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Advice on Client Miscommunication

I've had this happened more frequently than not and was wondering how to take action on cases like this.

Sometimes a client will give me artistic freedom with a theme for the image. I produce it, and it's not what they had in mind at all and want it redone. Usually it is sketch commissions or at the sketch stages that they find this out obviously, but by that point I've wasted time and effort. I don't want to have an unhappy client, but it's also not fair to me when I was given the freedom to do what I want.

Additionally, when a client leaves out a crucial detail and the sketch isn't what they were expecting. (In both cases, the edits usually require a whole new sketch.)

I don't want to fully refund them since they did get a sketch regardless and I feel it's on the client for miscommunication or not remembering the details of something they'd like. At the same time, I feel like refusing to redo the piece will cause them to request a refund.

Any advice or has anyone dealt with this type of situation and reached an agreement?

Thank you everyone for the advice! :D

I think in this case I will offer them a new sketch as a one-time only correction due to my lack of ToS -or- a partial refund. If they accept the new sketch I will use the old one as a YCH. In the future I will be making a clearly defined ToS to deal with this I think implementing several ideas you have suggested. ^^

I appreciate the help so so so much! It has made me feel much better about this situation and how to handle it if it happens again.

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( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 1st, 2015 02:35 am (UTC)
Two steps I'd take in that situation:
1. explain, very explicitly, that artistic freedom means that they don't get to make corrections unless you missed a detail you were given. I strongly expect that this misunderstanding has more to do with them not understanding, or being lazy. The first you can fix. The second is to be firm that they messed up, not you.

2. If the above doesn't work, only offer artistic freedom commissions to those you know can handle it.
Oct. 1st, 2015 03:15 am (UTC)
The easiest way to fix this is to not do 'artistic freedom' commissions. Most of the cases I've seen where a commissioner says that, it's actually code for 'I don't know what I want, but I do know what I DON'T want, but you're going to have to guess what that is.' Personally, I don't have time to waste with people who don't know what they want, and I don't have time to sit and tease it out of them with a billion revisions*. If someone says 'artistic freedom' to me, I tell them to come back when they've figured out what they want, so I can make sure they'll be happy with their product.

If someone still insists that I be given freedom to do whatever, then I tell them they lose all rights to revisions. Meaning the only art they see from me is the final product, and if they don't like it, well, that's just how the cookie crumbles.

This isn't being mean or rude. This is being practical with your business.

*I also only do a limited number of revisions in the sketch stage of certain types of commissions for free, more after that costs the commissioner. Some types of commissions, I don't do edits at all unless it is a major mistake that I overlooked in the info the commissioner gave me. If they never told me something to begin with, tough.

ETA: As it appears your question is how to resolve a current situation rather than a hypothetical future one...?
I would tell them that artistic freedom means exactly that: you, the artist, get the freedom to do what you want. If they wanted something specific, they needed to tell you at the beginning. Otherwise, by definition, they don't get a say in what you come up with. If they are really super unsatisfied, I'd offer a partial refund, depending on how much work you did.
If you made it to a finished piece, honestly I wouldn't refund them anything unless you missed a detail in the information they originally gave you.

Edited at 2015-10-01 03:53 am (UTC)
Oct. 1st, 2015 09:52 pm (UTC)
Yes. The only time I like doing 'artistic freedom' is with my YCH images. Then I can draw whatever theme/pose I want and then if someone wants it, they know what they are getting. It is also why the cost of my YCH images is lower than my regular things... 'cause with the regular things, I take into account all of the back-and-forth with the client.
Oct. 1st, 2015 11:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah I pretty much only do 'artistic freedom' on icons, 'cause there's not a whole lot of room to get those things wrong no matter what :p.
Oct. 2nd, 2015 07:58 am (UTC)
Same here. That's pretty much the only reason I do YCHs. It's my brand of artistic freedom. :P

The only other time I do artistic freedom commissions is when I'm doing them for a close friend. If someone tells me to go with artistic freedom otherwise, I warn them that it's very possible they'll end up with a generic pinup style pose because I can't know everyones' preferences.
Oct. 1st, 2015 03:59 am (UTC)
Are your sketch commissions usually wing-its? Or do you expect more detail and most of your commissioners are like 'i like this general idea, have some artistic freedom with it!'?

If you explicitly state that your sketches will take liberties with themes or poses, and your commissioners still end up unhappy, that is kind of on them? I've commissioned people here and there for wing-its or themed things that require minimal input from a commissioner, so the artist ends up drawing what they feel flows best for them while capturing the character pretty nicely.

