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Edit: I derped up with wording, so editing to clarify |D

So I have posted here before with advice about specific clients, but this is the fourth time someone has backed out on me after agreeing to (and starting!) a project. I should mention that my commission process is highly unusual; at the moment, I only charge for materials and offer labor for free. I have a couple reasons for this: first, since I am still learning I don't feel that I can offer accurate time quotes. I do give a time range that the project will be complete (usually a few weeks, although it depends on the project), but I don't feel comfortable setting hard deadlines. This is not to say I won't consistently work on the project, but I don't want to make a promise I may not be able to keep. Hence I compensate my clients for this risk by discounting labor.  Second, these commissions are great learning experiences in terms of timing myself and figuring out how to give accurate quotes for both materials and time. I also favor clients who attend conventions more than I do because hey, free advertising! Finally, the money they save on labor is more money we can put towards high quality materials, and I much prefer to work that way. Sometimes I will have the client purchase tools as a small compensation for labor, but it's not always necessary.
They get a commission at a steep discount in exchange for giving me the opportunity to experiment and build my portfolio.

So far I have worked exclusively with friends. I'm hesitant to open these to the great wide internet because frankly, I'm putting out a ton of effort for these projects and I want to work with people I trust. I thought working for friends would be less risky, but apparently not. Most recently, I had someone back out of a full body cosplay because he spontaneously decided to move across the country and no longer has the money to spend. This is fine except I've already put in 13.5 hours into research and pattern drafting.

I'm not sure if what I'm asking for is even possible, but I'm wondering if there is a way to offer these sort of commissions outside my group of friends without getting burned. For starters I'm thinking of requesting all material funds up front instead of letting people do payment plans, and I’m also considering a cancelation fee. I don’t know how to figure out a cancellation fee, but maybe that will make people take it more seriously. To be honest I’m kind of confused that this is happening; every time someone takes one of my bigger projects to a convention I get notes asking about commissions, so I assume my quality of work is at least OK? I just wanna build cool cosplays, and I want to do it so badly that I’ll give away my time.

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Comments

snowhawk
Mar. 16th, 2017 10:00 pm (UTC)
" I only charge for materials and offer labor for free. I have a couple reasons for this: first, I work full time and am financially comfortable, so I don't need the extra money right now. Fully paid commissions obligate me to work for the client and get things done in a timely manner, and I'd rather have flexibility in how I choose to spend my free time."

Okay. No. I have seen this to much.

Wether you are charging for labor or not is on you. If the client is buying materials, that is their payment. If you don't charge labor, and if you don't charge them upfront for the materials, then that is also on you.

When you take a paid commission, wether it be materials or materials and labor, or as a trade, you are obligated to get it done within a reasonable time for the commissioner. If you consider yourself professional or it as a job or not is irrelevant, because you have made it a job, which you should be doing professionally, by taking payment. The fact they might be friends is irrelevant.

If you can't afford them to flake on you, then get payment upfront, or at the least, make them buy the materials. Over-estimate what will be needed, and anything extra goes to the client with their completed commission.

If you want the clients to be accountable and you do not want to charge labor, then make them buy materials. Otherwise, realize you are on the hook for all unpaid work.
rebeccaannoying
Mar. 17th, 2017 05:41 am (UTC)
What I meant by timely manner was that if I were to be taking commissions for income purposes, I would be needing to devote more than evenings and weekends which I cannot do with a 40 hr/week job. Because of this, a project may take 2-3x longer than what I could deliver when I had more free time. P The commissioner is ALWAYS made aware that I will be working on their projects on evenings and weekends in my spare time, and sometimes my spare time needs to go to other things. For example work has kept me 3-4 hours late every evening for the past week, so I haven't had time to source a laser cutter. I do give them a rough estimate so they aren't completely in the dark, but I also have to warn them that it may take longer. ersonally I don't consider this timely. I should also clarify that I don't use this as an excuse to work on at my whim, and I do my best to finish in the best time that I can. There just needs to be zero ambiguity about the fact that I cannot promise a hard deadline.

As a side note, I have never purchased materials from my own pocket; usually I send links to the commissioner and they order for me. There were some sales happening and I was able to shave almost 10% off the total costume cost by jumping on them quickly. I can return all but $40 of the materials, and he will refund me that much.

Edited at 2017-03-18 01:38 am (UTC)
ljmydayaway
May. 6th, 2017 06:32 pm (UTC)
I highly recommend just making your own designs and selling them on FA or via auction. Don't get into doing commissions until you can devote enough time to it and get it done in a reasonable time frame.

This way, you can work on your own schedule without people dropping out, and build up your portfolio.

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