Once you've priced your art commission and sign an artist's contract, what are the next steps for keeping your client happy and staying on track?
Set Milestones for Your Artwork
If you've followed the initial steps, this will be easy. Milestones for payment will vary, especially if it's a long-term project where you may want to be paid in stages. And while most times you'll want to receive full payment before turning over the final product, in situations where this isn't possible, but sure your contract spells out how many days after invoicing payment is due.
For the creative, it's a good idea to lay out in advance not only when the initial sketches and the final product will be shown to the client, but also any in-between phases. Here, it's a balancing act. Giving your client too many previews can invite too much feedback—remember your client hired you for your creativity—but not showing anything in between brainstorming and the final product can leave too much room for disappointment. Depending on the type of commission, and how long-term the project is, you'll want to give occasional updates in case there are small adjustments to be made.
For instance, in the case of a studio piece, you may want to invite the client in to see the work once or twice while it's in progress, but at a point you're happy with. This allows them to feel like they are part of the process and able to vocalize their ideas, but give you space for your creativity.
Be Responsive to Your Client and True to Yourself
One key to successful art commissions is your ability to work with all types of clients. Some will be easy to please, others less pleasant, but in either situation, remaining professional and responsive helps make the commissions go smoothly. Remember, you are the expert and were hired for a reason, so it's ok to assert your ideas and your creative license. If the client requests something you don't agree with, it's up to you as an individual to understand if it's something you can be flexible with or not.
If a client is asking you to completely change your style or work against your ethics, it's perfectly ok to let this be known. Being firm, but diplomatic, and knowing how to explain your creative process and decision making is key. Remember, clients aren't artists themselves and can't always necessarily see the final vision in the same way you do. It's up to you to paint that picture for them and come to a compromise that satisfies all parties.
Of course, there may be situations where you are unhappy with how a client has acted or with what they have asked for. Here, it's a good idea to take a step back before responding. Shooting off a fiery email or making a snide remark can kill any goodwill you've built up. If you aren't sure about how to respond, let a trusted friend or colleague read a draft email and get their thoughts. Or, take an evening to think things over. Often, after a good night's sleep, some of the initial emotion wears off and you'll be able to get your thoughts together in clear, professional manner.
Follow Up and Keep the Relationship
Just because you've delivered the final product, doesn't mean it's over! Keeping your client as a part of your network is an essential part of marketing your creativity. In fact, your clients will often be your best advocates. Whether it's an individual telling an interested friend about your work or an agency pairing you with another one of their clients after a good experience, there's no better way to grow your art than leaving a client with a positive experience.