Allow me to wax on a few things that have come to me during this time. Hopefully you find it an enjoyable read.
One of the very first things I learned when talking to others about commission work is price. 40k-guru, Simon, referred me to a website to find out how they priced their commission work. Based on their pricing I was charging between 15-20$ less for second level painting. Which makes sense. Just starting commission work and not familiar enough with the field and other commission work I shouldn't know know how to set my prices.
A fellow commission painter told me something I hope to remember "Remember there are worst paint jobs." He even told me about models someone uses at Fantasy Flight that were commission. I was surprised. They are horribly painted models. Which brings me to the next topic.
Resume. Every model you paint as a commission artist represents you as a painter. Its effectively a walking, breathing, messenger of your work, A Sent One perse. You must be careful with how you paint a model. It can determine whether someone will pay you to paint their models. Example. I'm personally worried about the Warp Spiders I painted will scare away potential clients. Of course those won't be mini's I use in my portfolio.
Something huge I've learned about myself. I need to put detail on a model. Can't paint just three colours. I need more than that to make myself happy. This is something I'll have to factor in when it comes time to look at how I'm going to charge for painting toy soldiers.
Buddy David mentioned to keep it fresh so it does not become a chore. I agree. Also found using a calendar really helped me. It wasn't til after a couple of weeks of painting that I realised when I can paint. Once I had that down I became the machine Dylan said I was. Regarding painting and schedule. Pacing myself was key. There was no need to push myself. Slow and steady wins the race. Originally told Shawn it would take me 3 months to paint the Eldar he provided. Completed them in 2 months. A full month ahead of schedule. That made me very happy.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something. Should I spend 20 hours a week painting. I should master it in just over nine and half years. Down side is that is 10 years. Upside the number of models I'll have painted for my armies and others. Not to mention getting paid to do so.
Thinking of 10,000 hours makes me think of something else. One could spend a portion of that time going to college or continuing education in hopes of doing something fulfulling and/or better money. Which reminds me of something a friend of mine has said, echoed by others over the years, several times. "Just because you get a degree doesn't mean you're going to do anything with it." Of course there's only 168 hours in a week. How you spend those hours is your choice. Say you spend those hours doing a hobby, working on your skill than going the school route. You can choose it to become your business. We know a lot of people who are head of IT departments that got in before college degrees became a prerequiste. They don't have degrees. They never went to college. They have certificates for various windows programs. They taught themselves how to do it. College or teaching yourself, autodadactic . Either way it's going to be difficult and long. Some people struggle with school, others breeze by. Some people have natural talent, others need to work at it. Either way the result is the same. Using the olde phrase. The journey is its own reward. I'm the type of individual to cut my own path and purposely not take roads already walked. Mostly to say I don't have to follow in the footsteps of others. Just because something works for one person doesn't mean it will work for another.
As a side note. If this takes off I could flip jobs. Commission could end up being my 40hr a week gig and have a part time gig at Dick Blicks. Using employee discount to buy my supplies. Plus its a tax write off.
Either way, school or not. You're putting your eggs in a basket. Really depends on what you do with that basket that determines whether you're successful or not.
Friend who is an accountant says "If you do something you love the money will follow."
Something I told myself several times while doing my first commission work is to be patient I will get there. Doesn't matter how quickly or slowly I paint the models. I will get there. Be patient. Be aware of the deadline and don't rush to meet it. It will arrive. Models will get painted. Everything will turn out ok.
A fun thing that kept going through my mind while spending the hundred plus hours was posture. I prefer to be in the moment and not place myself behind or ahead of myself. Though I struggle with beating myself up with mistakes of past moments. I'm slowly learning to let them go. One can work on their posture while painting. Of course it doesn't take long to realise your hunched over 15 mins after you sat yourself up. Then you'll notice after maintain posture your spine is getting warm. Mostly because your spine isn't use to working that much. It prefers to be at rest or what its always done.
This may seem like I'm beating a dead horse or constantly bringing up the same topic. I feel it is possibly the most important topic when it comes to painting a lot of models over a specific amount of time. Take your time, you will get there. If you have a deadline be aware of that deadline and maintain your painting schedule. You will get there. Tortoise and the hare tale comes to mind. You'll be surprised how quickly things get done when you're doing them at a steady pace. Example: Shawn's Eldar.
This is another thing I maybe repeating, I believe it is worth it. Have standards. This is probably the most important thing I learned. I need to have standards when painting. Also need to maintain those standards. Have to communicate these standards to potential clients when discussing possible future commission work.
Here are pics of the calendar months I kept track of my painting.