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Question: How do YOU go about commissions?

I've seen lots of advice posts but none really about this.
Would any one care to go through there commission process? From start to finish? maybe examples with hick ups as well?

I ask because I feel like I am going wrong some where with how I am working on commissions, and I have found it hard to tell exactly how other artists go through the process. I feel like I am putting to much on my plate but I don't understand how peoples lists/queues/ect work?

I'll give an example of commissions for my self. Maybe people can offer some pointers?
Sketch to Full colour commission timeline for me:

1) Receive Commissions inquiry,
2) Respond to inquiry,
3) Get details and offer 2-3 Thumbnails of image and ask for half or full payment,
4) Receive payment and which thumb nail they would like me to work on,
5) acknowledge there response, respond in a short while (1-5 days) with a rough sketch,
6) Hear back about changes/things I got wrong, then make those changes and respond with in 7 days,
7) Once rough sketch is approved offer refined sketch for final changes,
8) Make changes and respond with in 7 days,
9) Start line work and update when ever progress is made, may be more than 1 email a day,
10) Check for changes to be made to line work and once approval is given begun flat colour with in a few days,
11) Show flat colour finished and ask if there are any changes needed,
12) Make changes and complete first shading pass,
13) Send progress and ask if there are any changes to be made, if not complete second pass of shading,
14) Send progress and ask if there are any changes, complete/add finishing touches to image/make any changes,
15) Request final half of payment(If required)
16) send final image and as for final changes or details.

This process is taking me ages. Weather its waiting on a response from a commissioner to working on more than one image at a time. It seems like it just takes to long. I offer an other type of commissions in which I only offer one sketch and one shading pass. But even these are starting to take way to long. Really it makes me wonder if it is just me holding my self back and caring to much for the commissioner to be happy? I don't feel like I have a reliable way of keeping a queue with out taking payment upon someones register of interest. As in the past if I add someone to a queue with out taking payment at the time but say, 2-4 days later they have lost interest in getting the image.
Any pointers really would be help full. I've worked on commissions for about 5 years now and have had only one real hick up. But at the same time I worry that it could happen again.

Also, sorry if this is a weird topic. It was just something I had been thinking about a bit.

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( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 21st, 2014 06:12 am (UTC)
I find that streaming commissions is a whole lot faster than making a list like yours. What I do is this.

1. Take slots. Usually three.
2. Tell everyone to note me what they want. With refs, ideas, etc.
3. I read through the notes, quote the price, then start sketching.
3.5. Get paid somewhere in here. It varies. Some pay before finalizing, some after.
4. Get live input from the commissioner as I sketch. Fix this or that. Ink. Colour.
5. Ask for their email. Send the finish piece to them.
6. Move on to next slot.

This all typically takes around..6 hours? More or less anyway, depending on what all the person wants. It helps in that I don't procrastinate because people are watching. And I get it done then and there.

If you have the ability to stream. I recommend it over the typical way to take commissions.
Mar. 21st, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
This is an interesting method. I would love to stream more... but I find that I need to multitask and it is so hard to just work on the drawing and nothing else. XD Also... I tried to set up a picarto account and my stream won't go live for whatever reason. :C
Mar. 22nd, 2014 04:30 am (UTC)
I did try streaming, it kind of worked but... My issue is that I live in GMT+10 time zone, so its hard to be around at a good time for most commissioners with out messing up my own skedaddles.

Thank you for posting what you go through though! Its actually been more helpful than I though to see this kind of thing.
I really agree with the people watching helping with procrastination haha. It can be pretty hard to avoid when just working.
Mar. 24th, 2014 07:17 am (UTC)
You could try offering scheduled slots ahead of time? That way you could give yourself a couple buffer days to fix your schedule. I did that a while ago when working fulltime: open slots during week, stream friday night, use the weekend to reset for work. Obviously some folks may not be able to do that but it worked for me.
Mar. 21st, 2014 06:15 am (UTC)
I've been doing about the exact same routine for about going on 2 years now give or take.

1. Open commissions
2. Note interested client with information I'll need. I.e: Your character(s) reference, poses, scene ect. and I'll also state once the commission is OKed by me, you may send full payment to my pp address as a service.
3. Receive note back usually this only takes a few more notes if everything is accepted. I'll mark their information down on Evernote and reply, "Once payment is received I will mark you down on my agenda."
4. Once payment is confirmed I will then go into my google docs and mark name, commission type, payment made and if there is a deadline or not.
5. I then normally will sketch it up and send it off to them for approval. If changes are needed I make them and if not I go ahead and ink, flat color and shade if that is what they ordered.
6. Once the commission is done I will send a full res file to them(png) and sometimes a FA resized version as well via Dropbox.
7. If commissioner wants changes that I made fault on, I will fix and reupload. If they want extra things added, fees are applied and I go in and add what was requested and than repost.

