The One Mindset Hack You Need if You do Commissions

It’s easier than you think

One of the most rewarding and most terrifying things an artist can do is make commissions.

What I mean is, have someone describe what they want, pay you money and you make their thing.

Sometimes this is known as bespoke art. Whatever term you use, it’s making a custom piece for someone that you may or may not know personally.

As a former programmer, I spent decades making commissions — writing code made to the client spec — and let me tell you there’s less fear involved in doing that. An app either works or it doesn’t. It meets the specs or it doesn’t. It’s measurable.

Art? Well, not so much.

Now, this assumes that you’ve been posting your work online. That your client has found your work and liked it. That what they’re asking for is like something you already make.

And if it’s not like something you already make, turn it down. I don’t care if you need the money. Doing a commission for someone outside of your skill set is setting you up for failure and hurting your reputation, as well as hurting your relationship with your art.

I was once asked to make an ink drawing of a couple of dogs. A portrait. While portraits are my skill set, pen and ink really isn’t. At that point, I hadn’t done it in years.

But I did the commission anyway.

While it turned out, and the client was happy enough, the whole experience was lacking. I didn’t put any joy in the piece because I wasn’t feeling connected with it and I was worried about making sure it was done technically right. In my head, I hated myself and my work, resented the stress from the commission. It set me back significantly afterwards. So not worth the money.

Only accept commissions that fit your current body of work.

Ok, here’s the mindset hack — know that the client already likes your work enough to order a special piece! They love your style, energy and use of whatever medium you work in. They’ve chosen you and want something that looks like you made it.

They have already picked you and your work. So, when you do the commission, own that knowledge.

I know when commissions happen, there’s a moment, or many moments, of wondering if you’re good enough and if you should change everything about your work, but don’t! Be exactly who you are as an artist and make the art your client is expecting.

You are already good enough. Your work, already worth someone buying it.

I always think of commissions like art I make but instead of having to sell it, it already has a home to go to. So much easier in may ways because you get the satisfaction of seeing your client’s reactions to the piece. So have fun, own your power and run with your commissions!

Paula Mould

Paula Mould

Paula Mould is a fine artist, published author and business coach for Leigh & Paula.

She also swears, mostly on purpose.

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