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Entering the world of commissions

So this year I've been thinking of opening up commissions, not for the monetary side of it, but the experiences. However, before I even think of advertising for open commissions, I really want to lay down a strong foundation of both knowledge, safety nets in case of anything going 'south', and just general knowledge that I'm on the right track. So these are some of the questions I have (I will put them in a cut):
The Work Load:
I was think that to begin with, I would open for icon commissions, character sheets/fursuit references, and the like, but purely digital. I want to only handle digital to begin with since I am unsure of shipping rules etc. And this is (if I'm correct) fairly low-risk as I won't lose anything but my own spare time if a commissioner backs out.

Dealing with Paypal and Deviantart for Commissions:
There were a few main questions I wanted to ask when dealing with starting up commissions. What would you experienced artists recommended as the 'host site' for payments? Is Paypal a good shot? And if so, since I am opting for Paypal since one has been established for me, what process do you need to do to set up receiving money for commissions (such as a "business" account)?
Also, is there any fee through Deviantart (The site im also opting to use for meeting commissioners and customers, and to display my work) for establishing these business connections, or is that only to host for prints?

Is being an Underage Artist Illegal/What should I be wary of?
The final main part I wanted to ask about is dealing with underage artists. I myself am only 17, however I have permission from my parents to use their Paypal (and already do for various online buying, since it is hooked up to my bank account). I understand that since, from what I've read, minors cannot be accepted into legally-binding contracts, that people may be wary of engaging in a transaction where there isn't much that can be done if it goes belly-up. However, I know my limits for requests (I do requests of art for my close friends, and know my limit) and feel that some time this year I will be able to handle a set of commissions at a time. Is there any law against underage artists taking commissions? I -never- want to enter or do anything illegally, which is why I want to ask the community of AB (i've been watching this community for quite a while, and have been in awe of the information that has come from everyone and the way it is run so respectfully) for their advice. I have already discussed this with my parents and they are in full support of me doing this, and only want to make sure that I'm safe throughout the process.
So what else do I need to know? I really want to start this as I said not for the money, but for the experiences... I am hoping to get into the art business and go through University next year, so I feel this would be great to learn and move through the start of my professional life.
Any advice would be so greatly appreciated, thank you all so much.

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( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 26th, 2012 08:19 pm (UTC)
Here are posts already posted to A_B that can help you a bit.
Its not so much the posts themselves - but their comments that should point you into the right direction.

Advice: Teen artist - how should I go about taking commissions?

Official TOS Post.

Official Payment Source Post

Online Gallery Social Networking
Feb. 27th, 2012 04:55 am (UTC)
Re: Here are posts already posted to A_B that can help you a bit.
Thank you very much! I shall definitely look through them.
Feb. 26th, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
Wait until you are 18 and have your own paypal.

You are a minor and thereby exempt from contracts, and therefore some buyers(Read: Most experienced buyers) will shy away from your product.

If this word gets around, it can circulate for years and be detremental to your business, regardless of how true it is. Trust me on this.

Wait until you are 18.

Use the time between now and then to work on your construction techniques and improve your detailing/quality.

You need some very good showcase pieces before you open up and expect to get commissions. Make a nice gallery, even if it's just on FA. Go for quality photos with a nice backdrop to make up for lack of quantity.

I also suggest finding some of your favourite fursuit makers online, send them email/notes or whatever and ask them their opinions on where you can improve both your work, your gallery, interesting techniques to try, etc.

Your post here shows concern for how you're going to approach your business, which is a GREAT start as far as I'm concerned. You just need a little bit of time to get everything in order, and by the time it's ready to roll, you'll be 18 and ready to start a stellar business.
Feb. 26th, 2012 08:55 pm (UTC)
Jesus, that was out of context. I read 'fursuits', not 'fursuit references'. MY FAULTttttttttttttt. Still everything is pretty much the same, just make mental adjustments where need be, lol sorry about that. It's still early for me. :3

