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Artist's Note



Commissions. Commissions. Commissions!
It's all anyone on here seems to talk about. It's like a measure of popularity.
But there's a lot of danger in opening for commissions before you're prepared, and that's what this particular journal is about. Let's avoid the common commission pitfalls (a journal for another day ;) ) and get a healthy, fully prepared start!


Build Your Fan Base



I've seen some people join deviantArt and instantly expect to get commissions. We're talking the same day that they sign up.
Sorry, that's just not how it works. Actually, you'll be lucky to get commissions on deviantArt at all. DeviantArt is a community of artists. Sure, there are some buyers on here as well, but very rarely will you find regular work on this site. I like deviantArt because it's a social network with other artists. It's a place where I can come to make friends and learn. Sure, I can advertise myself on here, but most of my work comes from my Twitter, Tumblr, and own legwork.
I'd recommend establishing yourself with the same username in as many places as you comfortably can. When you're narrowing down the prospects, I'd say to avoid small, start-up art communities (you know the ones I'm talking about, those "exclusive", "by invite only" art sites. Who is going to buy your work there?). Make yourself known on established websites where there is already a user base to be a part of. Twitter, Tumblr, Art Station, Behance, deviantArt, LinkedIn, ConceptCookie and even FurAffinity (if you're into that kind of thing) are all fantastic options.


Understand Pricing and it's Consequences



First off, don't sell for points. Points is quite literally the equivalent of pocket change. 80 points is $1.
That means that if you're selling a full color image for 500 points (which I see all the time) you're selling it for $6.25.
$6.25 for a full picture. A full picture that I can promise you've spent more than a half an hour on.
I'll write a full journal on how pricing works, but generally, you should not be selling your work for less than minimum wage per hour.
I'll go through a lot of other pricing options in the other journal, but keep in mind that you are working on artwork. This is your time and you should be paid for it. Yes, you might absolutely LOVE doing artwork (so do I!) but you should still be paid for creating images for other people.
If you choose not to be paid now, or to be paid in pocket change now, or to be paid for $5/hr now, you'll likely regret it later. Your "target market" for lower pricing will not be the same as your target market for average pay. People who pay in dA points likely won't be returning for more work later, and if they do, it'll be for the same price. People who are willing to pay what your work is worth are more likely to be repeat customers, are likely to talk more about your work if you do a good job, and are, of course, willing to give you the amount that you deserve so that you're doing less work for the appropriate amount of money. If you spend most of your time targeting the lower-range market you won't be able to raise your prices later. (For the record, I'm not talking about general watchers and followers, some people just can't afford to buy art or don't need it, but they're no less valuable in terms of having an awesome fan base. We're strictly talking about clientele here).


Create a Strong Terms of Service Agreement



Do your research!
Don't just look at other ToS Agreements on deviantArt, many of them are not strong. If you can't afford to hire an attorney, do some serious Google searching. There are a ton of really good samples of what your ToS should include.
Again, I'm planning a full journal for this as well, but a few points I could make right now are to include;
A) That you own all rights to your work. Make sure that this is a part of your Terms of Service. Yes, it goes without saying that you own what you make, but many times customers have the misinformed idea that because they've paid you they automatically own the artwork and can sell it, make prints of it, etc.
B) A clause about what happens if you become ill. I know it's likely not something you're thinking about now, but what if you take a commission and suddenly become ill or are involved in an accident of some kind? You'll want to detail out what happens. Does the customer get a full refund? Do you require an extension on the work deadline? Do you retain their deposit or the payment for the work that's been completed, but refund the rest? Think about this now, not later.
C) Bounced checks and returned payments. What if the client pays you in a check and it bounces? What happens if they do a charge-back with PayPal? Is there a fee that you'll need covered? Most companies have a Returned Payment Fee because they don't want to get stuck with the fee from the bank or processing center. It's a smart fee to have included in your contract. From a consumer point of view, I know we all hate that fee, but from a business perspective, it's a smart idea to have.
D) Do you have a Rush Fee? If a client contacts you and says "I need this done in three days time!" and your average turn around is a month, will there be an additional charge? Keep in mind that this means you'll be putting all your other clients on the back burner, working longer hours than usual and possibly even weekends or holidays - maybe both. Most artists do have an additional charge for this. Think of it as over time.

**Have a Terms of Service before you open for commissions. Not after. Don't wait for something to happen where you wish you'd had one.**


Have Samples of Your Work



Weirdly enough, I felt the need to add this in here. I've seen a few people open for commissions that they don't even have examples for. I've been contacted by people who have seriously told me "I don't have any samples of animation, but I'm a really good animator. I work for $50/30 seconds. When do I start?".
What?
No!
Don't be that person. If you're offering character design commissions, have some samples. If you're offering storyboard commissions, have some samples. Illustration? Have some samples. Badges? Make some samples. Animation? You guessed it. Samples.
By doing this you're not only showing your potential customers that you can provide the work you're claiming you can and giving an example of quality, you're doing yourself a favor by knowing an approximate of how long it's going to take you to finish the work so you're not overcharging your customer or short changing yourself.


