Friday, January 2, 2015

Commission Tips part 4: Whenever isn't Whenever

Fortunately there hasn't been a problem with any of my clients and the time it has taken for me to complete a project.  My clients have been surprisingly chill about when they'd like their models finished.  I personally thank each and everyone of those clients.  In my opinion I need to complete commissions faster.  This post covers specifically that word: Whenever.

[This series was written months ago.  Will be referencing active commissions at the time and conversations with clients.]

JJ blogging, over the last three posts on this topic we've covered a healthy backbone of information.  Figuring out payment, expectations of work all the while communicating as a professional.  Eventually the topic of how soon can the models be painted will come up.  Hopefully by the client.  Sometimes the artists asks the client when they'd like the models to be done.  (That pesky foreshadowing is raising its wicked head again)  The client answers: Whenever.

Trying to put this as delicately as I can.

Never take whenever as an answer.  Never.

Really I'm talking to me here.  Whenever is a great answer when I first started commission work.  Yeah it worked.  Then it didn't.  Don't remember any of my clients being upset by the time it took me to paint their models.  At least they didn't let me know.

Then something happened at lunch with Mike last August.  One set of his models were being wrapped up.  He handed me another six to work on.  He asked, with something specific in the timbre of his voice.  Sort of a plea.  He asked "Can these be painted in a month?"  Thought about it briefly and said yes.  Then started thinking about the sound in his voice and how he asked the question.  Now I'm going off pure speculation here.  Making a thinking error.  The time it took me to paint the first seven tanks took longer than he expected.  Thinking about the plea in his sentence and the time it became clear to me that when a client says "whenever" it isn't "whenever."

Briefly.  As some of you may remember I had the opportunity two autumns ago to work on a mural that was vandalized with graffiti.  After the job was done the owner of the establishment said that I could stop by for a meal on the house "Whatever you want.  It'll be taken care of."  That was my first encounter with that set of words, whatever/whenever.  Learned "whatever you want" wasn't meant to be taken literally.  Which goes back to my line that people aren't rational and logical creatures.  We are ruled by our emotions and our environment.

Back to whenever.  Well whenever worked for me successfully, I might add ever since I've been painting Shawn's models.  Shawn has been extraordinarily patient with me.  Doesn't hurt that he's a busy father of four teenage boys.  So he can't play with his Eldar as much as he wants.  Still bothered me I had models of his at my place for over a year not being painted.  Had to fix that and I did.

So you have your clients models.  You know how they should be painted.  You have the first payment.  Time to determine when the client wants the models finished.  Do not accept whenever.  Use your words.  Communication never ends.  Ask the client specifically when they would like the models finished.  Have them pick the time.  A month, a year.  Whatever it is as long as it is reasonable, going back to expectations.  Now you know when to finish the models by.

Recently had a deadline to finish Brad's IG Epic 40k commission.  They'd be done by Renegade Nov 22 & 23.  Was quite bothersome that I picked them up from him at Dark Star in March.  Damn so many months.  Quite disappointed with myself.

Then I remembered the lunch conversation with Mike.  His question and timbre.  I knew what to do. When I started the Warmachine Goreshade, Deathwalker and Bane Thralls commission from Mike (different Mike than mentioned above).  I asked him when he'd like them done.  Instead of me lollygagging about not spending nearly as much time at the table as I want, which frankly was how I spent time at the table before.  I asked my clients to help light a fire under my ass to get me to the table.  To paint models.  To clear commissions (more on that in the last post on this topic) and return them to their owners.

If you're not a self-starter, like me, and have issues doing things in a timely fashion, perhaps whenever isn't working for you.  Certainly wasn't working for me the way I wanted.  There's no need to be pushy when asking for a deadline.  If the deadline is impossible please communicate that and inform the client of the improbability of the models being finished.  However if you're given ten models and provided a deadline of a month, hell even six months.  Now you know when those ten models need to be finished.

Think of the whenever deadline like ordering lunch with co-workers.  This actually happened to me at a rent paying gig several years ago.  Co-worker Dale wanted us to do Jimmy John's one day.  Had him send me his order then I would call it in.  Well I tend to take late lunches, if I can, extraordinarily late lunches.  He is like most mortals.  If he doesn't have food at a certain time he goes crazy.  Well he kept coming up to me, must have been six times in an hour asking if I've ordered yet.  Told him at the beginning of the day when I'd order the subs, and as you may have guessed it.  The multiple times he asked that question was no where near the time when I'd be ordering the food.  I'd order it around 12:30, between mine and the mortals normal lunch breaks.  So he wouldn't have to wait forever to starve and I'd take my break a little earlier because of his mortal needs.  I did not keep my cool after the sixth time he asked the question.  Muted my headset raised both my hands in frustration and went off on him "If you want your food order it yourself.  I'm done."  Then unmuted the headset and resumed the call.  Later I apologized to him for flipping out at him and explained that I understand his mortal needs for food at a certain time and that we shouldn't try to order food from the same place again.  Enough of the sidetrack quasi-related story.  Back to finishing this post.

If you go by the whenever deadline it is time for you as a commission artist to start taking ownership of the models clients place in your care.  Paint and return them in a timely manner.  So far what I've gathered from reading about commissions online and talking with people, and clients, models not being painted in a timely fashion is one of the worst things for a client to go through.  The client has given their models to someone and they don't know what's going on.  No feedback or pics.  No communication.  It only gets worst for both the client and artist involved the longer there's no communication.  Work with your client to come up with a deadline and don't play it by ear and finish the models whenever.  You want that paper fast.  Not as fast as the clients want their models painted.

The last post in this series will hopefully tie the previous four commission tips posts together and deliver an effective and solid hit.

slainte mhath


  1. Good tip. I often equate jobs that have a "whenever" tag to be similar to the answer "whatever" when asking your girl/wife/colleague for lunch. They'll tell you whenever and start shooting down all suggestions. Get requirements solid and you can't go wrong. Same goes for work.

    1. Great analogy, DWolve. Right with you, gget some requirements and you'll be fine.

  2. Another great article. I like to take my time and read these. Very insightful. I concur with whenever being an awful word. Some of us need that time frame to keep to a timeline. Without it, things sit on the backburner for ever!

    1. It is like you have a deep understanding of how I do things, Greg. Need to find that camera you've installed in my apartment.


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