Good luck n' all that good shit
Feb. 27th, 2012 04:32 am (UTC)
Not a problem! I was actually thinking that once I improved my costuming skills, I would possibly sell pre-made tails and ears etc (I feel that doing a suit commission would have too many variables for me to handle, even once I am 18). Thank you very much for your advice. At this stage, I will just start building my portfolio for University AND my gallery (I have started afresh... The past few years I found myself quite artistically dried up, so now i'm starting fresh to find my style again, which is getting there -slowly-). I may have been a tad bit ambitious, considering the artists that ARE out there, however I wanted to see if I could just take a shot at it any way, and hope that I was good enough. Unfortunately I'm not finding honest opinions on my art (I consider IRL friends to often sugar-coat or lie to your face) so I have no idea the progress in which I have made artistically and am now worried it isn't good enough for money.
So I may wait until I am 18, since then I can take full responsibility for everything, and I also will not have school on my plate. That way I can present a product from a well-established either dA or FA account in which I can, hopefully, make a name for myself.
Thank you very much for the advice again :)
Feb. 26th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
I'm having trouble finding your art, but I do have some advice.

What you may want to do is start with auctions of pre-done pieces. In those cases, it's relatively cut-and-dry, so there's not risk to any party. This will also allow you to get pricing information.

Then, I'd advise you to do smaller stuff - where if someone punks out, no one's out that much money. (i.e. I might risk $5 on a commission from an artist I haven't heard of, but not $50). You can gain trust by completing small things successfully. At that point you might be 18, or people may just trust your record enough to commission you for larger things.

Alternatively, you may want to handle all commissions as "ladder" commissions. You sketch something, they pay you for the sketch, then they can upgrade to line art, then after that's finished and paid for they can do colors and what not. That way neither party will ever be out more than one step.

Edit: Forgot to add, be upfront that you are under 18. Deceiving people is not the way to go.

Edited at 2012-02-26 09:08 pm (UTC)
Feb. 27th, 2012 04:50 am (UTC)
At this stage, I've set up a completely new, empty dA account to display my work... But it's still a work in progress, since my intentions were to start taking up commissions most likely towards the end of this year (around September, when I will be done with school). However, now I am thinking that there's a possibility my art will not be good enough and that no one would pay for it unless I got a lucky break, and I'm finding honest opinions hard to come by since even my art teacher 'sugar coats' opinions, so I just get kind words instead of honest ways to improve my work, so now I'm doubting the confidence I gained from such reception...
When I was thinking of opening up commissions I was thinking of doing $5 icons, or even printable con-badges. Or sketches for a small price, just little things that I will be able to handle without being overwhelmed or biting off more than I can chew.
I also like the idea of the ladder commissions... That way I can build individual skills such as colouring/lineart/anatomy and meeting the customer's desires, all while safely earning the money and delivering a product they will be happy with in the end.
As for displaying I'm under 18, I did some thinking about it, and also looked at commissions that had fallen through, and the customer found out they were underaged. I know that if I had commissioned someone without knowing they were under 18 and it did go belly up, I would feel quite deceived. With this in mind, I decided it would be the best to be straight up-front with anyone even considering doing business with me, even if it does repel people. I'd much rather have a smaller range of possible customers than lie to all of them.
Thank you very much for your advice, everything you've said has been very helpful!
Feb. 27th, 2012 06:45 am (UTC)
If you're doubting your skill it's best to do stuff you like first, and then selling if someone will buy it. It'll also give your new name a "history" so people will have relatively current examples of what you do. You can also try doing a few freebies before you start doing commissions for real. This will give you an idea of interest, it will give you practice with doing the work without pressure, and you can ask people for a price quote.

