How To Sell Art Commissions

How To Sell Art Commissions

Today we’re chatting all about how to sell art commissions. Having an element of your business that comprises of private art commissions is a great way to diversify your business income and build personal and lasting relationships with your clients. We’ve written out a list of awesome tips for artists who are diving into art commissions and selling their artwork online. We’re here to help you get ready to turn your passion into a living, all while sidestepping those common mistakes that can trip you up along the way. 

At the end of this post, we’re also going to discuss some common pricing factors and how to determine where to set your commission rates. These factors will influence whether your art sells for very little or a lot. And as these change, your prices will also change with them. In almost all cases, your prices will increase over time as do your skills and happy collectors.

If you’re new, gaining the first clients will be the hardest part. One really effective way to do this is to offer your first slots at an early, private collector access pricing if needed to attract those first potential clients. 

But to start, let’s review our top helpful tips for earning those commissions. 

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1 | Create A Professional And Optimized Website

Number one on the list for a reason, having a really well optimized and professional website is key to getting those potential customers investing in your custom artwork. Your online presence by way of your own website is the first step to getting commissioned work, those good clients and ongoing sales. 

A well-designed and user-friendly website is the cornerstone of your online presence. I can’t really talk enough about this topic because it truly is your most powerful tool to growth. In that, if you do it right it will work for you while you’re busy working on other things. It’s often the first point of contact for potential customers, so it’s essential to make a strong impression. Start by choosing a clean and modern design that reflects your brand identity. Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly, as the majority of internet users now access the web using their smartphones. Seems silly to write that, but you’d be surprised how many website are built on a laptop but not optimized for a mobile phone. If you’re reading this, there’s about a 60% chance you’re doing it through a smartphone. 

To maximize your online presence, you need to ensure that your website appears prominently in search engine results. This is a science, really. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. Conduct keyword research to identify the terms and phrases your target audience is searching for. Incorporate these keywords naturally into your website content, including your page titles, headings, and meta descriptions. Improve your website’s loading speed, as slow-loading websites tend to have higher bounce rates.

If you’re unsure of your current website or you’re considering designing one, you’re in the right place. The Good Canvas offers semi-custom and fully-customized web design for creatives looking to explode their online traffic. Book a FREE discover call with me to review where you’re at with your website and what you can do to improve it! 

2 | Respect Your Client’s Wishes

Art is a subjective thing. The truth is, your client knows best when it comes to art they’re hiring you to create. Respect their wishes. If you think something would look better this way or another, let them know and decide. Talk to them about it, give them your perspective. But if the client prefers the artwork their way, respect their wishes. Don’t make changes that haven’t been approved by the client. It’s a surefire way to upset them and ruin any future commission opportunities. Keep them happy and informed, unless they’ve given you permission to do as you see fit and surprise them, which also happens!

We all want those open commissions where the client tells us to create whatever we feel is best, but that’s not always the case. You will likely also have clients that want to manage and decide every little detail of their work and those commissions are a little trying, for sure. They challenge our creative licenses but they are also a good experience for you to understand and become comfortable in this space where the client decides and you’re fulfilling a certain request. 

3 | Establish A Contract and Stick To It

Before agreeing to any commission, make sure you have a contract or document that outlines all the commission details with your new clients – including details about the piece of art, timing, changes, requests, revisions, pricing, shipping, care and anything else that might apply to your creative offer. Then, don’t deviate from it. This will ensure both parties remain confident and professional in the process.

Some of the most common questions we get about what to include in a refund policy include what if the client isn’t happy, or if they or I have to cancel half way through. Here is a great starting point when writing out your contract. 

– Full refund within 24 or 48 hours or if you’re unable to complete the artwork
– 50% cancellation fee if the client cancels the commission once you’ve started working on it
– No refunds if they don’t like the artwork but it included everything they requested and the level of detail and quality is equal to your other artworks.

?We’re not lawyers but if we can give you any informal legal advice it would be to really take the time to write up a solid contract, and include a Terms and Conditions, FAQ and/or Commission Policy page on your website or online store. The more transparent you are with your policies, the less confusion and fewer issues you’ll have.

4 | Charge Upfront

This is a hard one for many artists, but we would insist that you charge upfront for your commissions. Why?

There are a few reasons but the most obvious one is that you’ll deliver or ship an artwork and the client never pays because of a million possible reasons. While this is rare, it can happen and the stress of not having that certainty just isn’t worth it. 

But, a lot of clients will ask if they can pay a deposit to get started and then follow up with installments as the work progresses. If it’s a very large sum of money, you can agree to pay half first and the other half upon completion. In either case, set up a contract so that you can take legal action if they don’t fulfill their part of the deal.

If your client trusts and respects you enough to pay upfront, the best way to respect them back is by communicating regularly, sending updates, progress images and completing the artwork on time.

5 | Ask for Testimonials

Testimonials are extremely valuable in the world of online art. Potential collectors want to know that others are happy with not just the artwork but with your communication, customer service, and general professionalism. Ask your clients to provide you testimonials or reviews before you start a commission, something along the lines of, “I would love a review once your artwork is delivered and you feel compelled to share your experience with others. Having these reviews available for other potential customers really helps my small business. Thank you in advance”. 

