How To Get Commissions

6 min read

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Astralseed's avatar
Hey guys,
in all my years fighting the good fight in regards to commission pricing I haven't really sat down and worked on a journal explaining HOW to sell your commissions since pricing properly alone unfortunately wont do the trick.  I feel like this kind of information is really lacking in our community so I hope you'll find this journal to be helpful and informative.  So let's dive right in, shall we?

Everyone is capable of getting commission sales, regardless of their skill level.  It's all in how and where you market yourself.  If your commissions aren't selling, it probably says more about your marketing skills than your art skills.  Thankfully marketing skills can generally be acquired significantly faster than art skills, so don't fret! 

Below I'll outline a few things that can help you market your commissions more properly.  I have opted to mainly focus on marketing strategies for selling commissions on DA because this is the platform I am most familiar with selling on.  Many of these tips should serve you well on other platforms as well though.  

Find your target audience

The very first thing you should consider is who is your target audience.  Who will buy your art?  Are you looking for a target audience that will get you only a few sales and then that's it, or are you looking for a target audience that is constantly buying what you're offering?  Make sure the audience you are marketing yourself to is one who will actually be interested in your commissions.  

Spamming isn't marketing

When you're submitting your commission journals or adoptables or YCHs to a bunch of groups in hopes of someone buying it, you're not really marketing your work, you're just spamming it in places where maybe someone who will want it could see it.  While spamming can certainly be an effective tool in getting your work seen, you shouldn't rely on it as a sole means of marketing.  And please please please don't spam people with your work outside of submitting it to groups or your own journal. 
Unsolicited spam asking for people to purchase commissions have been on the rise on DA over the last few years and it is a complete turn off to many potential buyers.  

You are your brand!

Unless you're a very skilled artist with a large following, you'll have the best chance of selling commissions by letting your market audience get to know you as long as you're likable. Charismatic extroverts definitely have a leg up on this one.  Sorry introverts, you're all still lovely people, but you'll need to step up your friend making game for this! 
If you happen to someone who doesn't know how to play nicely with others, you'll likely also struggle in this area.  My suggestion would be to learn to start playing nicely with others or give up on wanting to sell commissions.  Not many people want to give someone they don't like money.  

With artists who offer commissions being a dime a dozen on DA, you need to stand apart, and without a distinct style or skill set your best way to stand out is by being well known and liked. 
On DA people feel more comfortable supporting artists they actively like and feel deserve the money.  

Be sincere and let people see the real you (unless the real you is a really awful person).  Find and make new friends and create bonds.  Get to know the people in your target audience (chances are you'll get along well with them and have shared interests anyway).  Mingle, and be part of your community!   Become a name people in your community know.   

Be professional when selling your commissions

Selling commissions means you are providing a service to a paying customer and it should be treated like the business transaction it is.  Be sure to use good manners and provide them with quality customer service (which includes responding in a timely fashion).  This helps show your clients that you take your work serious.  

Remember to communicate any problems that may arise with your clients.  Life is getting in the way of completing the commission?  Reach out, let them know that you're not blowing them off, they aren't forgotten and that the commission is still high priority for you.  

Blowing commissions off is NOT an option, and actually a really fast way to prevent yourself from getting more in the future! If for any reason you can not complete a commission contact your client immediately and offer a full refund.  (This is a good time to remind people not to spend money they got for commissions until AFTER they have completed the commission)

Offer your services when you can

Don't be afraid to offer your services if someone in your circle/market audience is looking for an artist for a project you can do.  It's possible they may not opt to go with you for the project, but you and most importantly they won't know if you're the right fit if you let such opportunities pass you by.  

Adjust to the demand of your market audience

Are certain things trending in sales in your circles?  If you can get in on the action, do!  
Please be respectful not to rip off other artists in doing this though.  Some bandwagons are okay to jump on, others are best left alone!  

If your current marketing techniques aren't working, move on!

It's okay to abandon a marketing technique if it's clearly not working.  If you're not getting sales it's a safe bet to say that either your method of marketing and/or your audience are not right for you.  Trial and error and what not are a big part of selling your commissions so don't be discouraged if you run into this, just stop what you're doing and try something new!  