That's really all that I do. I take on batches normally with my commissions. I will do normally 5-8 sketches in my batches. Then I will send all those off for approval. This takes me roughly 1-2 days to do.
Once approved I will ink, and do flat color commissions first. This takes me another 1-2 days depending.
Then the rest will be shaded and finished as well in possibly a day or 2. In total a batch takes me about a week to go through if nothing bars my time away from working. I work normally 9am-2pm Mon-Fri. And Saturday I work 11-5 or so with Sundays off.
From start to finish on a single commission if the commissioner is prompt on getting back to me in the sketch stage or fixes stage, I can get a commission done in a day or 2 depending obviously on details and amount of content.

Sorry for the long reply. But that's my method of working on things. I haven't really had any upsets in the past 2 years of commissioners walking away unhappy as far as I know. I've had to do changes on things sure, but I try and be as prompt as I can to make sure my other commissions aren't held up for too long.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 04:37 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing your method! Its really been so helpful to see other peoples work flow, its really surprised me.

I do find it interesting that it can only take you a week to get a batch done. I do have other commitments my self, uni and other work, but it sounds like what you have is working for you!
Mar. 21st, 2014 08:18 am (UTC)
Assuming you're working digitally, what is the purpose of doing two passes of shading? I imagine that approval stage could be eliminated, speeding things up.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 04:43 am (UTC)
There are a few reasons for that.
First is that I use photoshop to do all my work and that in its self causes me some issues with getting shading to look smooth, so I do two passes.
The first is shading each colour of the image, eg if theres a character with red white and yellow I colour each with its own colour. Then smooth out the strokes, as best I can, which isnt great.
Then I use purple/blue/green as a base and erase highlights and set it to soft light/overlay what ever feels right after smoothing it out. Thats my second pass.

I am sure I can get away with just the second pass and I do on my "Stream" commission types but it doesn't feel right to offer with my "Full colour" commissions.
If it helps here are examples of the difference:
One shading pass: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/12945531/
Two shading passes [Slightly NSFW nude reference]: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/12584343/
Mar. 21st, 2014 08:54 am (UTC)
I almost always do smaller commissions(icons, colored sketches etc.) because bigger ones often leave me overwhelmed and don't come out the way I want them to, so I often skip the sketch approval stage but give my commissioners the option to ask for a wip if they want one! That being said, I require full payment upfront.
I open via journal slots, usually no more than 5, because again easily overwhelmed. and have people leave their info in the comments, because that makes it easier for me to keep things organized than sifting through notes, although I do note them my paypal. I usually use trello for my queue, it's really useful!
In the times that I have done larger pieces I usually show them the sketch, then inks, and then the final product, but I also offer to stream the whole process because it's easier to have them to nitpick as I go.

I think you could definitely stand to eliminate a few steps to speed up your process! Like the rough sketch stage- if you're commissioner likes the thumbnail you could probably wait until you're at least in the refined sketch stage to show them. That kind of thing varies per customer too I've noticed, because some people will obviously be more picky than others. You could always explain your usual process(ie copypasta those steps to them), and ask for their personal preferences as far as how many WIPs they'd like!
Mar. 22nd, 2014 04:48 am (UTC)
Ah! I don't often get smaller commissions, so I stopped offering them :C
I guess my work flow just isn't conducive to icons and stuff.

I've started using Trello as well. Its great for some of my commissioners! But most of them just don't look at it haha. Its turned out just helpful for me to keep track.

Thats actually a good point! I've in the past sent updates any time I get some work done on an image, especially for full colour multiple character images. But seeing when they would like updates sound like a great idea.

Thank you for taking to time to show how you work! :DDD
Mar. 21st, 2014 10:25 am (UTC)
I don't advertise slots or keep a public commission list, but I do limit my workload. But I also get non-fandom work, so if I had a list would I have to include that and how etc.
I decided it was no-one's business but my own and keep my to-do list private. I don't usually have a lot of customers at once so I don't take very long, and if they're wondering about progress they can just e-mail me.

If people ask me for a commission, we'll discuss what they want and if they want a sketch or lineart or colour etc. and I give them a price. I don't start work until after I've received money , 50% if the price is over 50 Euro. If they only have a vague idea for the pose I'll sometimes do a few thumbnails and customers invariably choose my least favorite :3
(I'm kidding, I omit any thumbnails I wouldn't want to work on)
Then I produce a sketch; this is when customers can ask for changes, before the inking stage. This is also when I ask for the remainder of the payment if they didn't pay in full up front. Then I finish inking/colouring/shading etc.
I'll still go back and fix things afterwards if -I- messed up, but that's pretty much the process.