If you want to do icons - do one for yourself first and see if you like using it, and if people comment.
Feb. 27th, 2012 08:28 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! Actually, I have been in the process of making a new icon for myself this past week, to see roughly how long it takes me to make a hard-worked on icon, and then roughly (If I open for commissions and then offer them) how many I could handle in a set of commissions. So I'm starting practicing on chest-head shots with full colour, cell shading and a background. However instead of the approach I used to take with art (get it done as soon as possible, see results, end up unhappy with the quality) I am taking my time and seeing how long a good effort takes me to finish the product. So far so good, I think, as digital colouring was my weakness, so I'm targeting working on that at the moment.
Feb. 26th, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
I'm in agreement with Celarania. Start small and build a positive reputation (also to get an idea of what workload you can handle), and be honest with people.
Pre-sketched commissions or ones where you accept payment in stages is also a good idea. With the latter make sure to watermark your work and/or show tiny previews to minimize the risk of getting ripped off.
Feb. 27th, 2012 05:00 am (UTC)
I agree as well. If I do decide to start up commissions, I was thinking of doing small display icons, for no more than 5 dollars. Then maybe step it up to printable con-badges, and maybe fursuit reference sheets for 10 or so dollars.
I really love the "ladder" idea that Celarania suggested, as it will be fairly low-risk and would promote a more artist-customer synchronization, minimizing the risk of misunderstandings and a belly-up commission. Thanks to reading this community, I've learnt a lot about the ways to risk your chance of getting burnt as an artist, and also the ways to improve your service as well.
Thank you for your help! This really is an amazing, respectful community.
Feb. 26th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
There are no fees to use da unless your buying an upgraded account, which you DO NOT need to advertise commissions.
Just post a journal there and maybe a simple image that you can also use as a reference.
http://teenycom.livejournal.com/profile here on lj is also a nice place to get small, quick commissions.
Feb. 27th, 2012 04:54 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I may look into posting there, and it's good to know I won't be stepping on da's toes by advertising there.
Feb. 27th, 2012 12:45 am (UTC)
Honestly, I'd wait until you're 18, mostly for the legal issues, but also so you can have your own PayPal.

Also, once you're 18 and have your own account, so you have easier access to the money in there: Connect it to a bank account that has a debit card. (Account for the per transaction fees in your prices.) Upgrade to a business account, and get their debit card. The card comes through Mastercard, so where ever you see that logo, you can use your PayPal balance to purchase something (including online merchants who don't take PayPal directly).

Mine has been a life saver. I use it to pay my car insurance, get food, and purchase supplies.
Feb. 27th, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
At this stage I have two accounts, one attached to a Debit Card directly (So whenever I withdraw money from the card, it takes it from that account) and a "savings" style account, for saving money for the long-run. My debit card is attached to my PayPal, and I have discussed it with her. However, upon asking my legal studies teacher at school about when it goes belly-up who takes the blame, there was possibilities that my mother as the account holder would have to deal with any ramifications, and that is not fair. So I think I will take your advice (as well as a few other peoples' suggestions) and just spend the rest of the time until I turn 18 building a gallery, portfolio and a good name for myself, as well as building my skill to deliver a better product in the end.
In regards to the PayPal, will I have to set up a business part of the account I will make for myself when I'm 18? Is it illegal to accept money through it from art etc. and not have a business account set up? I read through some aspects of PayPal and got a little confused in regards to their conditions/requirements, since I was also unclear of when a hobby becomes a business (Which I went to the Australian Tax site to try to find).
Also, would you advice me going down and speaking to my bank when I do turn 18? Would setting up a separate, Debit Card attached to a business account be the best way to handle it, with lower risks in running into negative funds or possibly even hackers/card thefts? As you can probably tell, I'm still new to the "adult world" so to speak, so I'm trying to get a footing in regard to taxes, insurance, etc.
Thank you very much for the advice :)
Feb. 27th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)
Nope, you can take commissions though the regular ones. The business account is just my personal suggestion since you can have a PayPal debit, and it takes a few days for money to transfer from PP to your bank, so you don't have to wait to get money.

I had my regular bank and debit card attached to PayPal, but it can't hurt to really set up a "business" account with the bank, and use that with PayPal. :)

