Tips on Commissions


As I’m uploading these, I am realizing how destroyed my laptop is. I can’t see the watermark I placed on this image because the lighter values in my screen bleed out to white. Anyway, today I’d like to talk about COMMISSIONS (again)! This is a new commission I recently finished, and I will be putting it up on my site soon with more WIP updates. It was for an individual into gaming to use on a profile. I get a lot of individual commissions by average people (as in, not institutions or corporations) and I’m pretty average myself – I know where everyone is coming from.

I want to use this person as an example of a great commissioner: They came to me with a clear idea of what they needed, what dimensions, they had a reasonable range of how much they were willing to pay,  they even had references on hand, and overall were co-operative and respectful. They paid immediately. Beautiful.

I have a lot of problematic inquiries.

Example 1: “Hi, I saw your website/ad/whatever, I need 25 illustrations finished. Can you give me a quote?” And by quote, they really mean an exact number that won’t change from start to finish. And by quote, they also mean they are shopping around for the cheapest deal like everything is Walmart.

What’s wrong here? I have NO IDEA what you want. 25 quick illustrations, or 25 super-detailed realistic illustrations? Size? Purpose? Are they going to be printed? Just because you paid for the work, it doesn’t automatically mean you can print it – (go read about copyright and artist rights). Sometimes it’s a narrative project, and the person doesn’t have the script draft even finished, any character design, but I’m supposed to give them an exact quote. Also, a quote is an estimate, and an estimate is an educated guess on how much the work will cost. It’s not an absolute, and unless we discuss a fixed rate for the whole project, the work will be accounted for by my standard hourly rate.

Example 2: “I’m working and living paycheque->paycheque, I don’t have much to offer, but I need [a huge list of expectations].” This is actually paraphrased, as most ‘project proposals’ I get are 5 huge paragraphs of begging and then 2 sentences of actual substance about the project.

As most freelancers would say, this is not my problem. Although, I really try be empathetic as a dirt-poor artist and I have a different rate for average people vs. huge magazines, for example.

Imagine if you came into work and your boss said, “Hey, I can’t pay you as much this week because the company is a bit behind.” It doesn’t work like that. Also, what are you doing hiring people if you can’t afford it? Tip: Plan ahead. Way ahead. Waaayyyy way ahead. You have a dream project like a comic book? Do your writing, edit it, get friends to read it – get that ready, because that only depends on you. As your doing this, put something like $25 into a savings account every week or two, start a kickstarter, get friends to help out with cash, maybe apply for a grant. Soon you’ll have enough funds to afford an illustrator and a letterer, and maybe even some self-publishing printing.

Imagine yourself as a project manager – the leader: it’s YOUR responsibility to make sure you can afford to pay another professional, not any one else. Otherwise, what you’re really doing is asking for a professional to compromise themselves and undervalue their work for your hobby. It’s a hobby because you aren’t treating it as business and that’s what this is once it goes beyond the walls of your home.