How to Commission Artists
So, as you all know, I'm a Commission-based artist who goes to Anime and Comic Conventions, run my own website, and I take orders through all my social media. I've been doing it for about 7 years now, and plan on doing it for many more. My goal is to make you look as amazing as my skill level allows, as I am sure every other Artist wants. But there is protocol and proper technique in discussing these fragile matters with these creatures. Which is precisely what I wish to talk about today.
You found the artist of your dreams. They make amazing work and they always have positive reactions from their customers. So you have found reference pictures with multiple angles if the artist asks (Which we usually will) and have the name of the character in case the artist might need to find more references. You also have a clear budget in mind, but know that you may be able to ask for split payment options, depending on the artist. Please also get measured properly. If you do it yourself, it isn't going to be right and it won't be finished correctly. Most of the time, you can get a friend to help you out, or even go to a tailor shop and get them done there.
You message this majestic creature, hoping to receive a quick response, but you remain patient, knowing that the artist is a human being and they might not take on commissions full time, or even if they do, they might be busy working on that, eating, or sleeping. Unfortunately, we do need to do all those things, and occasionally shower and leave our craft rooms. You finally receive your response, which usually goes something like this:
"Hey there, what are you looking to commission today?"
-insert character here, send one to two reference photos so the artist has an idea-
If the artist decides to take it on, usually they will give their fees, and a timeline for about how long it will be. If you have a specific convention in mind, you are also able to throw that in to see if it may incur a rush fee, or if it's even possible to be completed before then. Please remember that if you wait to order your cosplay, you will be paying for the inconvenience you bring to the artist. They may have three other large orders they need to get done, and that rush fee is an incentive for them to push those back in order to get your piece done. Most artists will announce on their pages what their timelines are looking like, and I specifically let people know what the wait time is for certain pieces (Kigus right now are only a 3 week wait, with cosplays being about 5-7 weeks).
Say the artist gives you the price, and their timeline, and you agree upon these terms. You send your money, and you wait your time. If it's within the time they said they were working on it, you can ask for a few progress pictures, or if other artists are like me, they get too excited about the piece and post about it all over social media so everyone can see. If you have issues, please bring them up respectfully, don't yell or degrade the artist, it makes them unwilling to cooperate and work together with you in the future. There are even some artists that have an immediate termination clause in their Terms and Conditions, and as the operator of that business, they are allowed to terminate that whenever they see fit. No one should have to be degraded, whether you work for yourself, an office, or a "minimum wage" job. Treat others with respect, and 9/10, they are more than willing to go that extra mile for you.
At this point, the commission is finished, you have paid for the shipping, and you receive it, and it's not fitting quite right. Message your artist politely, and let them know. Most of the time, they will ask for the pieces back so they can fix them, sometimes for free, but if it's a drastic fix, they may ask for money for materials. I don't speak for other artists, but as long as I don't have to completely recreate the piece, I usually don't charge, except for shipping to get it back to the commissioner. Coming to an artist and telling them that "It's unfixable," "You have no idea what you're doing," "Your work is garbage," etc etc, is not a way to speak to someone. We understand that you spent the money, but you don't have to be rude at all. There is no reason to be rude to the artist unless they are rude first.
If you both come to the conclusion that you are going to receive a refund, please understand that you probably won't get all of it back. Artists have spent some of that money on the supplies, and the other goes to their bills. Most have a non-refundable deposit, and therefore will only give back 30-50% of the original price. Threats should not be given, as it is the internet, and block buttons exist. As long as you are respectful, the artist should work with you on receiving your refund. After the 90 day period (if you go through Paypal or Square), you are basically unable to do anything about it. I know there are some ways to get around it, but I don't know the details of it. But don't be that jerk that gets the pieces, they fit, and then asks for a refund anyway.
And if you aren't happy with an artist's prices, just be polite, say something along the lines of, "I'm sorry, that's out of my budget," and move on. If you don't even plan on commissioning them, there is absolutely no point in being rude or disrespectful. Again, it is the internet, and you will be called out, either publicly or privately. Then other artists will refuse to start working with you. As long as we remain positive and speak to each other with respect, things will get done a lot more efficiently and we can make the community a better place.
What not to do: