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Do You Take Commissions?

Woman drawing

As an artist, do you do commissions for your customers? If you are unsure what a commission is, it is basically a custom piece you make suited to a customer's specific requirements. Some artists avoid these like the plague (as they are the artist and don't want to be managed by their customers), whereas others build their entire business around commissions, such as portrait and pet portrait artists.

For me personally, commissions made up a large part of my business in the first few years. I didn't want to turn down work so pretty much said yes to everything! Most went smoothly and people were happy with the end results. A couple of situations were trickier though, and involved people who were hard to please. This resulted in a lot of extra work on my part, which I hadn't taken into account when giving them my initial quote.

I have recently created a Commission Contract template for our members, as I think this is something all artists should have in place to protect both themselves and their customers. Commissions may come from family and friends initially, so it's usually a safer situation and low risk, however it's good practice to get into the habit of creating documents, especially if you feel this is going to be a regular part of your business.

Now that I am a few years in, I take fewer commissions, and have the luxury of choosing the ones I want to do, which suits me better. They can be a joy to do and experience makes them easier. Here are a few points to consider.


  • When you take on a commission, you are making a custom piece for your customer, so make sure you charge at least 10% more. It will most likely take you more time to complete than usual, and people expect to pay more for custom pieces.
  • Create clear terms and conditions for the project. Upfront quote (or price bracket i.e. it will be between $2000 - $2500), time frame and how often you will check in, share progress etc.
  • Will you allow your customer to see it in progress or not? Have a think about what works best for you. I usually send them photos along the way, or invite them into the studio if they live locally.
  • How will payment work? Will you take a deposit and is it non-refundable if something happens and the customer changes their mind? What will happen to the piece in this incidence? Landscapes are re sellable. Children's portraits? Not so much.
  • How many changes are you willing to make to the piece, if it's not quite what the customer wanted?
  • Is the customer willing to give you a testimonial if they are happy with it?


Generally, most commissions are good experiences and wonderful if they are surprises for birthdays and anniversaries etc, and they share the experience with you. However, in order for them to go smoothly, please do take some time to consider the above, and protect yourself as an artist.




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