Dealing with commissions can sometimes be tricky, especially if it is your first one or you are still a little green to the entire experience. To help with the struggle here are our insights onto commission work.
Before quoting someone for your work make sure that you take the time to sit down and figure out exactly what it is they want. Ask questions and be engaging. Offer suggestions if you have them and see how your client feels about them. Weigh their reactions and comments on the project accordingly, the insight gained from that can be invaluable.
Research any applicable subject matter. Being knowledgeable on your subject matter is invaluable.
Do a quick sketch, a thumbnail for composition.
Get an idea on colors and put them to paper.
Check your stock of materials and see if you will need to purchase anything.
Before providing a quote consider your sketch, your materials, and how long or involved the process of this commission will be. Base your quote on materials and time. If you are starting an easy way to determine your pay could be to break it down into a "pay by the hour" arrangement. Don't set your price too high, or more importantly too low. Make sure this decision is based off of realistic guidelines, if you aren't sure then ask a friend for their opinion on your desired rates.
Make sure you give yourself some time. Don't underestimate the amount of time it will take you to complete the project. It looks really bad to tell someone you will have their work completed on Monday, and turn it in on Wednesday. If anything try to give yourself a couple of days extra. Then if you finish the work ahead of the projected date your client will think you are even better because you turned in work early.
Finish the work. It is terrible practice to agree to something, and then not follow your word. Burning bridges, especially early on, is both easy and going to make everything else a lot more difficult.
Turn in a nice sketch for their approval before proceeding with your final stages of your work. This gives them time to give you feedback and make changes. If they do make changes, you just saved yourself a huge headache.
I remember when I had my first commission I was running around the room and screaming (yes that's actually true.) But before you start replying back first things first, make sure you've registered yourself as self-employed!!!! Get all the legal stuff done before taking any commissions on. I would also recommend reading up about copyright laws, how to write up a contract, get a spread sheet set up for invoices and also a template as well so you don't need to keep on writing it up all the time and it saves you time.
Decide how much you're going to charge whether it's a daily rate or an hourly rate. Don't under pay yourself just because you think you might be charging too much. It's your time so NEVER undersell yourself.
From personal experience here are my suggestions when dealing with a client. If the potential client is a bit vague I would recommend asking them more questions like what's the deadline, how many runs of it will be printed or produced, any bleed marks, colour theme... feel free to ask as many questions as you like because what can happen is that they might suddenly ask you to do more work which you didn't actually agree on in the first place.
They might say you'll get a copy of the book/ magazine/ t-shirt etc. but if they haven't stated it I'd definitely ask them.
So be clear how many jobs will be involved and so long as everything is specific you know what you're doing. Don't cheap out!!!!
Be straight forward with them. If they're asking for loads more sketches/ roughs which you feel you're doing extra work then let them know. Don't worry about saying no to a job as well. It's better to be honest in the first place than taking on more work then regretting it.
When you've finished the artwork remember to send them an invoice and depending on the notice of payment keep checking whether they have paid you or now (seriously it's easy to forget.) They'll probably tell you they've sent you a payment. If not chase them up about it!