This is honestly so helpful! Thank you very much! I may come back to this later whenever I have questions :o
I see a ton of threads here asking about advice on commissions, so I figured I'd compile a masterthread of mine and others' advice and insight! I've been doing commissions for 10 years at this point, and this is a lot of my own personal experience and what I see from others. I'll also periodically update this with more info when I see fit.
If anyone would like to add your own advice, feel free to comment and I might include it in this original post! I'll add it with your username credited as a thank you! User contributed parts will be in quotes.
Feel free to ask questions! It's what the thread's here for.
Also the standard I'm not a lawyer disclaimer when it comes to the more legal stuff like PayPal, if you're worried seek out someone who works in that area! I am but an OC lover.
IS MY ART READY FOR COMMISSIONS?
Ultimately, it's up to you! It's less about skill and ability and more about being able to handle stuff like a schedule, workload, drawing for others, self discipline, etc. Everyone has a market, no matter where you're at.
Do you feel comfortable with the concept of contracted, freelance work? Would you feel pressured drawing for money, and for others?
A lot of these are also skills acquired over time, so don't feel pressured if you're not 100% perfect.
This is a touchy subject, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Everyone's answers will be different, and what works for them works.
|- When just starting out on commissions, price yourself generally low for the first few. It gets your name out there and some experience under your belt. People are more likely to trust someone with a track record and previous clients rather than someone new, so a lower amount increases incentive to give you a shot. Once you get more traction, you should raise your prices. Clients may just come back even then!|
|- Consider the quantity vs quality debate in regards to pricing. It's much easier and faster to get 5x 10 USD commissions than 1x 50 USD commission. If you're in need for money and already draw relatively fast, consider setting your prices lower to keep a steady workflow. However if your work takes more time and you aren't as pressured for money/do it more as a hobby, consider pricing yourself higher.|
|- When it comes to prices themselves, consider your skill level and confidence in art.|
|- Charge people how much you'd pay for your own art. If you look at your own art and think "I wouldn't pay this much for that", it's time for adjustment. The same goes for undercharging!|
|- For traditional artists, remember to charge more for materials. Tablets are a one time purchase, pens and paper run out! Also consider an option to ship finished art to clients, they love that.|
|- If you decide to change prices after a while, bump them up and never down. Not only will it piss off recent/past clients, it'll make you look a little desperate and like you think your art isn't worth much. Bumping them up increases peoples' perception of you, confidence and skill wise. Also gives an incentive for them to order sooner rather than later, now that they know it can increase.|
|- "If you're feeling overwhelmed/swamped, increasing prices and or having limited slots can help! If you're constantly getting a lot of work/clients, it may be time to raise prices. It's kind of hard to find the 'sweet spot' of pricing, but a way to tell is by work flow/clients! See if your work flow/clients remain the same, become steady, increase, decrease, etc after a price change. If your work flow remains the same or increases, you can increase the price more. If you want to do limited slots, you can also offer a waitlist." (Thank you rannaroo!)|
|- "Using other artists' prices as references can work, but other important factors to consider are what they're selling and their visibility/audience. It's best to find an artist that sells similar things to you as a better reference VS comparing your pixel icon prices to an artist who does painted fullbodies. Regarding visibility, if the artist you're using as a reference for prices has many followers, it means they have a lot of visibility. Visibility doesn't always mean work, but it means more probability that more people will see the commissions + more chances of getting clients. Comparing your prices to an artist with high visibility may not always work out, especially if you don't have a lot of visibility yourself." (Thank you rannaroo!)|
|- There's also plenty of videos on YouTube of people giving their own personal advice!|
|- Commercial licensing is a whole other topic, one with a lot of info out there. It's up to you, but personally I say charge a lot for a commercial license and be sure to ask what it's for.|
As for the stuff I find the most important...
