Since I started taking commissions, I've gotten a fair amount of notes and emails asking for advice on how to get into the commission world. I have typed up some information below for artists to consider if they are interested in taking on commissions.
If you are unsure on how much to charge for commissions, then I highly advise you take a look at other artists who are of equal skill to you and see what their commission prices are set at. Get a few examples and take the average for the safest bet. After setting your prices, ask a few friends to look your numbers over and see if they seem reasonable. If not, ask for advice on what would be more appropriate.
*** Note: It's also important to note the currency differences for other countries.
2.) Waiting Lists
Don't do them. At least, I highly advice you don't. Your waiting list could stretch over months and often times a commissioner would rather commission someone else rather than wait (unless they want you specifically). In addition, it can be a stresser to try to keep waiting lists organized and fair.
Personally, I've adopted the "first come, first serve" rule. Knowing I don't have people sitting around, twiddling their thumbs waiting on me helps take a load off when it comes to my time.
3.) Take Your Time
Don't rush and certainly don't half-ass your work. Remember: your name is going on that artwork, so it should represent your hard work and skills -- not how impatient you are.
4.) Just Say "No"
If you don't like the commissioner's request, just refuse the commission. You don't have to take every request that comes into your inbox (unless, of course, you really need the money
). Thank them for their interest and politely send them on their way.
Do not, under any circumstances, insult your commissioner or the content of their commission. It is extremely inappropriate and speaks volumes on how unprofessional you are if you do so.
In addition, don't allow others to make disrespectful comments about your commissioner's property. If someone has criticism about the artwork itself, leave them a comment or note and ask that they speak their concerns to you privately. Otherwise, hide the comment so your commissioner will not be insulted by their remarks.
*** Note: Even if you speak a different language from the commissioner, that doesn't give you an excuse to make disrespectful comments.
6.) Don't get carried away
It's important to put forth a fair amount of creativity into your artwork. However, if your commissioner says, "I want this character, in this outfit, and this pose," then that is what you draw. If you feel a different pose/background/outfit/etc. would be better, offer that suggestion up -- even draw a rough of your idea and see what the commissioner thinks. Otherwise, keep the artwork within the guidelines of what the commissioner requests.
7.) You can't make everyone happy
Some commissioners just can't be pleased. Either they don't have a good idea of what they want or they keep changing their mind -- if this happens, it's time to "fish and cut bait". Tell them, "I'm sorry, but it looks like I won't be able to fulfill your commission." Then, depending on how far along your are in the commission process, you can either leave them with what you've done thus far, or give them a refund. Trust me, sometimes it's best to just give them their money back and move on to the next project.
8.) Don't Recycle
Don't use the same pose or concept more than once. Unless you've got a "format" for your commissions, don't reuse anything. For instance, if someone sends you an image of a character and commissions you to draw the same character, DON'T draw them in the same pose unless it was specifically part of the request.
It should go without saying that this also includes tracing.
9.) Don't get in over your head
A lot of the difficulties I see with artists is they have a tendency to take on more than they can handle. They get a bunch of commissions and find themselves swamped under too much work without enough time for their own projects.
Start off small, then take on more when you know you can handle it.
10.) Finish the Commission
This happens a lot more than I thought it would, but it's happened more than once where an artist takes on a commission and either a.) forgets about it, b.) doesn't want to do it, c.) finds the commission is too much for them to handle.
If things come up and you find you don't have as much time as you use to, that's okay; but keep your commissioners in the loop. Tell them you haven't forgotten about them and give them updates on the status of their commission. Even if it takes months, most commissioners understand that real-life issues come up and that as long as you are keeping in touch, you will get their commission done eventually.