Should You Seek Commissions?

Stephen Steininger SculptureAre you interested in creating custom work for clients? Here are some benefits and drawbacks.



Many artists who create production work in their studios and sell mainly to wholesale accounts prefer to keep the status quo and want to spend their time doing what they do best. They have little interest in special commissions. Others find the challenge exciting, and financially rewarding.

Where do you stand? Do you accept commission work – or actively solicit it?

Consider these Pros and Cons when deciding whether commission work is for you:


Keeps you creative. Working on special commissions can help stretch your thinking in new directions, possibly even leading to inspiration and improvement in your existing line.

Charge accordingly. Since you are creating a one-of-a-kind artwork for your client, you will want to think in terms of being paid well for your time, talent and professionalism. If your regular line of production items is lower-end, this could be the time to create a showpiece that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to make.

Improve your portfolio. Use photos of that commissioned showpiece to expand your portfolio and give an idea of your abilities to encourage future commissions.

Meet collectors. Doing special commissions gives you the opportunity to work with interesting people who may become repeat customers. You could also end up with referrals, driving even more business. Check out the CustomMade website for an online site that matches artists with commissions.


Difficult customers. Working with customers who are way too demanding, controlling or hard to please can make the commission experience a bad one.  Keep control of the creative process, and let your customer know that they should discuss their ideas with you, but must trust you to use your artistic sense to make it come to life. After all, they liked your work enough to commission you. This is where building trust with your client is very important.

Time crunch. Custom work can take a lot longer than planned . If you don’t have a good grasp on the time and materials involved, you could end up wishing you had never started. And if the commission takes time away from money-making activities in your studio, you may end up learning a hard lesson.

Misunderstandings and frustrations. Make sure you have a contract where all the terms are laid out, and that payment is assured. Spell out when the work is due, and when preliminary sketches or photos of work in progress are required.  Here is an example of a commission contract posted on DeviantArt and another one to look over as well.

What other pros and cons can you think of? Have you had a great experience with commissions, or a cautionary tale to tell?


Artwork courtesy Stephen Steininger.

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