Friday, December 12, 2014

Commission Tips part 1: Payment

Let's get this Article Friday going again.  This would've landed last Friday but didn't have a pic.

One of the roughest things to hammer when creating my commission business was payment.  Looking at how other commission sites handled payment gave me an idea of what to do.

JJ blogging, here’s the first of five posts regarding commission work and things to keep in mind while going on this fantastic journey.  Throughout these posts there may be bullet points for things to keep in mind during your time of painting other peoples models for cash and fun.

In my opinion payment for painting models can be one of the most, if not the most, headache causing for commission artists.  First there needs to be a clear understanding between the artist and client.  Things to hammer out is how payment happens and when.

Having learned a rather painful lesson, not only for me but also the other party involved.  Highly stress to get some payment before you start working on the models.  This can, and has for me, avoided all issues regarding working on models then being asked to return other models because finances aren’t as expected.  First I wanted to follow the esteemed Brandon from GMM and start painting without payment.  Unfortunately things didn’t work out and it turned messy rather fast.  That’s what I get for using others established method when I was just starting.  What works for others may not work for you.  Quickly learned my lesson.  Haven’t needed to apply it.  Been terribly fortunate that almost all my clients want to get me the money for painting as soon as possible.  Seems most of the time I’m the one stopping them from sending money before I’ve even started working on the models.

  • Do not accept any money until you’re ready to start working on the models.

So you have someone’s models and they want you to paint them.  Start talking payment plans.  Doesn’t matter if it is a 6$ or a 2200$ job.  Please future-proof yourself from stress, anger, hurt feelings and embarrassment by talking about how payment is going to happen.  Of course the small dollar jobs are easier to pay than larger dollar jobs.  Yet things can, and some times unfortunately do, get sticky.  Buddy from your RPG group wants you to paint his barbarian warrior so he can feel even better moving it around the playmat, he hands you the model and 10$ the cost you stated for painting it.  You’re done.  Now paint that bad boy.  More about that in part five.  Someone hands you a 2k Space Marine army and it’ll cost him 2200$, well things get a little more complex.  Do not start painting until you’ve figured out payment and received your first payment.  Please do yourself a favour and don't paint til you have some cash.

  • Clients want to feel good about the models they will be playing with.  Your job as a commission artist is to achieve that goal.

Suggestion.  Figure out how you want to do payments for your company.  Two payments, first when start painting, last when its done.  Or split the commission into three payments?  Fortunately we are people and not machines, yet muhahahahaha.  There will be flexibility.  Some clients will insist on paying the full amount at the beginning.  Others at the end.  Some will want more options.  This is a rather important part of the relationship.  Dare I say the most important.  It not only sets up how payment and models are exchanged.  It sets up all future relations.  Even though people aren’t machines, they tend to behave very machine like about some things.  When changes are made to the system machines tend to suffer.  This is especially true in customer relations.  My first priority as a commission artist is my client’s comfort.  Want to make sure they are calm and at ease with the entire process.  Stress and drama doesn’t help with business transactions.  While we want to earn money for doing something fun, we need to know that commission work is a business transaction.

  • Your comfort as a commission artist is just as important as your clients comfort.  Are you comfortable with the payment agreement?  If not you need to check yourself and think about it more.  Consult a friend.  They are surprisingly bias.

In closing possibly the worst part of payment is when it doesn’t happen.  So you’ve painted some models and payment isn’t coming.  What do you do?  Continue painting the models?  Stress about what to do with a bunch of specially painted toy soldiers?  Send an inordinate and unrelenting amount of emails?  I imagine no commission artist wants to go through this.  As a commission artist you need to be prepared for that eventuality.  You painted half of some players Tau army with his own sept colours and he isn’t responding to emails and no payment is coming.  Or worse yet the player changes their mind and wants a re-work, possibly completely re-work, Hell he may want five re-works!, because it is not looking ‘just right’.  He can’t explain what’s the issue other than ‘it doesn’t look right.'  After some emails he simply refuses to pay.  What’s your course of action?  This is especially rough, nevermind stress and drama filled.  Two things I actively avoid, yet somehow manage to create not only enough for me but the building I’m presently occupying.  Still working on that part.  Digression aside, what do you do?  Some people can't be pleased.  Some people want to get away with whatever they can.  They will work any angle to take advantage of you.  What was once a fair payment agreement suddenly becomes your fault as the artist and the customer won't take any responsibility.  Unfortunately I have no advice how to handle this particular situation.  Because unfortunately the person-machine where things are to be done in an expected amount of time and scale mentioned earlier becomes person-animal.  This is the most disappointing thing to me.  The once rational, understanding and compromising person has become irrational, unyielding and me-first-screw-you-out-of-anything-I-can animal.