Then, follow up a week or so after delivery and ask if they would be able to complete the order by providing a review.  

6 | Be Selective With Your Clients.

I know sometimes we’re in such desperate need for money that we’d work with anybody and for any price. But you need to avoid this if you want to have a successful career as an artist. It’s hard to draw the line, we know. But generally, if you have a potential collector consistently asking you for discounts and offer you an amount that is much lower than your asking price. Respect your art and your time. 

Related to this is also working in exchange for exposure. Some clients (influencers, brands or content creators) might ask you for artwork in exchange for exposure. This means they’ll “pay” you by sharing your art on their social media platforms. While this isn’t all bad and can actually be beneficial with the right partnerships, be weary of those that have low engagement, don’t show an interest or have an audience interested in art and refuse to pay anything. If you think about you, you probably don’t want this person’s followers or influence anyways as their following probably also won’t want to pay for art. 

7 | Do Your Research

Take the time to make sure you know all the exact costs associated with each artwork or have a price range for various sizes that you can quickly present to customers. If you’re unsure how to price artwork, read this post. Be your sure to add your time, materials, packaging, delivery and anything else related to your work so that you don’t end up losing money or underpricing your work. 

8 | A Happy Client – Excel At Customer Service

Follow up emails on a regular basis, friends!

Progress updates.

Prompt communication.

Beautiful packaging.

Clean and efficient shipping.

Proper documentation.

All of these things contribute to customer service. Excel at them and you’ll get great reviews and your clients will grow. 

When you’re just starting out, say yes! It might mean doing things a little less your way and a little more theirs, but saying yes to all types of work will help you learn and grow faster. You’ll get through those initial hiccups and surprises faster and get to a place that you love much quicker. 

9 | Let Go Of The Starving Artist Mentality

If there’s anything we want you to take away from this post it’s this bit. The minute you stop treating your business and your artwork like it’ll never support you in a real and sustainable way is the same moment that you’ll value yourself and your work for what it deserves. And if you send out that energy into the world, the world will respond by not questioning your rates and process and you’ll start earning money and clients. Some call it manifestation, but really it all boils down to the same thing – if your mindset is in a place that is deserving of doing good work and having income for it, and you truly believe it to be true than you’ll naturally make smarter choices and stay focused on your goals. In turn, the good stuff will come. 

Okay, so now that we’ve gotten these tips out of the way, let’s talk pricing. 

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What factors can determine your art commission prices? 

And the best practices when starting out…

Pricing your commissions is an art in and of itself, let’s be honest. We worry that if we price our art too high, we may scare clients away and we won’t be able to earn a stable income. On the other hand though (and this is much more likely!),  if you price it too low, you will be working crazy hours for literal peanuts and unfortunately, attracting customers that will continually ask you for a discount and question your prices. You want neither. 

?So, the better way to set your commission rates is by considering the following:

1 | Your Current Skills And Experience.

It goes without saying that high quality art with good anatomy, nice composition, lighting, and detailed backgrounds will be more expensive than unpolished artworks with flaws and other issues.  If you’re a beginner artist or it’s the first time you’re offering commissions then do some research and see how other artists are pricing their work. When I was starting out, I would ask other professional artists what they think a fair price for my art is. Also note, that almost always, they gave me a price much higher than what I was thinking I would charge. We’re our own worst critics. 

Objectively assess how you’re presenting your work, how professional is your website, what is the level of your photography? How clean is your messaging? How well oiled is your shipping process and packaging? If all of these things are in place and in working order, you’re able to charge a bit more. If you’re new at your craft, questioning if you’re good enough (spoiler, you are!) but don’t have the experience and sales behind your business, start on the lower range and work your way up slowly. 

Keep in mind that higher prices will typically attract higher paying clients. We don’t encourage offering discounts or sales unless there’s a good reason such as a studio clean out sale or special collector’s sale. The reason for this is that clients will come to expect these sales and wait for them, and you’ll have a hard time selling at full price. 

What that price is will depend on the following. 

2 | How Fast You Can Complete An Artwork

Basically, hours in. Does it take you 2 hours to complete a piece or 20? Establish your hourly rate and start there. 

If it’s $40/hour and a painting takes you 10 hours of hard work to complete, your base price is $400. Now we’re going to add all the other costs associated with completing a piece – studio costs, materials, shipping, taxes, fees, packaging and skill. To read on how to quantify these, head over to this checklist. 

Once you’ve figured all of this out, you’ll have a price. Compare that with other market prices and what other fellow artists are offering and how established they are to determine if you need to adjust anything. You might come to the conclusion that you’re not charging enough or that your material and shipping costs are too high for what the market can hold. This is all part of the beginning process. It’s knowing what your costs are and what the market can bare and suiting your offering or product to appease both. 

3 | The Complexity Of The Artwork They’re Commissioning

Every once in a while, you’ll get a commission that is out of your typical offering. Either in size or complexity of art or materials. Be upfront with the client and take some time to price those accordingly. I know when new commissions or requests come it, you’ll get excited and want to charge right away and get to work but make sure that you’re not going to lose money on them. Let the client know you need to prepare a custom quote and that you’ll be in touch shortly with your proposal. 

Try out different ways that work for you and your own business and good luck! 


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