A Beginner's Guide :: Literary Commissions

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Hello everyone! ResonantCrimson here. I've decided to give this guide a complete overhaul due to having a heck of a lot more experience than I did when I first updated it almost three years ago and when I first wrote it a while back. 

If you're looking for help on pricing, we wrote a guide on it as well! You can find it by following this link -> A Beginner's Guide On Pricing :: Redux

The Important Things

When you're considering opening commissions, there are a few things for a person to think of before offering their talents to the public. The two biggest questions to ask yourself are: Why am I opening up commissions? and How much enjoyment do I get from writing? The second question may seem odd to ask, but hear me out.

Why am I opening up commissions?: This question should be a fairly obvious one to ask, but some people may not think about the why when it comes to starting their journey of doing literary commissions. Let me say now that every reason is valid when it comes to why you want to sell your skills. If you need money for expenses of life, or you want money on the side to commission others, whatever your reasons are, there's no bad why. Your reasons are yours; you don't need to go in detail with others why you've decided to open commissions. However, ask yourself why you want to write for others. Bills, unexpected expenses, to commission others? 

How much enjoyment do I get from writing?: This should seem obvious, but if you've lost the drive to write, and think commissions may rekindle your flame, this may be a gross misunderstanding. If you don't possess a love for what you wish to get paid for, your clients will see your stories don't contain as much passion and dedication as they should, and thus will give their business to someone else. Believe me when I say you can tell the difference between a story the author put their heart into and a story they wrote because they got paid for it.

Know Your Strengths & Weaknesses

When you want to sell your writing, ensure you know your strengths & weaknesses. There's nothing wrong with being weak in writing certain things, but if someone comes to you with a request to write one of your weaknesses, the polite thing to do would be to decline the request.

Why would I decline a commission?, I hear you say. Let's go back to the point above of the difference between a story a writer put their heart into and a story they wrote because they got paid to do it. This is the same for writing your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses. A client can tell when you've written something you're not strong in and see the difference between a subject you're strong in and one you wrote because you got paid to do it. 

This doesn't mean you can't improve on your weaknesses. What do you do when you want to get better at something? That's right, you practice! Writing is a craft that always holds room for improvement; if you wish to get better at writing a certain subject, practice it until you're confident in your ability to write it. 

Don't Force Yourself

If you're having an off day and can't bring yourself to write a commission you've gotten, that's totally okay. Everyone is allowed to have off days and need time to do their own thing, whether that's write their own story, play a video game, spend time with a friend or family member, etc. But on this note, there's one important thing no writer should ever do: Leave your client in the dark. If you're unable to write that day or for a few days, always be sure to tell your client what's going on and let them know their story will be delayed. You don't have to go in details if you're not comfortable diving in the why, simply saying something along the lines of: "I'm unable to write for x amount of time, please be patient with me. I'll get back to your commission as soon as possible," is enough. 

I've seen so many scammers in my time of running this group, it honestly disheartens me. If you took a commission and find yourself unable to complete it, I implore you to be a decent human being and refund your client the money they paid. 

Cherish Your Client

This person chose you to spend their money on. Treat their money as if it was yours. Don't leave them in the dark when it comes to their story. They wanted you to write their piece, they trusted you to bring their literary dream to life, and so, as the writer, value the fact your client chose you out of the abundance of others to write their story. As I've said, I've seen so many people take advantage of their clients, and to be frank, it disgusts me. (All offense intended.) 

Final Remarks

If you wish for more information to help you start doing literature commissions, you're more than welcome to note me! I'll get back to you as soon as possible. You may also join our Discord (link on the front page), a chill place where writers, commissioners, artists, and narrators come together to chat about general things, writing, commissioning, and all that fun stuff. 

I hope this guide was useful to anyone who was wondering about starting commissions!

Updated 11.29.2020 
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Larkawolfgirl's avatar

Hi! Can you explain to me to how you work around the word count of a commission? I have never understood how writers can stick to a specific word count. When I write, it just ends up being as long as it ends up being. What do you do if you fall short of the word count or end up realizing that you need to go past the word count to wrap up the story? Do you go back and cut out words?