In the next installment of this series I'll be covering expectations and what you as a commission artist shouldn't do.

slainte mhath

Other thoughts regarding payment.

Suggestion if you’re going to use PayPal considering using a 4% multiplier to avoid the cost of fees from biting into your profits.  If you’re going the ebay route.  Consider using a 14% multiplier to avoid the 10% ebay takes and 4% paypal fee.  Learned this the hard way with my Ebay Deathwing Land Raider.  Ouch.  Still almost too much fun painting it up, selling it on ebay and the customer’s praise about the model.

Cash is king.  Getting cash from clients for the painted models rarely raises questions.

Checks can be a bit weird.  This one you may have to feel out.  Never know what happens then the check hits either bank.


  1. I am looking forward to this series. I think it's easy for established artists to say do this or do that, but they have already "made it". You are giving people the benefit of experience that comes at the beginning, with all the drama and uncertainty of someone who is trying to build up and break into the niche market and I bet this will help a lot of people decide if they want to jump in or bow out. Good stuff!

    1. Damn, Zab. It is like you're inside my head. That is the intent for this series of posts.

  2. Really great to see these articles popping up. I was just discussing this with my buddy the other day. I was wondering this exact type of information. Looking forward to continued articles.

    I imagine cross articles on "freelancing" for design would be a good cross refrence as well. In Design, you get so many "adjustments" included with the original fee. If they go past those adjustments (or past that period), the contact includes a "change" fee. So that the article is not wrecked with constant changes.

    It's very funny how fast a client will go "I don't like that webpage, I want it to look like that, make it so," to "The website is great, thanks!"....when they will be charged 150 bucks for the change.

    1. Yeah, also terribly excited for this series. All five parts are already typed up and ready to go. Just going through them for grammar tweeks and clean up. Must have cleaned this one up three times before posting. Was in the middle of a fourth when I realized it was past the time for my normal blog post time.

      Don't remember the term for the fee that is used to just design a website. Have heard about that retainer being used up on just design not even making it. Terrible waste of money.

      That is funny, Greg. Your example is what happened with one client. Kind of hurts to see a client take a handicap purposely.

    2. "Kind of hurts to see a client take a handicap purposely."

      That is the hardest part of commissions. I could make it better, but do i charge them more or do i take the hit because of my perfectionism? What do you mean you are happy with that, it could be so much better? Doing what the client wants is hard when you know it's not what you would/could do. The customer is always right though - unless they are out of money - then they are no good bums :P

    3. Once again, Zab, it is like you're reading my mind.

      I'm a year year and a half into the commission painting and just now beginning to get over the "I'll put more effort into the commission than what its worth." Even looking at pics in our sandbox you can get a feel for the commission.

      Slightly disagree with the customer is always right line. Damn funny delivery though!

  3. Endless entertaining commentary here :). I'm still pissed off at that space marine zab sold on ebay. Want to punch the internet over that one. (I punch myself, I could have gotten it and stole all his powers!)

    Did give me an idea of these days I'm going to pay a bunch of bloggers to each paint a mega nobz, and have a little 5 man bloggersphere meganobz group as part of the 15 strong...

    1. Glad to be of service! Punching the internet. Wouldn't it be like punching yourself? "Damn you, hand. Sometimes you really get under my skin."

      I know a commission painter that would like to help you out with the 5 man bloggersphere meganobz group. Let me know if you're interested. /wink

    2. Yup! Gotta get them first! I have 5 of the plastic I'm painting. Going to also paint 5 of the juggernaughts from kromlech, and then have 5 metal ones I'll pay people to paint. (I won one from da masta chief). That's the idea at least...ideas upon ideas. Paint more, think less greg.

    3. Meant paint one of the mega nobz. He'll give you an extremely fair price.

    4. Right with you on ideas and doing. Normally thought and action go something like: Thought, beer, thought, beer, thought, paint and beer, thought, beer, thought, paint and beer. Painting and thought can be switched around. Beer is obligatory.


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