In Closing



Remember! These steps aren't just to help you get more commissions, they're there for your protection. You don't want to be involved in an all-too-common horror story scenario where a client can take advantage of you, and you don't want to give your client a horror story about yourself (that they'll undoubtedly share with every one of their friends and followers).

Protect your client, protect yourself, and protect your business.


QUESTION!



What tips would you provide to someone who is just starting out with commission work? Do you have any experiences where being prepared or unprepared helped or hurt you? Share!


Other Helpful Journals


Road to Success: BEFORE Opening For CommissionsArtist's Note
Commissions. Commissions. Commissions!
It's all anyone on here seems to talk about. It's like a measure of popularity.
But there's a lot of danger in opening for commissions before you're prepared, and that's what this particular journal is about. Let's avoid the common commission pitfalls (a journal for another day ;) ) and get a healthy, fully prepared start!
Build Your Fan Base
I've seen some people join deviantArt and instantly expect to get commissions. We're talking the same day that they sign up.
Sorry, that's just not how it works. Actually, you'll be lucky to get commissions on deviantArt at all. DeviantArt is a community of artists. Sure, there are some buyers on here as well, but very rarely will you find regular work on this site. I like deviantArt because it's a social network with other artists. It's a place where I can come to make friends and learn. Sure, I can advertise myself on here, but most of my work comes from my Tw
  Road To Success: Guide to Pricing CommissionsBefore you Start!
Before Reading this tutorial, I suggest becoming familiar with what you should do before you even open for commissions:

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Let's break it down!
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There are a few things to consider when you're trying to price your commission work.
You should consider, first, your ability to make artwork and if you're ready to take commissions. Once you've got yourself set up, you can start to consider your "target market".
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  I'm Afraid to Charge Minimum Wage for My Art"If I charged minimum wage for my work I wouldn't get commissions."
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Artist's Note
It's a little upsetting to see the state of deviantArt's community. These are statements I see every day. What happened?
Well, we all know what happened. DeviantArt Points happened. I don't think it was ever the intent of the site to make these points into some new currency that would drive the overall value of the art on this site down.
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Low self-esteem and con artists.
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  You Want Me to WHAT the Photographer?!"You should at least credit the photographer for your reference pic. Pay them if they're asking for it - and even if they're not sometimes."
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Why You Should Pay for Your Reference Photos
That conversation is one I've had a thousand times. When people find out that I pay for my reference images they act like I'm either lying or crazy, but there's a reason I pay them and it's not just because of copyright infringement. It's also professional courtesy.
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My first go was to take a bunch of photos of trees, dirt, rocks, plants -
  Road to Success: Writing a ToS AgreementArtists Note
First off, I want to say that I'm not an attorney. The advice I'm giving here is from personal experience and information I've gathered from other various sources, including legal representation in the past.
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I've seen a lot of people make some very critical mistakes with these over time, and some people completely without them, so I thought I'd reach out to help.
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What You Should Cover
When you're writing your ToS, you should keep a few important aspects in mind, which I'll cover below. These are the most important things to have within your terms. Most people leave this or that out for whatever reason
  Road To Success: Resources I UseArtist's Note
Hey everyone!
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As an artist, I'm always on the look-out for affordable workshops and classes. Here is a list of available classes, workshops and websites that I find invaluable!
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Review: Star! Star! 
  Road To Success: How Commissions Should WorkArtist's Note
Like These Journals? Consider Donating A Few Points To Keep Them Coming :)
Okay, it seems like a lot of people are not familiar with the commission process - be it from the perspective of the artist or the client.
This being so, I'm writing out how commissions generally work on both ends. This isn't a be-all-end-all guide, but if you're taking commissions or buying from a professional artist, these are some good examples of what to expect (and also what to do and what not to do).
Let's roll!
First Contact
First contact is normally in the form of an email or job post from the Commissioner/Client. Too many times have I seen "looking for artist to draw my character. Email if interested".
Stop.
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Coding by SimplySilent
Skin by SimplySilent (modified by JWatkinsArt)
Add a Comment:
 
:iconembercoral:
embercoral Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
While I do find these journals helpful in the sense that it outlines the basic essentials for commissions, I feel that I learn better by actually talking to those with more experience than I do about topics like these. There's probably a whole bunch of things that I was doing wrong in the past, and I want to identify the specific areas in which I can personally improve so that I can possibly try again in the not-too-distant future.

