Should You Take Commissions?

Before considering taking on art commissions, an artist must ask themselves a few questions to make sure it’s the right opportunity for them.

What is a Commission?

A commission is the act of requesting the creation of a piece of art, often on behalf of another. Artwork may be commissioned by private individuals through an artist website or social media, by the government via grants for public art, or a business such as an interior designer or an art consultant.

Are They for You?

Someone Loves Your Work and Wants to Make a Purchase. BUT, can you make it bigger, add some more detail over here, and change the color? It is true that commissions are not for every artist. So who should think about commissions?

An artist that is able to view the process as a collaboration (instead of subordination) is an idea candidate for commision work.

An artist who will enjoy commissions is someone who enjoys working with other people, has strong communication and documentation skills, and strong boundaries. An artist that is able to view the process as a collaboration (instead of subordination) is an ideal candidate for commission work. This artist is able to clearly communicate the artistic possibilities, while setting firm boundaries around limitations around materials and design.

To Your Own Self Be True

Honestly assessing your artistic values, skills and workstyle prior to taking on commissions is the predictor of success. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have you defined your artistic values? Artistic values are the qualities you value in the artwork you make. They are the thread that ties all of your work together and create your unique artistic voice. Artists who are commissioned to create works that fall outside their artist values are rarely satisfied with the outcome.
  2. Are you skilled at documenting the commission process? Clear written communication documenting the scope of design, construction and process of a commission keeps things on track. Artists who are not comfortable with documentation will most certainly run into misunderstanding and failed commissions.
  3. Are you comfortable setting boundaries? It can be quite difficult to say no to work that falls outside of your artistic values. Especially when it is paid work. Receiving a commission request is flattering and it is instinctual to want to reciprocate.
  4. Are you comfortable working with deadlines? While the artist sets the turn around time from the beginning, once the deadline is set, the artist must meet it. Artists who fail to meet agreed upon deadlines lose reputation and future commissions.
  5. If you answered no to any of the above, are you willing to adjust and learn?

Honestly assessing your artistic values, skills and work style prior to taking on commission is the best predictor of success.

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