Best Tips For Doing Art Commissions – Practical Advice

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In this article, I share some of the best tips for doing art commissions. If you get commission requests daily, you are in a position many artists would like to be in. You are being seen as an artist worth commissioning. In this article, we will share some of the best tips for doing art commissions, how to approach the work, and what you need to know before you start an art commission.


Key Takeaways

  • Have clear and consistent communication with the client.
  • Inform how you work, how you want to get paid, your rates, and guidelines.
  • Price your work with profit in mind and share progress with the client.
  • Keep the good clients and manage the bad ones.
  • When your artwork showcases enough skill, you will start to get art commissions from clients.

Have Swift And Clear Communication With The Client

If someone shows interest in purchasing your artwork or commissioning you for work, swiftly message them back to showcase your work ethic.

What better way to surprise your client than to give them a response on the same day? If you haven’t noticed their message, apologize for the late reply and see if there’s still work to be done.

Clients usually approach multiple artists when they have a project at hand, and being one of the first to respond increases your chance of getting the work to yourself.

Remember, people will find a way to contact you if they truly want to work with you.

Some conversations to go through with the client:

  • What you draw and won’t draw
  • How many illustrations are required
  • How many revisions you do per illustration
  • How much do you charge after revisions and per revision
  • What is the deadline for the project, and what happens if the deadline is breached

Give Clear Guidelines for How You Work

To protect yourself, make sure you both sign some sort of agreement, a kind of legal document. Start by discussing licensing rights – does the client want to use the artwork commercially? They might not realize they’re not automatically entitled to this.

Have a good conversation about licensing, reselling the artwork, etc., to avoid misunderstandings. Usually, artists keep their licensing rights even after a sale, so if the client uses your work without permission, that can become a problem.

As a freelance artist, consider including a “cancellation fee” if the project gets canceled. It’s a fee you get paid, typically 50-100% of the project cost. This helps you gain some income from the project as you have to value the time you have already spent on the project.

State How You Want To Be Paid

Asking for a 30-50% deposit to cover materials and time is reasonable. Some people like a smaller initial deposit with a few more payments, but taking 30-50% upfront is a good idea unless it’s for a close friend or someone you trust.

For bigger commissions, consider a monthly payment plan with progress updates. This helps both the client and you stay invested in the project and build a solid professional relationship.

If you are in the digital art business, asking for 50% of the full payment when sketches are done is a good practice to have. When the final illustrations are done, the rest of the 50% should be paid.

Deliver the final digital files or artwork only when you’ve been fully paid. You can use PayPal, for example, to get payments.

Ask Enough Details About The Project

When starting a project or commission work, you need to know what is expected of you. The client has approached you for a reason. Whether it’s your drawing style, use of colors, or understanding of art fundamentals, there’s always a reason.

Ask what the project is all about if the client wasn’t yet super clear on that before. How long is the project thought to be, how many artworks are required, what is the deadline or timeline, what art style is required, and what are the topics or things that they want you to illustrate?

The more you know about what the client wants, especially about the emotions and feelings the illustration should evoke, the better illustrations you will draw.

Tips for getting information about the commission work:

  • Communicate as much as is needed with the client
  • Listen to the client’s vision
  • Ask the right questions
  • Gather reference materials to go through with the client

Share Your Progress With The Client

For a positive experience, be open and honest with your client. Keep in touch, send them updates or WIP (work-in-progress) photos, and show enthusiasm. When you show them progress shots, the client can also guide you better, so the end result is more of what they had in mind.

When the client sees the project coming together, they also feel it will be finished. If you’re excited about the project, the client will be too. And if you sound uncertain, the client may lose faith in the project.

Communicate consistently with the client and listen to what they have to say. In the end, it’s the client who will pay for the work. This will not only bring the client closer to the piece but also make the commissioning process more interesting and enjoyable.

Remember, they know the world, culture, background, and overall feel of the project. Listen and do as the client advises; however, keep in mind the revisions and boundaries set in the contract/agreement.

Ask For A Mention Online If Possible

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Commission work done for Lindsey Stirling and her Artemis album

If the artwork is created for an album cover, for example, try to get a mention from the client. This will build your reputation as an artist and possibly bring more new clients.

The more work you do and the more clients will recommend you, the bigger projects will be presented to you. With bigger projects come bigger income potential.

Pricing Your Work

Usually, artists charge based on per project rate ($ = total hours x hourly rate) or size ($/sq footage), but there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Business or an individual: Businesses tend to have more capital and can put the expenses to the company for tax benefits
  • Time: Will you work weekends or long hours or leisurely in a few hours
  • Physical size: Bigger pieces need more materials and possibly shipping
  • Skills required: Complex subjects like portraits and detailed landscapes require a lot of skill
  • The topic of the project: Does the project excite you and expand your client and artwork portfolio well?

When doing illustrations, whether physical or digital, you can price it anywhere between $100 to $3,000+. Your time and skills have value. Price the commission work accordingly.

When pricing your artwork, don’t forget how much time is spent on revisions, changes, customer meetings, decision-making, etc. Count those expenses too.

Care For Good Clients, Manage The Bad Ones

Not every commission will go flawlessly, but don’t let some bad experiences tarnish the potential for amazing ones. With experience, you’ll learn to spot the red flags.

Good clients will pay upfront, let you have artistic freedom, and give you room to be creative without getting in the way. Hang onto those clients, they’ll inspire you to be more creative, and you’ll end up with a better portfolio.

The tricky ones will try to control everything, change their minds, and micromanage your work while pretending to be helpful. Good client management skills and educating them on your process is key to keeping your work integrity intact.

Thank You!

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