Commissions for artists are limited only by one’s imagination: people, house, and pet portraits, funerary urns, custom jewelry, garden sculpture, and more.
Regardless of the commissions you might be offered, use these pointers to make sure you pull off your project with flying colors and enjoy the process.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Create a special section on your website for commission information. Include steps for commissioning a piece and testimonials from happy patrons alongside images of the finished work.
See that your marketing materials have both an email address and a phone number.
At least one artist has lost an opportunity for commission because she didn’t have a phone number on her site and her email was down. How do I know? Because I was the person looking for an artist to help a neighbor with her project.
Just Say No
Absolutely you should turn down a commission if you can’t give it your best effort.
I heard of a muralist who behaved from the start as if she didn’t want the commission.
When the patron contacted her, she whined about what her commute would be, and her daughter’s school schedule, and, and, and. Then she had the nerve to ask her potential patron if he would get the paint and trace the design if she were to accept his offer.
Talk about poor customer service!
If you ask potential patrons to do half the work, why would they need to hire you in the first place? No one should have to endure this game – and it is a game. If you can’t do the work, just say so.
It’s perfectly okay to turn down projects that don’t align with your situation. Better that than wasting your time and someone else’s.
Don’t hesitate to share the name of an artist you think would be a better fit for the project. This is excellent customer service and may save you frustrations that are the result of over-promising.
If the commission seems like a good fit for you, show the patron why you’re the best person for the job.
Prove that you can deliver what they’re asking for and that you can meet any deadlines.
Write a proposal that spells out all of the details. Offer two or three options, keeping in mind that people tend to pick the mid-priced option.
Commissioned artwork should be priced higher than your other work. Some artists charge as much as 50% more for commissioned pieces. This covers the PITA (pain in the you-know-what) factor that often enters into the commission process. Even if your patron is a dream, you still have to schedule it in with your personal projects, and personal work is what most artists prefer attending to. If you aren’t getting paid enough to take a break from your other work, you’ll be tempted to procrastinate.
Commissions aren’t for everyone. You must be willing to work as a collaborative partner and learn to enjoy the process.
How about you? What have you learned about doing commissions?