As for taxes, your best bet will be to speak to an accountant, and get their opinion. When I was grooming, I wasn't making enough (after expenses) to have to file my taxes quarterly, but had I had more business, that would have been the best route, so I didn't get hit so hard when it came tax time.
Feb. 27th, 2012 05:08 am (UTC)
I have been asking my mother about it, and I came to the conclusion when tax time came, I would cough up the money to not only get it thoroughly explained, but also to have it done for me, in case of me accidentally fudging it and having to deal with the possible charges/legal ramifications.
It's good to know I won't be in the red with Paypal if I use them for commissions, however I think the business bank account would be a good idea. I've been having huge issues with Paypal payments appearing in my bank up to a week or so later, which caused me to delve into negative balances... NEVER again. I tried to implement a balance awareness email that gets sent to me whenever my account drops below a balance of 50 dollars, but somehow I feel that isn't actually working when the transactions are initially processed... So I find that to get an accurate balance if I buy something through PayPal, I have to wait about a week or so, which can get very stressful!
I still have a little while to wait until taxes need to be paid and processed, since I no longer have a part-time job, and when the time does come, I will fork out the cash necessary to make sure it gets done, and gets done right.
Thank you so much, it's good to know there are people who know exactly what I'm asking about, as sometimes it can be hard to describe to my parents/friends/teachers the sort of "business" of commission work online... So I have to take it all and appropriate it to what I think it means in regards to online and using PayPal etc.
Thank you again!
Feb. 27th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
I didn't see anyone suggest it, but you could also take trades with people to be able to build up your portfolio to display. Find people with interesting characters or a variety so you can show the range of work you are capable of doing. (For example, if you're doing furry art, there's a LOT of wolf artists, but it's harder to find good cat artists.)
Feb. 28th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
I would really love to get into trades. I recently opened a new deviantart to build up, how would you suggest I meet people for trades?
Thank you for the advice by the way!
Feb. 28th, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)
You could either advertise on your galleries or journals, or approach people who advertise that they are open for trades themselves. (I don't know about teenycom, but I know a lot of people do business on there so it might be worth looking into.)

Make sure that if you do trades, you still work it like a business transaction so you don't get burned!
Feb. 28th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC)
Thanks for the input! I actually contacted three artists (one I know in person) about doing a piece of gift art for them... I hope it came across as professional, and not inappropriate to offer that sort thing. That way I can give them something and start connecting to other artists, while taking out the risk of getting burned by their end in a trade... If they accept the gift art, then I will open for trades of sorts, and work my way up until I am eighteen and feel ready to start commissions.
Feb. 28th, 2012 06:13 am (UTC)
Huh... I've never actually thought of contacting an artist about doing gift art for them. Usually I would just do it, but that is definitely a good way to go about it, gift to trade to commission!

Y'know, since I'm thinking about it, would you be comfortable posting just a brief example of how you approached them? I personally like to be critiqued on the formality of letters (not that you necessarily need correction at all) and I'm curious to see how you went about it. I might take the example for myself. =^.^=
Feb. 28th, 2012 12:34 pm (UTC)
Of course! I have actually gotten two replies, both positive about the idea of gift art. I decided it was best to ask first, I was worried about stepping on their toes or making them uncomfortable in any way. Although I don't have the note in front of me right now, the basic gist of it was:
"Hi there (artist name), I understand this note may seem quite random and possibly awkward, but I just want to say that you are an incredibly inspiring artist. The reason I note you is to tell you that I would like to do some gift art for you. I am wanting to grow as an artist myself, and as one of the artists that has inspired me, I would love to do some gift art for you if you'd like. I will in no way be offended if you say no, however of you would like a piece, I am more than happy to take a request!'
Even when contacting a school friend of mine with the offer, I tried to keep it fairly formal, and both artists received the offer well. Both have suggested characters for me to do which is great for me; knowing specifics like that means I am able to give them a piece they will be happy with in the end. As I already started both pieces after getting the 'okay', I have offered for work in progress pictures of each stage, or just the file sent when it is completely done. I find gift art will be the best way to get started, and to ultimately get connected to other artists and future commissioners.
Feb. 28th, 2012 02:13 pm (UTC)
It sounds like you're doing awesome as far as setting yourself up professionally so I imagine you'll do well. :) That note is very well-written (even if it was just a rough approximation of the content) and I may sneak the idea from you in the future. Good luck in your future endeavors!!
Feb. 28th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! And feel free to use it, by all means. Also, good luck to you as well!
Feb. 28th, 2012 11:14 am (UTC)
There's a few trading communities on LJ you could take advantage of. :) You could also just peek around and offer.
Feb. 28th, 2012 12:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I think I will find some LJ groups as I find the community very understanding. Thanks again!
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Feb. 27th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 28th, 2012 04:40 am (UTC)
Thank you for the advice! Ill keep an eye out for places around that could use some artistic volunteers. It would be a good experience. Thanks again!
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