This is part of the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy (intro). Read the previous ones to get the full picture: part 1 Get Personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email, part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, and part 8 Sales Conversations.
Offering something special and exclusive for your most-discerning fans and for special occasions is a great way to bring in extra income and make your customers feel cared for.
I encourage most artists to offer some sort of custom work, even if there are a lot of rules for what commissions you take, because it provides people with a way to buy something extraordinarily luxurious from you and provides another revenue stream.
You’ll be surprised to hear that most artists have (or end up having once they grow their audience) a handful of fans who only want the best.
Anything that feels accessible to the masses does not feel worth it to them. So while they’ll admire your art and come see your gallery shows and join your email list, they’re not putting down money until something truly special comes along.
THAT’S WHERE COMMISSIONS COME IN FOR THESE FOLKS.
The bespoke nature makes it suddenly worth purchasing your art. Because you’ll create something for them that not only no one else has, but that is also created with them in mind. They are the inspiration for the art – what feels more special than being the inspiration for a work of art?
Lest I misrepresent commissions, I must say that these aren’t the only people who will buy a commission from you.
Depending on the style and price, your commissions may attract all sorts of people.
I see a lot of art customers these days buying a commission because they just don’t find quite the right fit in the artist’s available finished work. So they need to ask the artist to create something especially for them in the right size or color or subject matter, or whatever specifications the artist allows the customer to pick.
THE KEY IS TO MAKE IT FEEL LIKE A SPECIAL EXPERIENCE FOR ANYONE WHO COMMISSIONS A WORK OF ART FROM YOU.
If you make sure your fans and followers do know that you offer commissions, they can become another good way to bring in money.
You don’t want to add any revenue stream that occurs to you. But commissions do more than just bring in money, they also brand you as a professional and talented artist and ensure that more of your fanbase finds the right fit to buy from you.
But take caution!
Commissions are also an opportunity for your customers to walk all over you if you aren’t careful and assertive.
Make sure the rules are very clear before you take a customer’s money so that they can’t ask you for endless changes or force you to use a motif you hate. If you won’t use the color black in your art (true story from one of my clients) make sure that’s clear before you take their money so that if they wanted a piece that’s black, yellow, and purple, you can say no before it becomes a much more serious issue.
And other rules are perhaps even more important – when are you going to get paid, what shipping method will you use, will they have the opportunity to approve the piece before paying the remaining balance, if the piece is damaged during shipment will you be giving them back their money (using the insurance payment if you can) or creating a new work or are you eschewing all responsibility for that damage???
A PROPER CONTRACT CAN TAKE CARE OF ALL OF THIS.
Take some time to think through potential pitfalls of the commission process and draft a simple agreement (you don’t have to use any legal terms if you don’t want to) covering what will happen if any of these situations occurred.
Or sign up for this list of my Top 5 Clauses for an Art Commission Contract below.
This is part of the series Selling Your Art in the Modern Economy. To get the full picture, make sure you read the introduction, part 1 get personal, part 2 Website, part 3 Email,part 4 Target Market, part 5 Outreach, part 6 Launching, part 7 Giveaways, and part 8 Sales Conversations.