Waiting for customers to respond is a time consuming thing, not to mention stressful. Especially if it takes a while and you're left to wonder "Did they like it? Did they hate it and want to wipe my lineage from the face of the Earth? What's taking so long?" so it helps to give them a certain window of opportunity for feedback; at this stage, send regular reminders if they take a while. I usually send one every 3 days.
Which might sound un-customer-friendly? But I've not had any issues with it; just let them know beforehand so they know what they're getting into. And you can also give -more- leniency on the rule, you just can't make your TOS more strict while you're doing the commission.

Personally I don't do streams anymore due to timezones and unrelated demands on my time and finding a time that's good for both of us and being a boring artist to watch while I'm working and the fact I've had people micromanage me to the extent that they were telling me to move something a few millimeters to the left, a few millimeters to the right, a few millimeters to the left, a few millimeters to the right, a few millimeters to the left, a few millimeters to the right "I'm going to charge extra for the additional changes past this point" perfect!
Mar. 22nd, 2014 04:59 am (UTC)
Haha, I have to say, I do find they like to choose the one you lest want them to choose when it comes to thumbnails.

I have a feeling this is where I am messing up. I send the commissioner the liines/flats ect to see if I got anything wrong but word it as if there are "any changes to be made". Reading through all these process it seems this keeps coming up.

Ah That actually sounds like a really good idea, I've been just waiting 7 days before sending another email. It has been a bit like pulling teeth with some people. More so if there is more than one persons character in the image.

Time zones are a huge issue for me. I'm in GMT+10 and it sucks to try and be up at 6 in the morning just to get all of my commissioners afternoon/evening.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 11:00 pm (UTC)
"Haha, I have to say, I do find they like to choose the one you lest want them to choose when it comes to thumbnails."

Hah yeah, it happens a lot. Like, a lot.

And you have to find a comfortable balance between making the customer feel like their input is welcomed and that you can work together, and not letting yourself get micromanaged. At some point a customer will have to trust your abilities as an artist, and you have to be confident enough to allow it; they're coming to you for the art.
Mar. 21st, 2014 12:41 pm (UTC)
This all sounds pretty good to me, honestly. Very similiar to what I do. However I make it clear to the commissioner they are only allowed a few changes per stage, and need to tell me all upfront so its not several spaced out emails of things they 'forgot to mention'. Having everything mentioned in as few emails as possible is very helpful.
Another thing is to put down a time-frame of response for both of you, not just yourself. So, say, its taking up to three or four weeks for them to respond, give them a warning, and if there is still no response refund them the amount up to what you have already completed work wise.
That usually speeds up response times from people.

Another idea is perhaps try taking on Wing-it commissions on the side, and just a few of your regular service commissions. Wing-its are basically a free-reign thing, and I personally do not give WIPs. It makes the process a LOT faster. Only time I ever make changes is if I missed something major on the character, and the client knows this going into it. c:
Mar. 22nd, 2014 05:05 am (UTC)
Oh I am glad I am not the only one who works like that. I do have it in my TOS that I only make a few changes. Though I find my self going over them to make the commissioner happy...

Ah I have a personal time frame so this sounds like a good idea! My time frame is 7 days, if there isn't a response from me some things wrong and there is something holding me up. But I don't have anything for my costumers.

I feel very worried with commissions like this. All the bad experiences I have had getting art come from this kind of artistic freedom image. Theres always no way to fix it as well.
I feel like this with pay what you want type commissions to. Its all kind of foreign and a worry to me.
Mar. 21st, 2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
Personally, I keep my queue small. Usually three or four pieces is what I'll work on at a time, since I know those smaller numbers are manageable. If I do an auction or a custom piece, I will print out the Paypal invoice, add it to my commission binder, and have the person's info on each invoice in my binder. I require payment in full up front, and the individuals know this before we continue. Since I don't have an official TOS right now, I also explain my terms.

I give them a general timeframe of when they can expect it to be completed, and also let them know there will be frequent updates. I generally update commissioners once each stage to approve things (I find it's easier to fix mistakes or make changes that way). For one especially difficult commission I'm doing now (very complex characters), I've been updating the commissioner more frequently (when I do shading for their character, when I do shading for the other one, when I add the markings, ect). I find that keeping the individual involved leads to a happier experience for both. And even though I have surpassed the original estimate I gave this commissioner (one week), they have not had any issues, since they know I am working on it, and that I am making sure I am giving them the best product I can produce. I've found over the years that communication is crucial in this business.