If it's not too much trouble, can you maybe help me out a little? You don't have to if you're too busy, but I just need someone to have a good discussion with.
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, absolutely :)
Do you have Skype or Discord? I'm not going to lie, I don't have a whole lot of time, but I've swapped my weekend this week (working Sat and Sun and off today and tomorrow), so if you want I have some time :D
Reply
:iconembercoral:
embercoral Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh cool. I have a Skype (under the same name as this account), but I can only use the messenger feature right now until I can manage to acquire new audio equipment.

Also, I should note that I'm currently living in Japan...so it's probably around midnight for you while it's the middle of the afternoon for me just like the new pokemon games.

Any help I can get is much appreciated. I'm not really in a financial crisis at the moment, but I might be once November rolls around. It's rather complicated...
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
It's fine. I'm normally up pretty late. I don't really do the talking on skype thing (my house is too noisy most of the time. Got me, my partner, our son and two pets). I can use the messenger on there though. I'll try to add you on.
Reply
:iconembercoral:
embercoral Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That's great. Thank you so much. :hug:
Reply
:iconmafipaint:
MafiPaint Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well, it´s my 1st time on opening commissions, and nobody commssions me, even that my commissions are very cheap...(Also, I had promoted my commissions on many commission groups)
But now, I realise that I´m horrible at the 1st step... (after this, I opened requests some days ago, and it was a big success, so I decided to open again!)
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
It can take a little while to be prepared for commissions and to really start seeing the work coming in. 
Just keep at it! You'll build up what you need :D
Reply
:iconmafipaint:
MafiPaint Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Okay! Thank you!! ^^
Reply
:iconameshin:
ameshin Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks. I've been working on my commissions journal thing for a bit and I think it could still use a bit of cleaning up after reading this. Seriously, thanks! This sort of organizational skill doesn't come naturally to  everyone T-T
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
No problem at all!
I realize a lot of people don't have the same experience, and deviantArt doesn't seem to have much as far as information on how to get started n-n'
Reply
:iconsillyewe:
SillyEwe Featured By Owner May 17, 2016  Student General Artist
Ohh man...  I am very bad at the first step...  At least I have experience under my wing thanks to Gaia gold to practice with.
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 19, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Haha, I've never actually played Gaia so I'm unsure of how things work on there.
But keep at it, you'll get it, it just takes a little time :)
Reply
:iconsillyewe:
SillyEwe Featured By Owner May 19, 2016  Student General Artist
GaiaOnline is a website that uses gold as its main currency.  Gold is free to use and it emulates how real money works in a way, so it's why I say it serves as good practice.

Thank you.
Reply
:iconcaznir:
Caznir Featured By Owner May 8, 2016   Digital Artist
I don't mean to sound like a whiny little ass. But I find it strange that I'm not able to garner enough attention for my commissions. My friends say that Im not active enough and I dont have enough connections. Maybe its the fanbase? I dont know.
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 8, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Actually, you seem like you've been uploading pretty frequently. What other sites are you on? I don't see any linked on your profile :)
And you don't sound like a whiny little ass lol, it's a good thing to wonder about. 
Reply
:iconcaznir:
Caznir Featured By Owner May 8, 2016   Digital Artist
haha xD But yeah. I guess you have a point there with the sites. I've been uploading to FurAffinity recently and sometimes Weaysl or Facebook. But rarely do I use Tumblr. I noticed that Tumblr is a good turning point for that matter.
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 8, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
I've used FA in the past and I won't lie, it's AMAZING for getting commission work and pretty easy to network on. Basically just posting artwork, talking to people and using the forums to post that you're open for commissions has always worked for me in the past.

Just... try to avoid all the drama lol And don't let anyone on there tell you that you HAVE to make porn to get money.
Reply
:iconcaznir:
Caznir Featured By Owner May 8, 2016   Digital Artist
xD That sounds good. I have a few friends who've been rather good with that.... GreyKitty... Vivzie...

xD Thatalso explains a lot. The forums really do work and attract people?
Reply
:iconmajorasmasks:
MajorasMasks Featured By Owner May 6, 2016  Professional Artisan Crafter
Really useful, thank you.  :)
About the ToS Agreements, how does it work for it to have a somewhat legal value? I'm especially asking for international commissions.
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 6, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
A Terms of Service Agreement is essentially a contract between yourself and your client. I reside within the United States, and laws here state that the state and country that the contract is based in are the laws that those involved are bound by.