|- Art is a competitive market. It's not the most fair, nor is it the easiest. The minimum wage argument is used often (though to be honest it's flawed, MW changes everywhere in the US, let alone the world) but it may not be right for you or your business if you're in need for funds.|
|- When it comes to asking people what your art is worth, let it be known most times they're saying what you want to hear. Whether it's to not offend you or they don't know what to say themselves, the most average numbers I see in various advice threads are 30-40 USD. Whether or not people want to actively pay that is entirely up to your client, your art skills, your name brand, and other factors. Remember to follow your gut instinct.|
|- Toyhouse prices tend to be rather low (in my opinion). When referencing others' prices for your own, keep that in mind. The norm for pricing is different everywhere, so don't get all your information and examples from one source.|
There is no magic answer for how much you should price your art at. It's an answer best thought out by yourself, and peoples' own suggestions vary. Please consider all the above carefully!
|- Most people use PayPal! For people in the US, some take Venmo or CashApp, but it's important to remember that there's NO buyer or seller protection. If someone scams you or charges you back, you will not be able to dispute it, at all. Outside of the US there's also options like WesternUnion and other bank transfers, but 99% of people will ask for and prefer PayPal. If you can't offer it, it'll turn away the majority of potential clients.|
|- To make a PayPal invoice there's a few guides out there, but make sure to mark "no address needed" unless you're selling out physical goods, and encourage your client to do the same. Otherwise PayPal will expect a tracking number and a case may be opened against you for not marking it as shipped or providing tracking numbers. "According to international users the option to add/mark as no address depends per user/country, and can even change per what device you use, so writing 'digital commission' in the notes should cover you." (thank you onessu & Nifffi!)|
|- Never, EVER allow money to be sent via Friends and Family OR ask for it that way! Not only is it against PayPal's TOS and they can hold your money and account if they find out its for a service, there's no buyer or seller protection.|
|- If you'd like, include PayPal fees for paying via Goods and Services into your own price. Having your clients pay the fees separately is also against TOS.|
|- When it comes to other currency (like DeviantArt points), use a converter that equates it to real currency. Don't ask for 20 DA points, that's about 20 cents!|
|- If you're under 18, PayPal doesn't allow you to have an account. You can have one owned by your parents or another adult, but you can't own your own personal one. There's plenty of info about this online! Consider the Venmo/CashApp/Other route if you can't go through PayPal for any reason.|
|- Payment via gift cards is a no-go, both for clients and artists to offer! They're the most used currency of scammers, art wise and otherwise. If something goes haywire on an artist/client end and they want a refund, its untraceable and you cannot give a refund. It's basically got no proof so you can't file a dispute or chargeback.|
|- If you don't have a bank account or PayPal for various reasons, consider asking friends or family if you can get paid through their account and have them give you the cash instead.|
|- If you take NSFW commissions, DO NOT have you or your clients mention it ANYWHERE on your PayPal invoice. It'll get your account closed! If you need to add notes, make it vague (IE fullbody commission).|
In regards to when you get paid, never have your client pay you AFTER you finish. Have them pay the full price up front, or a deposit of a portion of it, then the rest of it when the work is done. This is the number one way artists get scammed by clients. If you go for the deposit option, give the finished product to them in low quality and watermarked until you get full payment.
Ko-Fi commissions are a different situation that I don't have much insight on, I've only commissioned people myself via it. But generally it should be the same principle, just be sure to list how many Ko-Fis a commission is AND the actual price together.
TERMS OF SERVICE (TOS)
Please, please keep a TOS!! It prevents not only you but your client from getting screwed over!
|- Most commonly seen on a TOS is what you will/won't draw, payment methods, how long it'll take, etc.|
|- Be sure to word it professionally. Having a lotta casual talk, emojis, typing quirks, etc will turn people away. Sound confident! Self deprecation and saying you don't know how it works will make people less willing to put money to your name.|
|- People like timeframes! Say how long it'll take or place a deadline. Many people are afraid of being left hanging for months and feeling scammed, so setting a solid deadline restores their confidence in you.|
|- Refund policies are important! According to my own US state (California) it's even a law that if you don't disclose that you don't allow refunds, customers legally can ask for a refund and you must comply. I personally don't allow it past the lineart stage. Consider a good, early point where you can mark where refunds are turned down so you don't put in too much work.|
|- In regards to commercially licensed art, be sure to write down what your rules are.|
|- Now that NFTs are a thing... Make sure you put that in your TOS too. Say they're not allowed, even if it's got a commercial license!|
I recommend making a commission form via Google Forms or elsewhere. Not only does it make filling out info easier for clients, but you can also make a mandatory checkbox stating they read your TOS, so it's a legally binding contract. Clients can be a little intimidated by approaching an artist, so it's easier on them, too.
