This information is located in our software for artists. Some references within the text will be software related.
BASIC RULES OF COMMISSIONS
Successful commissions come from communicating directly with the client before and during the process of creating artworks. Setting up a clear relationship with the client enables you, the artist, to respond effectively to the client’s concerns, requests and needs. When taking on a commission, it is crucial that you are able to be flexible and work well with people.
If you take on a commission from a client you do not know, be warned about a few pitfalls. No matter how badly you need the money, never sell your work or your services for less than they are worth. It may come back to haunt you later on in your career. Always meet with the potential client to discuss the details of the commission, preferably at your studio. This way the client has an opportunity to see a variety of pieces. Otherwise, you will feel constrained to produce a specific composition or style.
For a commission to work both the client and you have to imagine the creation of the art in pretty much the same way. Differences in initial perception can lead to problems later in the process, when it is often too late to make changes without incurring additional expenses.
QUESTIONS TO ASK A PROSPECTIVE CLIENT ABOUT A COMMISSION:
• Find out how many works the potential client has commissioned and their prior experience. Ask for the names and contact information of artists they have commissioned before and use them as references. The larger the number of commissions, the less likely you are to encounter problems.
• If the client has never commissioned an artwork before, find out what they want and make sure you can give it to them. If they have unrealistic expectations that you cannot fulfill, turn down the job. Often, first time clients do not know the processes of commissioning, so you may need to train them. Understanding the contract, the timeline, and the costs are as important as coming to terms with their more subjective requests.
• Ask the client what they want to see in the final project. Look for broad answers that have to do with the way your art makes them feel, if they are interested in a specific message, what you stand for as an artist, etc. Very detailed or specific answers may mean that they will try to micro-manage the project. The clearer the understanding you have of their desires, the better you will be able to respond.
• Make sure you find out what elements they do NOT like. The less they do not like, the better. If they do not like something that you cannot do much about, warn them now rather than later, or turn down the commission. Finding out what they do not want will help you avoid potential pitfalls.
• Find out if they will be the only one approving the art. You want a "yes" answer here. The more people you have to please, the less likely you are to succeed. If someone else is going to approve the work you may need to meet with them as well.
• Be sure to ask them if there are other questions or requests not addressed in your agreement. An answer like "not really" is always good. Hopefully, you will not get a long involved answer.
Go ahead with a commission only after you and the client are on the same page and have signed a contract. See Commission Contracts in the GYST software.
To avoid a client backing out of a commission allow the client to periodically view the progress of the artwork and get their approval. This way you and the client will avoid any miscommunications about the final piece. Another way to avoid conflict is to encourage dialogue while under contract and never change the aesthetics of the artwork once it is under way. The more homework you do prior to accepting the commission, the more likely you will know how to conduct yourself while creating the work.
CONTRACTS WITH COMMISSIONS
The contract should include the following information: basic characteristics of the art, payment schedule, late payment fees, completion time, and final delivery date. Verbal agreements are never a good idea and can result in disputes down the road. Always require a one-third advance of the total cost of the commission, which will take pressure off of your production schedule. The non-refundable advance commits the client to buying into a successful outcome or artwork.
REFUSING A COMMISSION
Once you accept a commission, never wait until the last minute to start the work; waiting can get you into trouble. It will hurt your career to be tardy with delivery of your work. Few clients are interested in working with artists who do not take themselves seriously enough to deliver on time.
Never accept a commission that you are unable to competently execute because the client might not be satisfied with the final piece. Also, never let the client have too much control over the final look of the art, lest it feel like he/she is breathing down your neck, which is not fun. Make sure that you are completely satisfied with the final piece.
Lack of effort or skill may backfire later in your career. Be cautious when considering making art outside of your skill level or medium just for the money.
If you have problems and cannot work them out with your client, you may need to contact an arts lawyer. Remember that Lawyers for the Arts may offer a discounted rate on legal advice.