At the end, I'll usually email off the final product, and thank them for commissioning me.
Mar. 21st, 2014 03:13 pm (UTC)
1. Open for commissions. Absolute max 5, usually 3, except for convention pre-order badges.
2. Get enquiries. Answer emails, ask for further details if required, establish what the customer wants.
3. Request full payment.
4. Sketch, send sketch. Maybe thumbnails if I'm feeling that. No pre-sketches are shown for badges/icons/sketches unless requested. All markings/details should be shown in the sketch, customer should be asked to check these are ok.
5. Get reply. Make any requested corrections or re-sketch.
6. Have corrections approved. Maybe go through this a few times (upto my limit as specified in ToS, almost never an issue). Inform customer I will be back in touch when it's done.
7. Ink. No inking/lineart is shown unless requested.
8. Colour.
9. Send off final image/scan to the customer.
10. Make any last adjustments if required. Otherwise send off original art or hi-res file. Done!

Just be sure to communicate well in your emails and most importantly, if you have ANY doubts about what the customer wants - clarify it. People do not mind being asked to clarify. Discuss things as much as you need to before going anywhere near the art. If anything, customers like your involvement and interest in their idea.

I've been at this 10 years at the end of this year and the above process has yet to fail me. :3
Mar. 21st, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
I do only sketch commissions, which are "what you see is what you get". I'll only do color repairs and any MAJOR character mistakes on my part.

1. Open slots. Ask clients to leave info in the comments.
2. Confirm I will do the art. Remind them it's pay on completion.
3. Do the work.
4. Post a heavily watermarked "UNPAID" version to them. Give them my payment details.
5. Once payment is confirmed, then I will change the "UNPAID" version to the full res untouched version.
Mar. 21st, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
looks like you got boatloads of examples of processes on here, so i won't add mine :o

but i will say that if you feel like your process is taking too long, clearly you're not getting paid enough! maybe consider raising your prices or charging by the hour you work? At least this way all those extra steps won't be for nothing.
Mar. 21st, 2014 05:08 pm (UTC)
For the most part...

1- Customer contacts me to ask about commission.
2- I answer and tell them to send me refs and a pose idea.
3- I look over what they have sent and if I have any questions I will ask them if not I will tell them either that I will email them again when I get to them on my list to send payment or to please send their payment right away to my PayPal. It depends on if I have a queue. I only ask people to pay when I am about to start work on their picture.
4- I draw a loose stickman drawing for the basic pose and send it for approval.
5- Once I get the go ahead, I flesh it out a little more and send that off.
6. When I am good to go, I finish it. Although, some people just tell me to do whatever I want so I can skip sending them the sketch phases.
7- Typically I will send them the drawing first to look at and when they respond I will post it in my galleries.

(edit: I don't normally even have a list of customers but once I start working on a picture it is usually done by the next evening... usually in the same day, but it depends on how much interaction with the customer I need to have and how fast they respond.)

I do slightly different methods for other commission types though.

For YCH style commissions, I get to my fleshed out (but not detailed of course) sketch phase and post it for sale. When someone (or someones) want it, I tell them to Note me their reference. I respond to the note with any questions I have and tell them to send payment to my PayPal. I wait for payment to come through, then I finish the image and post it in my galleries. I will only do minor tweaks if I've made a character error or if it is easy... like recently I changed one guys expression twice because the first time he looked to rapey and the second time too derpy. They were easy so I didn't mind.

For my long running comics... One guy sends me some thumbnail pages and his payment and is okay with me getting them done whenever I have time. The other guy is getting the story he has written turned into a comic. He gives me the freedom to adapt it as I see fit. I just draw two pages every Sunday and email them to him and he sends payment soon thereafter. Those two customers are the best ever. :) I've never really had to do any changes on their comic pages except once or twice when I've accidentally used the Canadian/UK spelling on words instead of the American spelling like they would prefer.

Edited at 2014-03-21 05:14 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Mar. 21st, 2014 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2014 07:21 am (UTC)
This, along with a 'no major changes after the sketch phase' rule. Something like adding lace or a minor adjustment, sure - redoing whole sections? Nope. Sketch is the last stop for that!
Mar. 21st, 2014 11:59 pm (UTC)
It sounds like you may be e-mailing too often for progress, as you're hanging yourself up (and e-mailing more than once a day) with long waiting periods. I am unsure why you would need to check for sketch approval again after the rough sketch is approved, since that should permit you to go on to the line art; but I am not familiar with your work. It sounds to me what you really need is a greater sense of confidence in your work and your working method.