Keep in mind, however, that I'm not familiar with international laws and I'm not an attorney myself :) (DISCLAIMER FOR MY PROTECTION LOL! )
Reply
:iconmajorasmasks:
MajorasMasks Featured By Owner May 6, 2016  Professional Artisan Crafter
I see.  :)
But how do you get the TOS signed by both parts, when they live in different countries?
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 8, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Depending on where you live (again, I only know the United States here), you don't have to. If you include your ToS (or a link to it) in your invoice sent, in email, and have them confirm that they've received and are agreeing to it, it's good. It's also good to have a link to it on your front page too, so if the other party ever claims that they hadn't received it you have full proof that you'd gone out of your way to provide it to them. 
Generally, I send mine before payment, with the invoice, and I recap usage rights in the final email that I send with the full image attached. 
Reply
:iconmajorasmasks:
MajorasMasks Featured By Owner May 8, 2016  Professional Artisan Crafter
I see; this was really useful, thanks for the explanation.   :)
Reply
:iconartemasunset:
ArtemaSunset Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Student General Artist
I was going to copy a journal here because I need feedback for my prices, but that wouldn't be possible without making it look like I'm shamelessly self advertising, which I despise :P

Anyways, awesome and really useful information you got here! Specially the ToS part, I need to work on that ASAP...
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, I'd prefer if people didn't like their journals here :)
But I'm going to be making a journal on how to price very shortly. I know that it's another point of confusion for a lot of artists.
Reply
:iconartemasunset:
ArtemaSunset Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Student General Artist
Thaa'd be much appreciated, thanks!
Reply
:iconraspberrytickle:
RaspberryTickle Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Student General Artist
Will keep this advice in mind! Thanks!

~Ced
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
You're very welcome, Ced :)
Reply
:iconnebuleer:
Nebuleer Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Student Filmographer
Thanks for these tips!
I've been in a bit rut lately, and its probably when I've needed commissions the most xD I'll definitely think about this for next time : )
I guess I have to work on that fanbase, eh? xD I've found it so hard to do it ;-;
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
It's hard! 
Building that base is probably the hardest part of anything. I'm still building mine up myself. 
I think it's just a matter of persistence and making sure that you're targeting the right group of people.
Reply
:iconnebuleer:
Nebuleer Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Student Filmographer
I see!
I'm currently working on making a comic, so hopefully that draws enough attention :'DD
I just gotta try and attract some people but it can be rather hard on deviantART ;-;
Reply
:iconsevenlole:
Sevenlole Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Student General Artist
The pricing part, definitely one of the most important tips here. I recently saw someone selling art for only 1:point: . This is less than one cent and it is ridiculous ! Overall these tips are really useful, especially for those who are new to commissions and stuff. Thanks for making this journal !
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
I've seen people tell other people their work is worth one point. 
The "point system" has really skewed what artwork is worth for artists. I think part of the problem is that there are so many kids on here and they're too young to realize what their work or the work of others is really worth. 
Reply
:iconlunchwere:
Lunchwere Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm so glad you put that tip on 'don't start with low prices' on here! There's this huge misunderstanding in the art community (especially on dA) that it's okay to start super low, and then slowly work up. Unfortunately, I believed that as well, and I can definitely say I am suffering the consequences x) Great tips overall, really liked the one on expanding on to other networks. There's always something to learn, so thank you for making this! <3
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 5, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Oh, you're very welcome! I'm always happy to help.

I've watched too many of my friends lose most of their following over price changes. I once had a friend increase their prices by $5 and watched people get angry over it. I just hate to see artists setting themselves up for a hard time later.
Reply
:icondudewithashotgun:
dudewithaShotgun Featured By Owner May 4, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow, this is really helpful:D, thanks
i've made the mistake of opening my commission too soon, i was lucky enough that i got a customer immidiently but after i've made the request, i realized that i may not be ready for this as there are others who make better things and charge less so i decided to close my commission until i can improve myself to he commission worthy:D
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 4, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
I don't know if it's a matter of "makes better and charges less". There are people who charge less than me, and there are a lot of people who are "better" (I feel). 
It's all in how you market yourself, I think.

Also, your work is rockin'. If I had the money, I'd commission you. Hell, if I had the money I'd hire you on to a few of the projects I have planned, haha!

If you ever need help drop me a note. :)
Reply
:icondudewithashotgun:
dudewithaShotgun Featured By Owner May 4, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much:D
and yeah, i think commission business here basically comes down to how well you make yourself known since, in my opinion, this is more like a social media site than an art site:D
also, i'd love to volunteer to help in some of your projects if i can:D
Reply
:iconjwatkinsart:
JWatkinsArt Featured By Owner May 8, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
If I had the money to hire you on I'd so pull you on board ;n;
Unfortunately, right now I don't. I'm waiting to see if The Tales Grimm gets bought by this network before moving to Kickstarter with any of my projects.
Reply
:icondudewithashotgun:
dudewithaShotgun Featured By Owner May 8, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No, i meant; i'd gladly help out for free if i canz
and good luck on the studio:D!
Reply
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