SHEETS, WEBSITES, AND MARKETING
For websites, Carrd is a popular option. I personally use Carrd premium connected with my own domain. Other options are WiX (which I find can be a little slow and buggy, also has the WiX branding unless you pay), DeviantArt portfolio (DeviantArt branding even with core), Ko-Fi, a Google Doc, and social media such as Twitter and Instagram. If you have a portfolio site already, including your commission info on there is optimal!
|- Having clear commission sheets help a ton! Just an image or two with some examples and pricing and contact methods, and maybe a redirect to more info. Easy to post, easy to see, easy to share.|
|- Make sure your prices, styles, and examples are CLEAR on your sheet or website! If your client can't tell the difference between what you offer or what your prices are, consider simplifying it or changing it up a bit.|
|- When it comes to additional prices (like adding on an extra character) don't operate on percentages, just do a flat charge. Easier on you and your client to figure it out. Same with sales, offer stuff with the math already figured out!|
|- Your website should include your art, prices, TOS, payment info, contact methods, and social media at the bare minimum. The more the merrier, but also have a limit. People aren't fans of reading Othello just to get a general idea. They buy with their eyes first, so leave excessive text like legal jargon to the end.|
|- Marketing is everything!! If potential clients can't see your art or info around because you don't post it or have accounts to post it, it's a loss no matter what! Post everywhere, post frequently! In the case of Toyhouse, participate in posting in the Art Marketplace forum! Make an ad for your commissions, post in others' LF (looking for) threads, generally just be around on sites where you can post your commission info! People won't seek you out specifically and ask if you take commissions if you don't market it with a billboard. Having it on your profile is a must! Pin your info wherever you can (IE a pinned tweet, an Instagram featured story, etc).|
|- Market your niches! If you're good at something, push it with marketing, and do it as much as you can! This can apply to anything, such as themes, color palettes, styles, subject matter, accepting NSFW, etc. Everyone has something they're exceptionally good at and love doing, so make sure people know! People who're looking for that will be more inclined to hire you.|
There's some important stuff I can't fit into other categories!
|- Communication is key! Let your client have your discord, email, social media, anything they can contact you through. Update them often, answer any questions they have! Everyone gets a little antsy sometimes, and the worst thing you can do in this case is ghost them. Even if you're having a bad time, tell them you'll get back to them later. They'll understand.|
|- Consider making an email only for art/commissions! It keeps you from losing important emails and also looks a little more professional. It's also best if you don't give out your personal email.|
|- Commissions will take a while to come in. Don't expect anything right away, otherwise you'll be disappointed. Art's a competitive market especially now, and it takes some time for your name to get out there and also for people to get money to spend. Expect a few weeks to a few months.|
|- Queues for commissions are nice! Trello is hit or miss (it personally is hard for me to read), but even adding a queue with the date added and your general status on your website eases the minds of your clients. You should also state if its empty, so people will know they won't have to wait as long.|
|- Allow tipping via your PayPal invoice or have a Ko-Fi! Ko-Fi's also good if people can't afford a full commission but want to support your art.|
|- Most people don't like extra work to have to see your art (IE NSFW stuff). Make sure you have a central hub where people can see your work, otherwise a lot of people will see "DM for examples" and immediately mark you as a no.|
|- It's okay to say no to a client/potential client. If they're being unreasonable or you can't take on what they're asking, you're in your full rights to politely decline.|
|- It may seem obvious, but it should be stated regardless since these incidents still happen. Minors cannot draw NSFW commissions for anyone, and adults cannot draw NSFW commissions for minors. It's illegal everywhere. Just don't do it.|
As for NSFW commissions and confirming the ages of clients, I have some tips under the cut:
- Some people hate getting this one, but there's really... No reason to be afraid, or anything. But ID checks are pretty much the go-to. Name (at least birth one), DOB, some identifiers at least. These can be used to back up the client's claims via having the same name on PayPal and various social medias. And some people say they can be faked, and they can, but more than anything this prevents minors from attempting at all. I've had someone ask me for a NSFW comm and I had a strong suspicion they were a minor, and as soon as I asked for ID to verify the name and age on their profiles, they immediately dipped with another excuse. Can it be used to doxx someone? No, they can cover up their face and address, and really anything that's not a name and DOB. It's between client and artist trust that you don't use anything, and when you usually see their name and address with a PayPal receipt, I don't think there's reason for concern. It's the same with buying stuff online. If they're worried enough, including a privacy statement in TOS or a disclaimer that you ask for proof of age should be enough for them to go in knowing what to expect. People 18 and over know that's code for ID!
