THE CLIENT - person who pays for and receives the piece of art.
1. Do some research on the styles the artists are capable of.
Many artists favor one style/medium, while others are talented at a variety of techniques. If you're looking for one style in particular, it would be useful to cite a specific piece when you ask for a commission. On a similar note, asking a person who does sculpture to do an oil painting might not be the best idea. Not saying a sculptor cannot paint, and not saying it isn't worth it to ask... But depending on circumstances it might be a better idea to find an oil painter ; )
2. LOOK FOR COMMISSION INFORMATION.
Most/all artists who take commissions have a page, usually (but not always) in their journal detailing prices, time frames, if you receive originals or digitals, etc. It also shows that you took the time to look through the artist's page rather than impulsively sending a note asking, "Do u take commissions?" Which brings me to my next point...
3. Spell properly.
It's not absolutely required and I certainly don't filter out people who speak like they're on the internet (oh wait...), but it definitely shows a level of professionalism when sentences are thought out and expressed coherently. It also makes it seem like the client is serious about commissioning said artist. Example:
"hey wuz wondering if u could do a tribal pikachu for me?"
"Hi! I was wondering if I could commission you to design a tribal Pikachu for me?"
4. Check the activity of the artist.
If he/she hasn't posted anything since 2009, chances are he/she is no longer active. Though it is still worth sending a note AND an email if you're still interested. I'm currently looking to commission a specific artist who hasn't been very active, but I was able to reach her by the email she provided on her page.
5. Have payment or ETA (estimate time of arrival) of payment ready.
I'd say around half of the inquiries I get about commissions are from people I never hear from ever again/long enough for me to forget them. Having the money ready or letting the artist know, "I'll have the money ready by next Monday" gives the artist a time frame to work by. Especially if the artist is juggling multiple commissions, it would give him/her an idea of where to fit your commission in. Or, if you're just interested in commission info for future commissions, it's good to let the artist know as well.
6. If there are any details you want the artist to represent, specify it.
Blue eyes, jumping pose, textures, shapes, composition, etc. It would help make the final product match the idea you have in your head. Example:
"I would like a drawing of a Pikachu."
"I would like a drawing of a Pikachu jumping."
"I would like a drawing of a Pikachu jumping (link providing exact pose) towards an apple tree on its right, with a golden-red apple dangling from an overhanging branch. I would like the Pikachu to have a ruffle of hair on its head and it's mouth open in anticipation of reaching the apple."
There is no right or wrong here. As an artist I love the freedom in vaguely specified commissions. But at the same time I also love the challenge of trying to accurately represent what the client wants. But if something is not specified, and the artist missed out on a detail you thought would be in there, it would not be the artist's fault or responsibility to redo.
7. Check the artist's credentials.
This one time I was trying to refer a client to an artist who does steampunk, so I did some browsing on deviantart. I found someone who did fantastic steampunk designs and scrolled though her gallery, journals and comments left by other artists. Everything seemed right (activity, commission info etc) until I saw one comment left by a client who had not received the commissioned piece, word from the artist, or a refund. The artist had successfully done commissions before and has truly beautiful artwork. But I did not want to be the person to refer someone to an artist who has even the slightest chance of bailing out or scamming a person.
8. Make sure you know what you're paying for.
Are you receiving the original or a digital copy? If original, do you know the size of the piece you are getting? Are you paying for shipping? Do you know roughly when you are going to receive it? All of this should be specified in a commission info page, or by the artist. But if not you should check.
9. Keep records of your exchanges with the artist.
Save emails regarding payments, inquiries, detail specifications etc. until the transaction is over (ie receiving what you paid for). So that if things do go sour, you have written proof that the artist did not hold up his/her end of the deal.
10. ???? Commissioners, what do you expect out of YOUR clients?
THE ARTIST/COMMISSIONER - person who is paid to create art for said client
**I always thought commissioner was the person paying, but guess I was wrong all my life.
1. Identify your motive.
If you're in it purely for money's sake, well.... But for me personally, the FUN of commissions is part of why I do them. To those who think alike, choose commissions that interest you! I have politely (Life Rule: be polite.) turned down commissions before if they get too repetitive (ex. eeveelutions) or if I feel that another artist could do a better job. Know when to say No.
2. Have your commission information available and easily accessible.
If your commission info is lost in a sea of other journals, it might be worth it to provide an easy to find link in your most recent journal, or on your profile.
3. Have your commission info and availability up to date.
If you're a regular commissioner but suddenly you'll be gone for a while, it would be nice to leave a message stating that. Anyone who takes the time to look through your page will instantly know why you haven't responded for 3 months, and know you are not leaving them hanging. Pricing and other commission info should also be up to date.
4. IF you have a process when taking commissions, specify it.
IF you are someone who sends rough sketches first, then expects payment, then starts designing, then sends the final version to the client, make this process clear in your commish info. Don't leave your client in the dark.
5. COMMUNICATE with your client/Keep your client updated.
Let him/her know if you've received your payment and have started designing, when you are expecting to be done etc. A lot of people keep commission queues and statuses in their journals, which I think is nifty. I communicate with my clients via notes/emails on a case by case basis. There are many ways to approach this.
If there happens to be a hold up in your queue or something else gets in the way (like real life), let the client know that there will be a delay and provide another ETA. That said...
6. Be REALISTIC and TRUE to your words.
If your commission info states that you'll have the art done in 2 weeks, have it done by two weeks' time. Otherwise, change your info or start refusing commissions. Because a lot of transactions are made through the internet these days, in most cases your word is the only thing the client has.
I once commissioned an artist for a painting. I told her I would like it before a certain date, because I would be traveling, and asked if it would be possible to have it done by that time. She said it would and I paid according to her protocols. Time flew by and I never received the painting. I sent emails and the artist responded very spontaneously, even though her replies seemed sincere. Months later, I received a refund. The artist was VERY sincere and apologetic through it all, quick to return my money in the very end. But I lost respect for said person as a commissioner (but not as an artist) and I would not seek to commission her again.
I also once did an art trade with a person, tribal designs for papercraft. The person admitted very early on that he would be very slow with it and that he often did not get things done by a certain time. I accepted this art trade KNOWING THIS. The whole process was very long but chill. Months later I got the papercraft. I was ecstatic about the art trade and that papercraft is still in my display case till this day. But the important message here is I knew what to expect and that we were both honest and realistic with our expectations.
7. Keep records of your exchanges with the client. (likewise to #9 for clients)
Especially if you're handling many commissions at once, it's useful to organize details as to whether payments have been made, what details were specified for which designs etc.
8. NEVER START UNTIL YOU ARE PAID.
I still have designs that are unclaimed because I was too gung-ho about designing. Well, I did them for fun. And I auction off some of them for wayyy cheaper than it's selling price. But there is absolutely no reason for an artist to waste time on a would-be commission. This is also why it is most important for a commissioner to be responsible (#6) because ultimately the artist holds the cards.
9. ???? What do you expect out of people YOU commission?
Hope this helps? Let me know what YOU think : )