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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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Mar. 17th, 2017 12:32 am (UTC)
Agreeing with what others have already kind of said in which even if you're not specifically asking for payment for labor itself, payment for materials is still payment. Therefore you aren't working for free, you're really just kind of stiffing yourself.

The thing I kind of want to add here is that... with a long term commission (and I have no idea how long it takes you to complete these, so these are just numbers I'm pulling out of thin air here) you run the risk of people falling out of interest of the thing they're commissioning you for, as well as their life changing dramatically.

From what I've seen (and I'm not a part of the fursuit community personally, so I could be wrong) I typically see people waiting anywhere between 3-6 months comfortably, and then getting a little uncomfortable around 6-12 months, and more often than not getting anxious and losing their spark for the commission anything 12+ months.

A year ago from now for me, I had different friends, I was into different things / fandoms, had different goals, and my living situation even included a few less bills. Other people may also face similar or more drastic life changes. So I think that's something to take into consideration when you're worried about people wanting to cancel on you.

(TLDR; There is a possibility with the longer you take on a commission, the less interest the commissioner has in purchasing it. If you're charging any fee, even if not for labor, you should be taking the commission professionally, and that includes in a reasonable time frame IMO. If you'd not like to have a time constraint, I suggest making parts that aren't measurement specific and selling those after you finish, that way the interest in each piece is fresh and you're less likely to get dropped by the commissioner.)
Mar. 18th, 2017 01:52 am (UTC)
I have done the occasional fursuit piece, but most of what I have built are cosplay components and props. The longest project took 2 months. I do give the client time estimates and I do my best to meet them, but unfortunately my guesses are sometimes inaccurate (thankfully nothing major so far). I also sometimes need to prioritize other things over cosplay like my day job. I was hoping that free labor was enough to compensate the risk my clients take that their project could be late, but it's not working out very well xD I guess by "timely" I meant a guaranteed delivery date which I don't feel comfortable offering just yet.

Clearly I have a different understanding of what's reasonable in terms of timelines in this community. At work I have to give my manager firm deadlines and meet them. How do professionals costumers handle time quotes? How strict do they need to be?


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