Most of the work I take on is what-you-see-is-what-you-get, with no approval stages, as they are only by-the-hour sketches. For larger projects the amount of correspondence between me and my client will depend largely on how much of a hand the client wants in the work. Often, all a customer wants is to approve the sketch and the final line art, and after that I send them the finished product with colour.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 12:14 am (UTC)
what I do:
1. open commissions
2. client notes me with ref and info
3. accept and ask for payment
4. roughly sketch out a scene and pose
5. ask what client think of pose (and background if applies)
6. if approved, clean up the sketch go straight to linework and flat colors
7. ask what client thinks of ANYTHING; anatomy, missing items, colors, etc, etc.
8. make corrections and apply shading
9. send image telling them this is the last chance to make any changes before sending off the file.
10. make changes if any; if not finalize pic, adding last minute details if any
11. send image file.

This is simple and fast, I can work on the image in longer periods of time without having to stop and note the client so often. I also offer free minor edits even after I send the file. That way everyone's happy.
Mar. 22nd, 2014 03:15 pm (UTC)
Here's how I normally go about doing commissions (for public commissions; private ones are handled in a similar fashion, but through email).

1 - set up a number of slots and set a price/character limit per slot.
2 - if someone claims a slot; I ask them to note me with details.
3 - if I'm comfortable with the details, I request for the payment to be made in full before starting any work.*
4 - once the sketch is completed, I upload the sketch for the commissioner's approval and make edits, if necessary (5 free edits - after that, I start charging $1 for every additional edit).
5 - when the sketch meets the commissioner's approval, I ink and color the piece according to the commissioner's specifics and upload the image when it's finished.

* I used to only accept payments after the sketch was approved, but after a few incidents where the commissioner suddenly came up with emergency bills or disappeared entirely, I switched to payment upfront (or half upfront with commissioners I trust).

Mar. 23rd, 2014 01:43 am (UTC)
Taking a smattering of different kinds of commissions sucks up a surprising amount of my time. I like to do them in lots. I'll open up for badges and have anyone who is interested fill out a submission form with species, refs, etc. along with their paypal email and have them mail or note it to me. I then save a list of links to their forms in a google docs for easy retrieval. When I feel like I have the time or the jones to take on a few commissions I'll send them a paypal money request. I then do the commissions that day or the next. That way nobody is out money for a long time and I never feel bogged down by too many commissions at once. for those people who are later in the list, number #10 and up, say, I'll send them a quick note telling them that they have a big queue ahead of them so it might be a little while before they get the paypal request, just so they know.

For sketches I send out 5 invoices at a time, do the work, and scan and send all 5 sketches at once. It saves a great deal of time and stress to do this rather than send them one by one. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I'm such a nervous pervous about waiting for emails.

I agree with those above that said that you are sending too many progress shots. For me, breaking my work up to send progress images takes an enormous amount of energy. Waiting for feedback is draining. For huge complicated paintings I'll send progress at: thumbnails, sketch, maybe a half-point in coloring. Requests to change the lineart *have* to be made during the sketching stage. It takes more time and energy to send more progress shots than that than it would be to fix anything later on.

I've gotten all bogged down in the past and what worked for me best was having a set number of hours of solid work time on several projects and then sending them for review at (and only at) the end of the work day. I don't know if you have the same kind of neurotic messaging hangups that I have though :P

Edited at 2014-03-23 01:44 am (UTC)
Mar. 23rd, 2014 07:17 am (UTC)
I don't get commissions often, but I love working on them!

1 - Open commissions (no more than 5 at a time)
2 - Get all the information from commissioner, and ask questions if things need more references or clarification.
3 - If it's anything over $20, I ask for half of the payment up front.
4 - Work on a sketch once payment has been made.
5 - Show sketch to commissioner for approval.
6 - Adjust what needs to be adjusted, show for approval again.
7 - Once approved, ask for the rest of the payment.
8 - Once payment has been made, I finish the commission.
9 - Send commissioner non-watermarked version and a smaller watermarked version if they want it in their gallery, upload watermarked version to my gallery.
Mar. 23rd, 2014 05:54 pm (UTC)
My method
1. Open for commissions

2. Note the interested client.

3. Gather the total price

4. Only accept payment once I present them with a sketch of the finished piece.

5. Start requesting for any changes and color palette.

6. Once picture is done, I only post it up by their request and I give them a non-water marked version.

Edited at 2014-03-23 05:55 pm (UTC)
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