I'm sure there are a lot of other small things you can do to market yourself and they likely greatly depend on your skills, target audiences needs, and any other things which can influence the market.  It helps to stay in the loop with what is happening in and with your target audience and adjust your marketing techniques as needed.  

If you haven't seen my article on pricing your commissions yet, please check it out too: PE: Pricing Your Commissions
If you're looking to sell adoptables, you can also check out my article on pricing those: Pricing Adoptables 

Now go forth and sell your art!  
© 2019 - 2021 Astralseed
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weewight's avatar

Aaa, this is all very good advice!! The other aspect of selling commissions I've found to be vital is that whatever the style, whatever the skill level whatever the subject it is, presentation is everything. For traditional artists, good lighting for taking photos of the actual art can either make it or break it. Digital artists on the other hand needs to be aware of digital sizes, different file types, etc.

Astralseed's avatar
Yeah with traditional art or artisan crafts etc, presentation can absolutely  make or break the piece.  I think with digital it's way more forgiving, though still something worth being mindful of for sure!  
PolarisAstrum's avatar
"This is a good time to remind people not to spend money they got for commissions until AFTER they have completed the commission"

This, this and THIS again^

Also, it's always good to be upfront with your customers about how long it may take you to complete a commission.
Please be realistic about it too, shit happens to everyone, but if you tell your customer that you'll take 2 days to finish something that takes you 10 hours to make while you also have to work/study/whatever, it's not a realistic thing to do. Most people will be okay with waiting for "longer" periods of time as long as the artist is honest about it. It's better than to then have to tell the customer that you're late several times before you finish it or, even worse, leave them in the dark.
Astralseed's avatar
:nod: absolutely!  I think it goes back to that whole being sincere thing too.  
Most people are quite understanding if your grandma just died and you are busying grieving and planning a funeral and can't get that commission done this week!  
PolarisAstrum's avatar
Yup! It's a shame that many people don't treat commission work like the actual work it is!
If you're being paid money to provide that service, you owe it to your clients to be as professional as possible. You wouldn't skip on your job and not let your boss know why you didn't go to work that day, would you? So why do people think it's acceptable to not give commissioners any satisfaction on delays, etc.?  Makes me wonder if it's because people like that don't consider it real work or if they're actually like that with other types of jobs as well :stare:

Clients remember sellers who are professional and nice. They'll be more likely to return or recommend people they had good experiences with, so everybody wins when you're cool to your clients. Plus, you're not only hurting your chances and reputation when you pull off stupid stunts, but also other people's because it hurts the community as a whole when a client has trust issues because they got burned by someone before, and it happens way too often :/
z0mbiekid's avatar
In the professionalism part, I don't pay up front for commissions any more at all because I've been let down too often. A lot of the more professional artists with higher prices and larger followings will do the work before payment and those are the ones I'm interested in now - if there's no option to pay once I know it's been done, I'm generally not interested. Artists work so much on referrals and praise from other customers, and there's some people I'd actively suggest but also some I'd actively tell people to steer clear of, simply because of their unreliability.
Astralseed's avatar
I think there are some who will take payment after and some who wont.  It just really depends on your circle probably.  I know a fair few higher paid professional artists who wont start working until they have been paid.  I know some who will take payment plans, and some who only ask for half up front, the rest upon completion.  I honestly don't know many who won't ask for at least a down payment before starting work though, but I imagine they must be out there too.  

