This ArtMakers detailed introduction to Art Commissions covers the following topics: –
Framing, Installation, and Delivery
You have been approached to produce a commissioned piece of work, but where to start?
Unless the customer wants a replica of another piece of your artwork, which you may or may not choose to create, quite often customers won’t know what they want.
The first thing to say is that communication is so incredibly important. It is your job to fill in the gaps so that you produce something they love, don’t just assume you know what they want and carry on regardless.
An initial chat/meeting with the customer is important.
Here are some questions that will help you identify what the customer wants.
- Are there one or two stand out pieces that you love from my collection?
- What do you like about them?
- Where will the piece be situated?
- Do you have any visual references that you want me to follow?
- What size would you like the work to be?
- Which of my colour pallets do you like?
- Is there anything you don’t want/like and if so, why?
- Do you have a budget in mind?
Once you have answers to these questions, more questions may come up. Make sure to ask questions, until you feel confident in knowing how to quote for the work.
Your customer may have already given you an understanding of what their budget is.
If they have, then your quote system works backwards from the overall figure. Instead of working out the costs, you work out what you can create for their budget.
If the budget won’t cover any of your work, then this is where you may need to gently explain this to the customer.
Everyone has a different opinion of value, and you must come away with what you know at least covers your time and materials. Never under price yourself.
Even if this doesn’t always feel comfortable and clear, really try to take the emotion out of the costing.
The customer may haggle, and perhaps if there is a bit of wriggle room in your quote then you can move a little, but do not undermine your skill! No one would haggle with a solicitor or accountant.
In 2021 The Artists Union says:
£22.16 p/hr new graduate artist
£28.73 p/hr with 3 yrs+ experience
£34.20 p/hr with 5 yrs + experience
If your customer doesn’t know or won’t tell you their budget, then you need to work out a quote from scratch. Quotations are estimates, however, it is good to keep the customer in the loop if the costs have increased from your initial quote. This will mean that the customer doesn’t have a shock at the end of the process.
If you’re not sure what a quote looks like, there are plenty of examples online.
Make your quoting system looks professional and do not send it as a word document as these can too easily be edited. Send a PDF and add terms and conditions, such as, “This quotation is an estimate.” “The costs reflects the price of materials at the time of quotation and are subject to change.” “Quotation is valid until the (date 2022), after this date a new quotation will need to be produced.”
None of us are fortune tellers so it can be a good thing to add 10% on top of your quote to cover any unforeseen costs. It is much nicer to lower the quote at the end than ask for more money due to costs not laid out in the quote.
You have had a good chat, you have an understanding of what work is wanted.
You have sent a quote to the customer, and they are happy and have given you the go ahead.
Now you need to write everything from your meeting and the agreed quote into a contract.
You should never start on a piece of work until you have a signed contract from the customer.
- Details of the commissioned work, from colours, size, materials.
- Due dates for payments.
- Who is responsible for framing, installation and delivery of the commissioned work?
- Is there an ongoing maintenance cost (mainly relates to outdoor sculptures)? If there is, outline this in the contract.
NOTE: DELIVERY IS USUALLY COVERED BY THE CUSTOMER
If the customer doesn’t sign the document, walk away!
If the customer wants to adjust the contract, then, if you are happy to, you can make small amendments. The idea is that you want to cover yourself, so don’t undermine yourself by lowering costs and making substantial changes. If the customer disagrees with the details of the work mentioned in the contract, then you may need to have another talk with them to clarify their vision. They may have changed their mind on certain details, this can happen, make small changes to fit their new idea.
This is all a part of commissioning. It can feel frustrating compared to just picking up a paintbrush and making work. For the most part though, creating commissioned work can be highly enjoyable and also may even help develop your work in different areas. With each commission, you will get better at the process.
You have agreed on the contract, you and the customer have each signed and you both have a copy.
Now you need to ask for the deposit which you mentioned in your contract payment due dates section.
We pay deposits on lots of things these days, art should be no different.
This payment is deducted from the final fee, however, if the customer drops out of the process you keep the deposit. Having a deposit helps ward against customers ending the process when you have already spent time and money.
The amount of deposit is generally up to the artist, just make sure it is substantial enough so that it deters cancellation of commission. A 50% can be a good place to start. If you feel uncomfortable with 50%, you can drop this a little.
You have a signed contract in place, just in case the customer suddenly changes their mind.
Divide your process into stages and share each stage with the customer and gain approval before moving on to the next stage. Try and make your photographs of the stages as close to the actual work as possible, otherwise, you may get unwanted feedback about elements that were captured in the photo rather than of the actual work. (For more photographic information you can head to ArtMakers information sheet Photography PDF)(ADD LINK)
Framing, Installation, and Delivery
These should be kept separate from the commission quote.
This should be mentioned in your contract before the start of commissioned work.
Usually, the customer will cover the framing, installation and delivery.
Other than giving them helpful information about the size, weight, your preferred delivery company and whether this includes insurance or not, leave the rest up to them as this can become very time consuming and costly for you. You should though, unless the delivery company covers this, package the work so that you know you have done as much as possible to keep it safe in transit. You could add a nominal fee to the contract to cover this. See ArtMakers Information sheet ‘Packaging’.ADD LINK
Every so often things don’t go to plan, so if this impacts the work, timescale or price, make sure you update your customer.
All has gone well; your customer loves the work and is now situated in their Home.
Get feedback and a testimonial if you can, even better, if you ask for a testimonial, they may even send you a photo of the work in situ which you can use on social media to promote that you take commissions. You would be wise to also use this in your portfolio page online, as recent research has shown this encourages buyers.
I hope this has been helpful.
For more Detailed information on Selling see Selling: Topics under Support – Knowledgebase on the ArtMakers websote.
Art Commissions- The Process