This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Last week I wrote about commissioned artwork. There were a lot of great comments and questions as a result of the article. Some of those comments prompted this next post.
The key to successfully including commissions as part of your business is to be professional. Develop a policy; terms that you are comfortable working by. Put them in writing and clearly explain them to your potential clients.
I’ll share how I do commissions. You don’t need to structure yours the way I do, but this will hopefully give you some ideas to think about.
Determine if the Job is Right for You
Listen carefully to the client. What do they envision? How open are they to your interpretation of the subject? How involved do they want to be? Discuss your terms with them as to how you would approach the commission. Let them know up front what you expect and make sure you understand what they expect. Then make a decision.
Not all commissions that come along are right for you. Be honest with yourself and your client. If you cannot do what the client wants, tell them. Refer them to someone who can, if possible.
Don’t simply turn something down either, because it is challenging or something beyond your normal scope of work. Consider it carefully. If you can get excited about the project and the prospect of pushing yourself, it can be very rewarding.
Have a Contract
Before beginning your commission, have the client sign a contract (it is a business deal) and put a deposit down.
The Following are My Terms – You May Have Other Items of Importance
It is completely appropriate to charge more for a commission. I do feel strongly that prices need to remain the same no matter what venue you sell your work in. But a finished work of art available for sale in a gallery or show is different than a commission. A commission is also a service and you need to be compensated for that service. Commissions require a lot of extra work. I charge a surcharge of about 15% above normal retail prices.
I require a non-refundable deposit before beginning the commission. The surcharge amount is usually the amount of deposit. If the final size is not completely determined at this point, then an approximate amount is established, based upon likely sizes.
If travel is required, the client usually pays the travel expenses (with a few exceptions).
I Only Work From My Own Reference Material
I will never work from someone else’s photos, including the clients. Ever. A huge component of my work is the emotional connection to a location or subject. Memory is also important. Color, mood, lighting, values, textures, etc. are all influenced by direct observation.
I develop a couple studies to propose to the client. I try to stay true to what they want, but I make it clear that my ‘voice’ will inherently be part of the work. They commissioned me because they like the way I interpret a scene. I make sure that I have a fair amount of room to be excited about the piece.
I email the studies (unless they are local, then I show them in person). The client does not get the studies as part of the commission. I keep them unless they opt to purchase them in addition to the final painting.
Approval to Proceed
If the studies are not approved and they wish to back out of the commission, I keep the deposit. If a study is approved and chosen, then 50% of the remaining balance is due.
Fulfill Your Side of the Contract
Make sure you deliver what you promise when you promise. Better yet, deliver early. If I think a painting will take 2 weeks to complete, I tell the client 3 weeks and then deliver in 2.
When I have completed the painting, I email an image (or show it in person if local) for final approval. Once they approve, the final payment is then due upon delivery of the work. For paintings that need to be shipped, the payment is due before I ship the painting.
This is just a brief overview. And as mentioned before, these are only ideas. Develop terms you are comfortable with (including a return policy). But remember, be professional. It will make things much more enjoyable if everything is understood before you begin.