How to Do Art Commissions: Earning From Your Passion

Let’s face it: it can be difficult to live off of your art. This is why a lot of artists pursue their creativity as a hobby or sideline and still continue working on their day jobs.

Doing so will afford you creative liberty. You don’t have to worry about your bills, get dictated by the latest trends, or have people tell you what you should or shouldn’t make.

However, isn’t it also very fulfilling to be able to do your art full time? There are millions of artists currently pursuing and earning from their passion by learning how to do art commissions, so why couldn’t you? What’s more, is that the internet has already made it easier for us to do so.

What Is an Art Commission?

If you are considering pursuing your passion as a means for profit, then we know of two ways to earn as an artist. First, you can sell your prints in an open edition. This means that you can print and sell as many as you want. Second, you can have art commissions for your clients.

In a nutshell, a commission is a request for getting a particular work of art done by a client or an organization. The piece should be unique, and the client will gain ownership over it. In fact, the greatest works of art in history were usually commissioned either by the church or the government.

Are You Ready to Do Art Commissions?

Yes, this process has existed for a very long time. The question is, are you ready as an artist to do commissions for people? Here are a few things that you should consider:

Your Skill

Are you confident that on your skills as an artist already? Do you believe that there are clients out there willing to buy your art?

Let’s be realistic. An artwork is not a “need”, but it is a luxury item that most people will buy on impulse when they are deeply moved by your work and would want to take it home.

Your Time

Another essential thing to consider is your schedule. Art commissions are done on strict deadlines.

You still have the liberty of setting that deadline yourself but remember that there will be instances when the client would need it earlier. For example, if it’s going to be a gift.

You are also required to set a timeline of when you’re going to show your drafts and work-in-progress updates. This can be difficult if you’re not devoted to making art full-time.

Your Values

Finally, doing art commissions take a lot of patience and dedication. You will not be creating works for your own pleasure. Your client will also have a general idea of what they expect.

Do you have that kind of patience? Can you endure criticism? On the other hand, are you prepared to stand your ground if your client requests something that requires you to compromise your artistic vision?

If you have answered yes to most of the questions we have posed above, then congratulations. You’re ready to take your art to the next step. It’s time to build that portfolio!

Your Portfolio

A portfolio is a curated collection of your best works. One awesome piece is not enough. You would have to prove your worth to your client and show them that your skill is consistent. It is also a great way of telling your clients what you can and can’t do.

You probably have all your works laid out in front of you, whether they’re in traditional or digital form. What do you see? Do you have a certain niche or area of expertise?

Don’t be a jack-of-all-trades. Having a specific area that you can practice and focus on is best. In this way, you will also have a target demographic which will make marketing your work easier.

For example, if you’re a digital artist specializing in chibis, then your target demographic will most likely be female students. On the other hand, if you’re an oil painter specializing in landscapes, then your target demographic would probably be interior designers.

Having a portfolio is also an excellent way to market your brand as an artist. Think of a professional name that you would be proud to have printed out on a business card during exhibit openings and art fairs.

How to Build a Solid Portfolio

Once you have decided on your brand and aesthetic, you can now move on and create your portfolio. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:

  1. Select your pieces. We have already mentioned this above, but allow us to reiterate because this is very important. Choose only your best works to display.
  2. Convert your works into digital format. If your work is traditional, then you would need to scan or photograph it. Bigger works are easier to photograph while drawings won’t look well when scanned. Colored pieces would look great scanned, though, and if you do choose to photograph, make sure to use a tripod to avoid blur.
  3. Edit your images with photo editing software. Make sure that they all look their best and that they are all in high-resolution quality.
  4. Decide on your brand. This will decide your artist’s name (if you plan to have a pseudonym) and the overall look of your portfolio.
  5. Decide where you want to put your portfolio. Do you want to have a website of your own? Or would you rather display your work in an online gallery or community like Deviantart?
  6. Build your portfolio. There are a lot of different website builders out there, and some even allow you to build a portfolio with a ready-made template in a couple of hours. The best way, however, is to get it professionally done with the help of a web developer.
  7. Share, share, share! Once your portfolio is done, market it online as much as you can by sharing it on your blogs, social media posts, and art community forums.

Getting your first commission is a frustratingly long wait for some. Just be patient. You will get a client soon enough.