Getting screwed happens on both ends honestly and it's up to both the artist and the commissioners to do their homework and protect themselves from that.  
z0mbiekid's avatar
If it's over 50 I'm cool with a down payment but anything below, I'd be wary of commissioning them unless I knew them myself. Shame really bc there's some great artists out there whose art I'd love but I've had trouble with them or know someone who has, and I just don't want the hassle lol
Astralseed's avatar
I'm always wary of buying commissions from artists I don't know or am unsure how their turn around for commissions are and the quality etc.  It's definitely a gamble to throw money at a stranger and hope they actually do the work.  I see way too many people getting burned when commissioning artists.  A while back I even saw an artist come out and say "sorry I wont be finishing your commissions, but I also wont refund them"  and it's like WHOA I hope nobody ever commissions them again!  The bad eggs make it harder for the rest of us to be able to sell and it really sucks.  
z0mbiekid's avatar
Yikes that's pretty horrific to not finish or refund. There's no excuse for that, even emergencies tbh.
Astralseed's avatar
They got depressed and decided they were too depressed to work on art.  And I mean I get that sometimes you feel too shitty to work on art and that is okay and I wouldn't ever fault anyone for that, but then you gotta give refunds!  I think the attitude of "fuck you, the money is mine because it's not my fault I'm depressed" is what bothered me the most about the situation.  
z0mbiekid's avatar
Yeah. I have health mental issues, and now physical health problems for a bit as well, but I'd never even consider not refunding what I couldn't finish.
Astralseed's avatar
That's because you're not a shitty person who doesn't take commissions serious :heart:
kalmanen's avatar
THANK YOU this is great!!! Also, DA-specific thing is that this place runs strongly on community basis. Being known in your target community, participating in whatever keeps that community together and people interested etc will definitely have a positive effect on commissions. ARPGs are a bit of an specialty case, but I've found plenty of new people to watch (and consider for commissions) through groups and ARPGs that I either watch or participate in. Being seen by your target audience often in the places they habit in DA is sooo important. Popularity and being known doesn't exist in a vacuum, the watchers do come from somewhere and if you know the best venue, you definitely should take advantage of it :)
Astralseed's avatar
I think that being a name that people know and recognize (and that doesn't always mean being a popular artist) goes such a long way towards being able to sell commissions!  
kalmanen's avatar
Absolutely! I don't see myself as being popular, but I think I am quite well-known in the HARPG community. I can name plenty of artists that aren't 'popular', but they're a "household name" in the community through being rooted in it for so long and doing (good) things. 
PolarisAstrum's avatar
Everyone knows who "Kalma" is :eyes:
kalmanen's avatar
skskskskskssk I'm infamous more than anything :XD: 
Astralseed's avatar
PC-Doodle's avatar
This is pretty much what I constantly try to tell people who are struggling getting noticed--you have to know how to market yourself properly.
It really doesn't matter what your skill level is so long as you can offer something unique. Everyone can find that style that only really they can do, and they might find that people want that.

One thing I definitely see though is people who don't know how Paypal invoices work, and then they make the artwork first without receiving payment. Taking half first, half after is risky unless you know the person paying you, and taking payment after finishing a commission is the easiest way to get scammed.
Take payment first via an invoice, hold onto the money like you said to in this journal, finish it within a reasonable amount of time with plenty of updates and communication. Clients LOVE clear communication!!
Astralseed's avatar
I think there's a fair bit of scamming on both ends honestly.  I've seen artists get ripped by their commissioners who just never pay, and likewise I have also seen commissioners get ripped by artists who take the money for a commission but never complete it.  I think that is why being known goes a long way on both sides.  
I personally always ask for money up front.  Most people I deal with pay me in full up front, though I am happy to take half up front and the other half upon completion.  I imagine that most people buying from me know I will complete their commission and usually I have a really fast turn around time as well so why pay me half now, and the other half tomorrow?  
PC-Doodle's avatar
That's what chargebacks and logs are all for (for when artists don't do the work they promised). Paypal USUALLY sides with commissioners and they're notorious for this sort of behavior.
Always use invoices--invoices save everyone's life in terms of laying the ground work for what's expected.

And yee, if they know you, you can always do half-half if they're unable to do full payment. I personally just don't take money until I start, and since I work in sessions (start to finish), it'll be done that same day and that's why I take it all upfront.
Astralseed's avatar
chargebacks only cover 3 months and let's face it the vast majority of artists selling commissions on DA simply do not finish them within 3 months.  Hell, I'd even wager that more than half don't complete them within 6 months.  As a buyer chargebacks aren't really a safe bet either because of how long some artists take to complete commissions.  
On the other hand, buyers need to not dick artists over with chargebacks too.  I have seen some cases where they just up and do a chargeback with no communication or attempt to resolve the issue etc beforehand.  Using the invoices helps for certain, but Paypals customer service is iffy at best so it's still a gamble and people need to protect themselves as best as they can on both ends honestly.  
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