potential client sends me a form inquiry and then never contacts me again after I give them a quote, I tend to let it go. A while back, when I worked more quickly and had fewer commissions in general, I would shoot them an e-mail again every two weeks or so, a couple of times, then let it go. Now I just don't worry about it.

But I understand that for some people, they may be sitting on an empty docket and a potential customer is valuable. So, my guideline is maybe shoot them an e-mail a week later. If they seem dismissive, don't ask again. If they seem interested or have told you they're waiting on something before they can pay, make a note of their timeframe and let them know you hope to hear from them if things change. Send them another note/email in a month, then let it go.

And always be cheerful and non-pushy about it.

Edited at 2012-03-05 11:27 am (UTC)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )


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