How to Do Art Commissions

In the meantime, let’s address a crucial subject: learning how to put a monetary value on your creative piece properly. There are different factors to consider when pricing your work:

  • Your Skill Level: The better you are and the more experience you have, the higher the price you can get.
  • Time: You can set an hourly rate on how long it takes for you to finish a piece. You can determine your hourly rate based on your skill level too.
  • Size: The bigger the piece, the higher the price. Don’t underestimate miniature pieces, as well since they can sometimes be even more challenging to work on.
  • Materials: Finally, you need to consider your expenditure. How much were your materials? How about utilities like electricity and internet expenses?

If you still have no idea where to start, then we recommend taking a look at the profiles of artists whom you share a skill level with and check their asking price. You can also set a fixed rate based on your rough estimate, but this would risk potential loss if the work suddenly needs more details than you have originally planned.

how to do art commissions

The Process

Once you have determined your price, it will be a lot easier for you to communicate with your potential clients. You will be able to offer them an estimate as well. To give you an idea, here’s the general process on how to get a commission from your artwork:

  1. You will come in contact with the client.
  2. The client will give you an idea of what he or she requires. Ask as many questions as possible. Determine the size and other specs of the piece.
  3. Create an estimated timeline of when you’re going to submit your first draft, second draft, and final draft. Don’t forget to include the payments as well.
  4. Work with your client’s feedback to improve your piece after each draft.
  5. Submit your drafts on time.
  6. Provide the client of a photo or low-resolution image of the finished work.
  7. Receive the complete payment of the client.
  8. Give the client the finished work.

Again, this walkthrough only seeks to give you an idea of what may happen. Each project and each client is unique in its own way. In time, you will be able to tweak and modify your own process.

Let’s Talk Business

Anyway, now that you have an idea of how to do art commissions, the next thing we’d want to talk about is the business side of things. There are a lot of payment methods available, but we prefer Paypal. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  1. A lot of people are hesitant about sharing their credit card information online.
  2. Money transfers and checks can be complicated and risky.
  3. Paypal is fast, and it works with a lot of online marketplaces like Etsy.
  4. Finally, it has a refund option that can make your client feel more at ease.

You can create a business account, but a personal account also works fine. Just link your bank account with your Paypal account, then register that bank account to get online banking services for added convenience.

Copyright and Licenses

Here’s another business-related aspect: copyrighting. Who owns the piece? Is it you or the client?

In general, the copyright of the piece belongs to the artist. This means that your client may not reproduce it for commercial use, nor could they restrict you from doing so.

However, there are special projects where this could change. For instance, if you have made a written contract with the client that states that you allow them to use the commissioned piece commercially.

Licensing, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. This allows the artist to earn a percentage whenever a product that used their work is sold. This happens when you work with t-shirt companies, decor manufacturers, and more.

We understand that it can all be quite confusing, especially for the beginner artist. The best route is to do a lot of research about your specific case, read everything before signing anything (this includes digital signatures), and, when in absolute doubt, consult a lawyer.

More Tips to Get Better at Commissions

Here are a few more tips on how to get better in doing commissions and how to get those stellar reviews:

  • Don’t leave a lead hanging. If someone inquired about you and your work, then make sure to respond immediately! There are a lot of artists out there who are more than happy to welcome a new client you’ve taken your sweet time to respond to.
  • You can ask for a “kill fee. This is a payment that you can demand from your client if the project is canceled from their end. Just make sure to clearly state this term before the client agrees to work with you. Lay all the cards on the table. Don’t hide anything.
  • Be sure to meet deadlines. This is especially important if your client has already paid a percentage of the price. They have the right to ask how the work is doing, after all, and be demanding when need be.
  • Reward loyalty. Do you have a client who always comes back to get more work done? Then reward your client’s loyalty by offering a special discount or a free commissioned piece. These clients are rare, and you should treasure them.
  • Never stop learning. An artist definitely improves after each project, but don’t let this be your only practice. Make an effort to learn new skills along the way and improve your work.

Final Words

That’s it! By keeping the tips we have shared with you in mind, we’re sure that you will be a successful artist in no time.

You will encounter a lot of challenges along the way, that’s for sure. There will be difficult clients and easy ones alike. Just persevere and continue doing what you love, and your work will love you back.

2 thoughts on “How to Do Art Commissions: Earning From Your Passion”

  1. Appreciate all the tips and how to’s given, certainly picked up some for me to apply to my art practice and earn from it.
    I have not created a website yet though I already have a sizeable volume of work, sold and waiting to be sold, but I never tried selling inline. I would like to be able to do that.

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