- Check social medias to see if their ages and names are consistent. If they don't list their age anywhere, that's a giant red flag. If you see 18+ ages on multiple places, it's a safer bet. But I still heavily recommend ID.
- You have to be 18 or older to have a PayPal, so one can assume that people are of age if they use it. But this isn't failproof, minors use it all the time. They could also be using their parents' accounts, hence making sure the names check out on ID.
- Checking if they have other NSFW comms from other NSFW artists is also a good idea. If you're worried, you can also contact them to see if they're truthful, but that could cross boundaries for some.
- Also... Marking their TH account as 18+ isn't a sign either, kids lie all the time about ages on adult websites.
Another good resource for art or art business related stuff (like Artist Alley) in general is the Artist Alley Network International (AANI) Facebook group. I highly recommend joining, it's full of people with advice and experience who'll answer any questions you have! They also share a ton of resources. If you're looking to make merch like charm commissions for your clients, this is your first stop.
That's about it! Be sure to let me know if you have questions or anything to add!
Hello! Would it be possible to add a tab space between bullets?
I only took a quick skim for now, but you raise really good points! I plan to take a further look when I have more time to read thoroughly! Ty for writing this!
Hello! Ty so much for putting this together + for adding the spacing! It makes it easier to read for me.
The only tips I can think of right now is -- If you're feeling overwhelmed/swamped, increasing prices and or having a limited slots can help! (Also, if you're constantly getting a lot of work/clients, it may be time to raise prices! It's kind of hard to find the 'sweet spot' of pricing, but a way to tell is by work flow/clients! See if the work flow/clients remain the same, become steady, increase, decrease, etc. after a price change. Also, sometimes it's not you, your skill, or quality, but a question about visibility. (If your work flow remains the same or increases, you can increase the price more lol.) (If you want to do limited slots, you can also offer a waitlist too!)
An artist might have really awesome work, great prices, and everything, but if no one knows you have commissions open, no one will bite! (Just adding onto the advertising bit!)
Using other artists' prices as references can work, but other important factors to consider is:
- What are they selling? It will probably be best to find an artist that sells similar things to you (ie. - you sell pixel icons, they sell pixel icons) just as a better reference (vs. comparing your pixel icon prices to an artist who does painted fullbodies).
- Visibility (If the artist you're using as a reference for prices has many followers, it means they have a lot of visibility. Visibility doesn't always mean work, but it means more probability that more people will see the commissions + more chances of getting clients. Comparing your prices to an artist with high visibility may not always work out, especially if you don't have a lot of visibility yourself.)
It's also okay to say no to a client.
Sorry if my wording is a bit wonky! Thanks for the masterlist, it was def. helpful + there was information I didn't know!
thanks for taking the time to write all this out :)!! i'd like to mention the 'no address needed' option for PayPal invoices does not always appear for international users; i personally only get that option when i create an invoice in my mobile browser (not even app, or desktop!) and i'm in the UK. just paypal being crayzay 6_9
onessu Nifffi When I make invoices (I do live in the US though), there's an option for "digital goods", which I tick. The clients don't have to input their addresses in, but after their payment, I do get an option to add "tracking information/slip(?)", which I manually just click as "not needed". (I do this on laptop browser!)
I think everything said here is important and should be a thread set by the Toyhouse staff.
<<I hope someone can get in touch with the people who run the site>>
[Sorry if this is not a featured comment, I wanted to revive the thread so it doesn't die in oblivion].