It goes over pretty well, and on the off-chance that someone's unhappy, it can be pointed out that the nature of the commission was to take liberties with the subject, there's a warning label attached, and unless you explicitly miss a major detail from their reference, its kind of on them?

At least thats how I view the wing-it deal in commissioning them, and seeing streams where thats the theme.

With bigger commissions and you're simply showing a sketch idea for something you've been given artistic freedom on, if they're unhappy, offer like one revision, and if they require more, thats when you charge more for the additional work, because its just not fair to you to constantly redraw if they're not sure what they actually want out of you.

Work has been produced, so you aren't obligated to refund unless you feel like offering partial as compensation. But that's up to you. A full refund I would see as appropriate if you just want to wash your hands of the person, re-purpose the sketch and never work with that particular client again.

But that's a bit of an extreme example o:
Oct. 1st, 2015 03:34 pm (UTC)
"Since I was given artistic freedom, I'd be willing to go back and rework the piece for an additional $5 (or $10, or whatever) payable upfront."

I have sketches and colour work commissions that are strictly "no changes made unless I miss something from the ref" and only twice - twice! - have I had to ask for this fee, and the customer was fine with it both times. I think as long as you are clear before and after that changes will not be made for free, most customers understand. It's a good plan to have more typical commissions with limited revisions allowed for those who know they are more exacting and will need the changes.
Oct. 1st, 2015 04:48 pm (UTC)
I send forms for my commissioners to fill out when I take their information, it makes it way easier to have everything I need. I ran into the same problem you have, so I now add this on the form:

"I do offer Artistic Freedom! But I much prefer partial, where you give me guidelines to work from. Example: Shy, dress. I will then make a clothing design and pose based on these guidelines.

Important: I need to be told ahead of time if you dislike certain things, like sideviews or certain emotions. If you let me come up with the pose and decide after a sketch you dislike the pose type I won't be able to fix this for you. Please be as clear as you can from the beginning."

So far, this has helped immensely. It won't prevent things every time, but it usually helps make them think more about what they want. And like my message says, I do recommend doing partial freedom, it happens less that commissioners dislike it when they do know what they're getting, but not actual pose.

Also! You don't have to do this, but it's something I've started doing and it helps with this a lot and in general helps with the art; Do multiple gesture sketches. Quick doodles, meant to find a pose, not be a finished sketch that looks like the character. I usually do at least two. Then you give it to them to pick, or say you can pick if they'd like. This really cuts down on them disliking the pose in the end! And they like having a say in it, while it's still you who came up with it.

Here's an example: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/17755344/
And another gesture: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/17475999/
With the final: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/17486879/
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 1st, 2015 10:00 pm (UTC)
Ya, sure! You can add or take out things based on what you need and shorten it. It is a bit long, but I need all this info so it works well.

"Hi there,

Thank you so much for commissioning me! Can you please fill out this form? It makes it way easier to get complete info this way.

1. Paypal Email Address:
2. Commission Type:
3. Do you need me to note you when I send an email?
Please only respond back by email. This option is for those who don't check email often, but do check FA, so they can get a response out quicker.

4. Character References:
Please limit to 3-4 images maximum per character
5. Are the references inaccurate in any way?:
6. Character Species
7. Desired pose/expression/theme
8. Clothing

Other Info

I do offer Artistic Freedom! But I much prefer partial, where you give me guidelines to work from. Example: Shy, dress. I will then make a clothing design and pose based on these guidelines.

Important: I need to be told ahead of time if you dislike certain things, like sideviews or certain emotions. If you let me come up with the pose and decide after a sketch you dislike the pose type I won't be able to fix this for you. Please be as clear as you can from the beginning."
Oct. 2nd, 2015 08:08 am (UTC)
Ahh this thread is giving so many good ideas. I love that you have an "are the references inaccurate in any way?" section.
Oct. 2nd, 2015 06:03 pm (UTC)
It seriously helps so much. It doesn't always help of course, but people never tell me if anything is wrong if I don't ask. It's a pet peeve when they say -I- made a mistake when they never told me.

But ya, it really helps! Most people, it just slips their mind, so this way it gets them thinking.
Oct. 1st, 2015 04:51 pm (UTC)
Offer a lower priced "wing it" tier where NO revisions are included (unless you actually miss something from their reference.) Steer the artistic freedom people this direction, and make sure they understand the rules.

Your regular commission tier should cost more. Be clear about how many revisions are included in the price (2? 3? It's up to you, but pick a number and stick to it) and what the charge is for revisions beyond that. This is for the more particular clients.

