Taking crafting commissions
Note: I’m writing this with crafting commissions in mind, since that’s my area of expertise. I imagine that some things could also apply to other kind of commissions, but I make no promises
Accepting commissions is very different from opening a store in a lot of ways, so I decided to write a separate article for it. However, a lot of what I explained in the article "Introduction to setting up your store" also applies to taking commissions, so make sure to read that article too!
What is a commission?
A commission is when a client pays you to create a specific craft with their idea or instructions.
How is a commission different from sales in my store?
When you sell something in your store, people are buying your work. When you accept a commission, people are hiring you to do some work for them. A lot of personal communication, feedback and compromise is needed. Your commissioner essentially becomes your boss until they receive their commission
Commissions are a lot more difficult than plain sales because you’re interacting directly with your commissioner and you’re working with their idea, it’s your duty to fulfill their vision and dream. People will be expecting a lot more from a commission, and often they will ask you to craft things that you’ve never tried before. They are a great opportunity to push your limits!
A lot of times the commission will be something very personal: a memento of a dead friend, a gift for a special someone, that piece of jewelry they want to wear in their wedding but couldn’t find anywhere. People will often tell you beautiful or sad stories behind the commission they want you to do.
I’ve gotten very emotional about some commissions to the point where I couldn’t finish them without crying. That’s the main reason why I love doing custom commissions: I’m honored that they let me be part of something so important for them and I get to know my clients better, but it’s a very stressing situation for other artists I’ve met, so they prefer not to take commissions. Decide wisely before you start accepting custom commissions, they take a lot more from you as an artist and as a person.
What do I need to accept commissions?
You’ll need a lot of what I already mentioned in my previous article (a way to accept payments, a good reputation, knowledge in pricing your work, etc). You’ll also need good communication skills to understand what your client wants, some mind reading skills to understand what they can’t put into words, and lots of patience!
Make sure that you’re already pretty good in your craft of choice, commissions are not the best opportunity to practice! A lot of times there’s a deadline, and the expectations are always high. Also, keep in mind that working on a commission is usually more time consuming, so decide if you have enough free time to start accepting custom commissions.
How do I start accepting commissions?
Advertise! Don’t wait until people ask you if you’re taking commissions, write a journal advertising that you’re accepting commissions with some samples of your work, estimate prices and rules. Put a link in your profile and signature, write it down in your Facebook page, do anything it takes to let people know that you’re accepting commissions. But don’t spam!
Provide a way for people to contact you with their idea, either by note, message or email. Answer them quickly and be very polite, answer any questions they may have, ask all the questions you need until you know what they want. Very specific or complicate designs may require some references, so it’s okay to ask them for some color swatches, sketches, or additional instructions. Send them back some sketches and additional ideas until you’re both satisfied and happy with the commission.
Once you know what they want you to do, decide a price. This is why it’s so important to be a master of your craft, otherwise you won’t know how much work or materials it’ll take you to complete the commission. If you charge too little you’ll end up loosing time and money, if you charge too much your client may walk away. There’s no rules or shortcuts here, you’ll need to learn from experience with your craft and materials, good luck!
If your client accepts your price (don’t let them haggle you down! Respect your work and time) decide a payment method, complete the commission and send it. If you think you can do it all over again, accept more commissions and repeat.
What do you mean I need rules for my commission?
Yes you do! There’s some things you may not want to craft (ie gore), some things that you can’t craft because they’re above your skill level, or things that you don’t want to craft simply because you don’t like it (ie MLP). Be very clear and concise, so that your clients have a good idea of what they can commission you to do.
As part of your rules write down your preferred payment method, the best way to contact you, your estimated delivery times, your limitations, etc. It’s common for some people to ask other artists to duplicate items or styles created by a different artist, but cheaper. SAY NO TO COPYING SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK!! It hurts all of us, so I beg you to write it down in your rules and reject those kind of commissions.
When do I get paid?
The rule of thumb is that you should get at least part of the money before you begin working on any commission. There’s a lot of factors that decide how much to ask upfront including your reputation, the final price for your item, the cost of buying the materials, etc.
I think that every crafter should ask for at least 50% upfront. When the work is done, send them a photo with the finished piece, get the rest of the money, and send them the finished piece. This is the most basic model in which both the artist and client are protected. If you begin working without payment, there’s a good chance that the client will flee and you’ll end up stuck with a custom piece that you may not be able to sell again. If you ask for part of the payment upfront, even if they flee you’ll have some money to make up for your loses. It should be pretty obvious, but never send an item without receiving the full payment!
If the final price for the commission is cheap, or if you’re a respected and well known artist, you may ask for the full payment upfront. For more expensive commissions I find that it’s a good idea to offer the option of paying in two steps, it’ll be less of a burden and they’ll be more likely to accept your price. Check what other artists in your line of work are doing and what works best for them.
A final word about commissions
When you decide to take commissions, keep in mind that you’ll be working with your client’s wishes and ideas, and your main goal is to make them happy. But you need to be happy about your work too, so don’t compromise your style or integrity in the process. You’re an artist! Be proud of your work.
If you’re lucky, your client will only have an idea of what they want and they’ll be happy to work the details with you. Profit! This is my favorite kind of commission because I can let my imagination fly, offer them several options, discuss back and forth, and create something completely unique, and ours. In some other cases they’ll be very specific about what they want and about every detail, know your skills and materials before you accept such a commission or you may not be able to fulfill their concept.
Try to find some balance between your style and what your client wants. Never impose your ideas to them, but let them know if you think something is not going to work. They may even ask you something impossible for your media, or the final piece may be fragile, impractical or not even work like they want. Talk with them and see if they’re willing to compromise, or direct them to a different artist that may be able to do that. The other artist may return the favor!
This concludes my article about accepting commissions. Most of what I said comes from my last three years of experience taking custom commissions and conversations with other artists. Please don’t take every word as a rule, I’m trying my best to provide the best information that I can, but I’m not claiming to know everything. Your experiences may be a lot different! If you have any questions, suggestions or topics that you want me to cover in future articles please let me know!
If you want to check my journal about custom commissions as an example, here it is! Or you could even ask for one
Talty's Commission InfoYou can buy a lot of things from my Etsy, Storenvy, or request a custom commission for any of the things not there!
If you don't have a DA account contact me via mail taltysbakery*at*gmail*dot*com
Important: I receive payments through Paypal. This means I will not know any of your bank account info, I will not know any personal information except for your shipping info (name and address). I will not keep records of it, distribute it or use it for any other purpose than send your commission. I'm trying to build a reputation and a serious business here, so the least I want is risk it doing anything that makes me loose my buyers trust.
If you're underage please make sure your parents or tutors have no problem that you place a commission with me and send me your address. I repeat, I will not use it for any other thing.
Questions? Ask me