When you get a commission, the customer is often going to want an invoice either to see the breakdown of what they’re paying for (which is helpful to you because it justifies your pricing and makes you appear more honest – not like you just picked the price out of the air) or to see what amount is left after paying their deposit.
If you’re unfamiliar with taking on commissions, it’s most common to charge a deposit before you begin working on the piece.
That deposit is usually 50% of the total price. Before you give them the finished piece, they owe you the other half of the money. It’s pretty simple and completely standard to do this, but it’s not the only way. So don’t be afraid to change your payment structure.
Back to the invoice.
Your client (sounds so pro, right?) might ask you for an invoice and instead of scrambling to produce something mediocre, you really should have a template on hand so you can quickly fill in the right numbers and dates and send it on over to them.
The first thing that’s crucial for your invoice, especially if they haven’t paid you anything yet, is that it looks clean and professional. Moreover, it should echo your branding because that makes you look professional in the first place.
If you have that covered, the next most important thing is breaking down the total price into understandable segments to help the client understand how you arrived at the final price. You don’t need to justify each individual itemized amount, but the total amount can feel like it’s been pulled from thin air which kills the trust you could’ve had with your customer.
If you’re able to show them what went into coming up with that final price, even if the numbers aren’t completely precise, it will do wonders for your relationship with the client.
It’s one of the things I notice keeps clients coming back for more and more of your art.
So what sorts of things can you itemize when you’re pricing the way I do (with Resonate Pricing as the final step of the pricing process) and not just formulaically?
Materials is the most obvious thing to pull out as an item. You should be able to show approximately how much the canvas and paints cost or the piece of paper and a little bit extra for your ink or pencils.
You should also include the frame and/or the hanging hardware as a separate item.
Then hourly wage or other base pricing strategy (per square inch, linear inch, etc) is the biggie.
This one is funny to be saying because I strongly suggest you don’t use this method to price.
But when you pull everything else out of the price, you’re left with a number that’s basically your effort, skill, artistry, and time. How do you describe that to a customer? The simplest way for a customer to understand that is with typical pricing structures. So if your per square inch price resulted in $500, your line item would be $500 for 30 hours of painting. For instance. This really helps a customer to understand because it makes sense to them what $17 an hour is – even if that’s not how you arrived at the amount (which I recommend it isn’t).
The last things to include are tax (if you’re in the US, you’re usually required to collect sales tax), shipping if there is any, and the deposit amount (as a negative if it’s already been paid).
To finish off your invoice, make sure your contact information and your customer’s contact information are both on the invoice and include a small image of the piece (if it’s finished or significantly in progress) with the title and dimensions for easy reference. These are great professional touches if the layout looks clean and can help the client feel like they’re doing business with an established artist they can trust.
This is the stuff word-of-mouth marketing is made of.
Invoices also make it easier to get paid, so don’t be afraid to send them. They’re an expected part of the process in buying things where you aren’t paying in full upfront. Your client isn’t going to suddenly say they don’t want the piece when you send them an invoice. And they’re not going to remember to pay you unless you remind them that they owe you money.
Do you send invoices to your commission clients already? I’d love to see a sample (please remove the client’s information before posting it publicly though). I’d be happy to help with layout as well if you’d like feedback, just post a comment with a link to a picture of your invoice and I’ll take a look at it.
EDIT: It has come to my attention that I wasn’t quite clear enough in this article about the difference between what you put on the invoice and how you actually arrive at the price. I firmly believe my pricing process is the best way to arrive at a price for your finished artwork. That process does not involve hourly wages and typically doesn’t involve a price-per-inch either, though a formula of your choosing is a good place to start. However, I do find that breaking down a price into pieces your customer can understand (even if that is not how you arrived at the price in the first place) is a good way to meet them where they’re at and help them feel that they are spending their money wisely, as well as bring more trust into your relationship. By only providing them with a final number, you are unable to help them understand that number and they are likely to resist it. But, this does depend a lot on your target market. If your customer happens to buy art all the time or mostly deals with galleries when they do buy art, they are used to only receiving a final number and are comfortable with the differences in pricing from artist to artist. Use your own judgment in deciding whether to break down the price into understandable segments on your invoice or not.