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Advice needed.

I'm not going to name any names because the person I'm dealing with hasn't really done anything *wrong* necessarily but has been causing me such stress and grief that I could really use some advice about how to continue to deal with this situation.

I took a commission from a customer about a month ago and since then I have gotten several notes a day from them. Usually these notes are repetitive -- asking if I will be able to make a certain feature on their plush that is CLEARLY noticeable in their reference, asking me repetitively if their project has been started or finished yet when I have told them several times that they can expect it in the beginning of June (and linked them to the page where I list my projects and their current status, which I update several times a day and is extremely reliable). It's like it doesn't matter at all what I say to them -- they just continue to ask me the same kind of unnecessary questions and eat up a lot of my day responding to their notes.

I am starting to get to my wit's end. In the beginning, right after they paid off their commission (because it started immediately), this behavior actually had me insist on offering them a refund and I basically relented because they begged me to continue to agree to their project. It's getting close now to when I have their slot scheduled to be started and I try to be dependable about showing customers their project in several stages if it is quite large or complicated so that they can correct something if they notice it before it gets too far in (basically like a sketch stage or two before a 2D artist would start painting). I am DREADING this process with this customer and really desperately want to just refund them at this point because I am beginning to feel harassed. I am worried though that throwing my hands up at this point and sending their money back will get me bad press or something.

I also generally have no problem actually MAKING their plush and would prefer to just be able to do my work without being harassed. I've honestly never been in this position before with someone and I'm unsure of what the most diplomatic way to deal with it is. I have been firm with them before and told them out-right that they were stressing me out, etc. and it hasn't made a difference at all except occasionally now at the beginning of their notes they will say something like, "I'm sorry if this is annoying..." or, "Tell me if I'm annoying you..." which just stresses me out more.

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( 39 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 21st, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
I'd be straight up honest, if they start with 'Sorry to be annoying..' they know they are pushing it already. Just tell them that they are bugging you, and that by doing this they are actaully delaying their commission, and in turn making it harder for you to work. Politely saying that should give them a nice warning without coming off as rude.
May. 21st, 2013 09:17 pm (UTC)
Tell them they are annoying you (but word it nicer than that, but be FIRM). Tell them you can update them once a week on the progress of their commission, and that you will initiate the update.
May. 21st, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC)
Same as the comments above, but if they keep bugging you after that, drop them.
May. 21st, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
Personally I would have refunded them by now.
(Deleted comment)
May. 22nd, 2013 01:24 pm (UTC)
This this this this!
(no subject) - pinkpuppybelly - May. 22nd, 2013 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - skanrashke - May. 22nd, 2013 04:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 21st, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
If they're giving you this much stress before their project is even started, it doesn't bode well and I personally would have refunded them by now.

If you wish to continue with the project, tell them firmly that updates will be given by you on a regular basis, and that you will initiate the contact. Any further unsolicited messages from them will be ignored.

Like Skulldog said, they already know that they're pushing it but are continuing to harass you against your wishes. Be professional but firm, not apologetic and above all do NOT lie and say that they're "not bothering you, but..." etc just to be polite, because they won't get the message if you are too nice.
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - May. 21st, 2013 09:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 21st, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
Yeah, agreeing with all of this. Refund and get out.
May. 21st, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
Do you know why they're sending so many messages and needing repeated confirmation on things? Do they have an anxiety disorder or such? Multiple notes in a day is excessive, esp before the commission is coming up.

I think you did the right thing in asking for less notes to be sent and trying to refund when you realised it was going to be a problem.
I think it would be okay to refund, yes the customer might take offence at it, but it seems you have fair reason to do so. Possibly try making one last warning for a reduction on the amount of notes (i.e one note a week or whatever time frame suits you) or you'll have to refund and then follow through if needed.

Or if you want to carry on with the commission and commissioner doesn't reduce the amount of notes, you could compile each days worth of notes and have some copy and paste answers for things that get asked repeatedly to help save time with replies. Or let them know you'll respond to their notes every 3/5 days etc and not inbetween?

I understand it sucks to have to cancel and feel like you've let a commissioner down. I do have a concern when you get to the commission, how nick picky are they likely to be? I'm a little worried that they might end up sending 5 notes a day wanting changes or confirmation of details which could make the commission very stressful. Of course, that might not be the case at all, i'm just guessing based on their behaviour so far.
May. 21st, 2013 09:39 pm (UTC)
I would refund as soon as possible. This kind of stress can really put a dampener on the end product, and the artist! Refund refund refund and run away.
May. 21st, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
I've had a client like this... in three days, he literally filled 2 pages of FA notes.

I've learned that even telling them that yes, they are being annoying and spending all my time replying means I can't work on his stuff, doesn't help. I suggest refunding fast. I personally don't think stress is worth the money.
May. 21st, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
I've had a similar customer before... the best thing is just to finish the commission as quickly as possible and get it over with. Sorry it's not a great answer, but we have to deal with a lot of kinds of people as commission artists. u_u
May. 21st, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
Honestly I'm going to repeat what everyone's said here. I would just politely inform them you are not comfortable continuing their commission and refund them.

If this is how they're treating this commission before it's been started, I can definitely see things only compounding when you start it and give status shots.
May. 21st, 2013 11:21 pm (UTC)
Be honest. It's hard to work as an artist if you're really stressed out, and them consistently harassing you is not going to help.
If worst comes to worst and they don't stop, I'd issue a refund and go through with it, send it back to them and wash your hands of it.
Issuing a refund because a commissioner is harassing you doesn't sound like it'd get you bad press to me - some artists would outright ignore the commissioner.
May. 22nd, 2013 12:44 am (UTC)
Ugh, that sucks. If I were in your position, here's probably what I would do:

-I would issue a clear, firm ultimatum. "The amount of notes you are sending is beyond the pale excessive, stressful and detrimental to my work process. I'm willing to continue this commission, but please understand me that I say that it is on the contingency that the amount of notes you are sending reduces GREATLY, and I'll unfortunately have to refund you if the message load doesn't reduce. You're repeating many of the same questions, too; I can tell you have some specific concerns regarding this commission, so here are the answers to all those questions in one place:

[list of concerns they keep bringing up with answers]

Please, if you feel the urge to ask one of those questions again, refer to this list! Thanks for understanding that it really eats into my time to maintain such correspondence."

-Then stick by it. I might quantify it a little more clearly than my example note, like 1 note/week or "replies upon ME sending correspondence to YOU" or something. If they break those terms, refund, block, move on in your life and don't let them darken your doorstep again. Heck, maybe it could help show them the unacceptable level of their behavior? But really though, they're acting like they have a really unchecked anxiety condition, but they're the one still choosing to click the "send note" button. If it really is a compulsion and not just attention-seeking behavior, I kind of wish I could pass some advice on to them, because I understand; I have GAD.

On the completely off chance that the client is reading this and it IS a case of anxiety: I know you have terrible what-if fears about this commission going completely wrong and you feel like the only way to prevent that is to message the artist so much! But hey, they're gonna get it right, okay? It's a bit of a self-sabotaging compulsion. I understand those. Try writing the notes you want to write in Notepad, and just saving them instead of sending them. It'll get the compulsion out.
May. 22nd, 2013 01:17 am (UTC)
I wouldn't necessarily call this "Beware worthy", but it definitely sounds annoying. If I were you I'd just refund them and move on.
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