WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT: Making a Business Doing Art Commissions

Don’t get me wrong. Making money from something that you love is not only a great idea worth fighting for but also my personal career goal No. 1. I’ve sold quite a couple art commissions and dealt with three times as many requests. So I feel I can spare you some of the unpleasant experiences and tell you what I know is important and probably also give some advice on what to watch out for!

But first some backstory:
I have an ART INSTAGRAM where I started posting portraits I made using Adobe Illustrator after I learned how to do it in school. I even made a tumblr to go along with it and hopefully sell a couple commissions because I needed the money and why not get it doing something that you do in your free time anyways. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Then one day I made a portrait of JordanShrinks because I follow her on on Instagram and she is a pretty big inspiration for me not only on Fitness but on general attitude. So I drew her portrait.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-10-30 um 21.09.42.png

This was the result. Now you may think of it whatever you want, I think it’s decent, but of course as I am the artist, I see a whole lot of mistakes, I guess you are always harsher on yourself like that.
Nevertheless, Jordan herself found it and she loved it! I felt super honored and of course agreed to her request to share it on her page. And so she did and subjected me to the attention a huge shout out gets you.

So I got a lot of requests of drawing people. Here is what I learned:


-Taking Money For Art Commissions Is Not Common Sense For Everyone-

Art is something to be enjoyed and while I think it’s totally beneficial, it’s not necessary. And as much as I wish for this to be different, a lot of people do not consider it actual to-be-paid labor. Even though it is. And asking for payment to create a piece of art is absolutely legit and not unheard of. But some people still feel entitled to what, they probably are just oblivious to it, is actual WORK.
So be ready for a lot of people first probably wanting to get something done but then, when they realize it’s not free, they will back out. This does not mean you are too small of a brand to ask for money. No matter how small your audience is, you deserve to be paid for what you do.

Concerning on how much to take for your commissions, I feel like you could say that how known you are as an artist can definitely increase your arts market value but still, you can’t be ‘so unknown’ that it justifies just drawing random people you don’t know for free.

-Other People Do Not Have The Same Perception Of What Looks Good-

So you probably have a set aesthetic and you know what you like in a drawing but that is your perception on what looks good and goes well together. I mean, even if you have scientific theories to back it up. I study Design and have lectures on what the human eye finds pleasant, I know some things about Make Up – and yet still some clients wanted me to change things about their drawing, even though to me it made no sense. And you will have to cater to them, since they’re paying for the product. (Also I feel like you should add some couple of extra bucks for bigger changes!)

So for example, one of my clients asked if I could make the eyebrows symmetrical, which seemed super odd to me because no one really has eyebrows that look so similar. ‘Eyebrows are sisters, not twins’ right? But the client liked it much more that way, and I of course had to do it, even though it seemed like an artistic flaw to me.

-You Really Got To Love To Do What You Want To Sell Commissions From-

And I mean you got to LOVE LOVE the process. Otherwise it could probably start to feel baseless to draw people that you don’t know and, frankly, you don’t have any strong feelings for. Ask yourself this: Do you love drawing itself or the product?

This might not be the same for everyone but I feel it’s important to challenge your own motivation. It’s hard and weird to do so, but it won’t hurt your creativity.

-Having Fun Is Always More Important Than The Perfect Brand-

It’s not irrelevant to have a consistent style or picture language in your works but first and foremost it’s crucial, that it’s still YOU and not what you read on the internet would sell best. This is kind of a two-sided blade, because both things are important to selling your art. But with anything creative, you have to pay attention that you don’t loose your own special thing to make yourself more marketable. Don’t feel shamed into taking your edge off. Art is meant to be challenging and inventive, so don’t be afraid to have special quirks! That will forever make your stuff more valuable than anything else would.
Anyways, so I have done enough monologue-ing. Here are some more quick-fire tips from my experience:

Some More:

  • Always take the payment upfront, at least half of it

  • Use Paypal or another service that ensures buyer protection for you AND the customer

  • Don’t underprice your art

  • Make sure, you specify what you will draw and also don’t be afraid to reject an offer if you don’t want to/can’t do it!

  • Put your strengths forward, it shows people what you are comfortable with and you don’t talk yourself down too much

  • Be patient, friendly and open minded!

  • Have Fun!


This is all the advice I can provide you with from the experiences I made. I hope you can take something away from it and definitely let me know if you sell some commissions, I will look at it and might get something done!

I personally feel like I’m done with taking art commissions at the moment. It’s stressful for me next to my other work occupations and I don’t feel up to the task at the moment. But maybe someday I will start again. I will let you know.


One thought on “WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT: Making a Business Doing Art Commissions

  1. Pingback: Brand Yourself or Be Yourself? – The Aerondight Journal

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