This eliminates most issues like you describe, IME.
Oct. 1st, 2015 08:57 pm (UTC)
This. Commissioners shouldn't buy artistic freedom commissions if they want something specific. As someone who has bought artistic freedom commissions, I don't expect the artist to do any revisions - it's in the name after all. I also agree that regular commissions should cost more and have limited revisions - you don't want to be stuck redrawing sketches because the commissioner is revising their character every time they see the sketch.
Oct. 1st, 2015 07:00 pm (UTC)
I think the most important bases have been touched upon earlier. But just wanted to put in something that have helped me a bit.

I buy a ton of artistic freedom coms. And on the off chance I'm not happy, usually I just say thanks and not comission them again - but what greatly improved my happiness rating (it was very high already, so it was hard xD ) was the addition of a comission form. Like "important details" " favorite item / pass time". "Absolute hate/no go ". I also feel like this will give more confidence to the artists as the freedom is still there, but there is also guideance points
Oct. 2nd, 2015 08:04 am (UTC)
I do encourage people to let me know if there are important items, hobbies or character traits that might help me "get to know" the character I'm drawing, but I never thought to put an "absolutely not" category as well. HMM.
Oct. 1st, 2015 09:24 pm (UTC)
artistic freedom commissions are my bread and butter and pretty much all that I offer to my clients.

that being said, the best way to avoid these kinds of conflicts or miscommunications is to be really clear about just what it is that you're offering and what the client will receive. my own commissions follow the this exact format:

A free-form, artistic freedom image based upon provided character references and a brief prompt.
The compressed, full res copy of your image, 1600x1400, give or take, JPG by default, can supply PNG upon request.

Send us a note with the following info:
Character name:
Character description: We prefer visual references, if you do not have a reference sheet, a collection of images works just as well!
Image prompt: a brief idea or train of thought for the artist to work off of. It can be a couple of words, a phrase, a photo, a song, or similar.
Other: Character temperament, history, etc- these are also taken into account when depicting your characters.

this moreorless covers all of my bases and has stopped anyone from requesting a redo of their entire piece.

when it comes to resolving these situations, it's just having to put your foot down, point out the nature of the commission, and then offer the client some options to help fix the situation. since you did the commission as per their parameters, a full refund would be unfair to you and pretty much letting the client have a free sketch on behalf of their mistake. what you can do is offer a redraw with compensation for your time and just politely explain the situation. if it's in terms of character details that the client omitted but ended up really wanting, you can also ask if you can just modify the original sketch to include the missing details without having to redo the pose, composition, etc.

ultimately, I feel that if the mistake is on the client's end, they're not entitled to anything more than a partial refund at the most and that if they want an entirely new image, they have to compensate you for your time in doing so. for the most part, at least from my personal experience, clients are pretty cool when the process is explained clearly and politely to them and without any kind of guilt-tripping. mistakes do happen and the client needs to know that this one is on them and that for future commissions, it helps to have a word document or something on hand that contains all of their character details so that nothing gets left out and these situations don't occur again.
Oct. 1st, 2015 10:09 pm (UTC)
Very very very explicitly state what “artistic freedom” means and make sure that they understand it, and if what you produce is not satisfactory to the customer then politely re-state what “artistic freedom” means and remind them gently that they agreed to it. If they’re still not satisfied with it, they can commission someone else in the future because they’re not entitled to a refund, neither full nor partial.

If there’s a mistake on my part (such as missing details, items, jewelry, etc. that was provided but that I overlooked) then I provide edits free of charge, but if the mistake is on their end (they didn’t give me the right references, forgot to tell me something, etc.) then they have to pay extra for it. Two edits is usually all I’ll allow depending on the size/complexity of the changes – otherwise I’m putting in more work than it’s worth.

Typically commissions that are based on artistic freedom and wing-its are cheaper than my normal commissions because of their nature, and unless it’s a mistake on my end I do not offer revisions or edits.

But there are times when a client just cannot be satisfied even though you’ve explained and they’ve previously agreed to the artistic freedom/wing-it comm, and so you just gotta put on your Professional Face and stand firm.
Oct. 2nd, 2015 02:57 am (UTC)
Very easy fix... if they say they're giving you artistic freedom, tell them that that means there will be no pose resketches, no tweaks, only changes made in regards to the character's design itself (ie oh shes thinner, he has five fingers not four etc). If they aren't willing to accept that, then they will have to give you art direction!

Oct. 2nd, 2015 07:59 am (UTC)
In the case of people telling me they don't like one of my sketches, I re-sell it to someone else [changing the sketch to fit the new person's character, of course]. I either re-draw the first person's sketch or I refund them, depending on whether I think it's a case of "they can't be pleased" or not.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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