Accepting commissions may seem like a no-brainer. Getting paid to do what you love? Yes please! It's a wonderful way to build your portfolio and promote your business. But accepting a commission before you're ready can end up being detrimental. Here are the steps you should take BEFORE accepting a commission.
1. Have 10-15 pieces of that type (pet portrait, landscape, etc) under your belt. This will allow you to know your own timeline for completion, and patrons will be able to predict what a new piece will look like since you are already establishing your style.
2. Firmly set your pricing structure and make it available to potential clients. You may publish it on your website or have a document ready to send in response to an inquiry. Either way, stick to your guns on pricing! You don't want to gain the reputation of being someone who can be haggled with.
3. Decide how much you will require as a deposit--and yes, you need to take a deposit! This will deter clients who aren't serious about paying for the final product.
4. Agree on a detailed reference photo BEFORE signing a contract so that you have something you can work from. People look at your best work and expect that their commission will look the same. This won't happen if the reference photo is sub par. Until you have a clear photo in your hand, do not accept the work.
5. Develop a contract for services rendered. Be very clear about the scope of the work that you have agreed to do, and the financial responsibility of the patron.
6. Find out the patron's preference for social media sharing of their piece, both in-progress and at completion. If the piece is a gift, they may want you to wait. There also may be privacy concerns if the subject is a minor. Before accepting the commission, this is a conversation you need to have.
7. Have marketing materials ready to send with the finished piece. You'll want to have these ready before you start so you won't be scrambling to throw something together when you've completed the work. Consider a high-quality business card at the very least.
8. Don't be afraid to turn down a commission if something feels off. If you are not going to be a great fit for this patron, there are plenty of other artists out there who may. Don't feel obligated to accept just because someone asks. Value your own time and skill, and feel free to be selective.
By taking these steps before you ever accept a commission, you'll be ready to respond at the first request and communicate how professional you truly are!
What are your tips for successful commissions?