One of my most difficult commissions
Commissions can be expensive, but there are valid reasons behind the high price. This article will outline the steps of the commission-making process, as well as explain where all the costs stem from.
I have been taking commissions since 2009 and I find that there is some misinformation or misunderstanding about the cost and the actual process. I hope this article will give buyers a better understanding of what goes into a commission and allow prospective sellers to realize what kind of business they are getting into.
I will be referring to people who order commission as BUYERS and people who sell commissions as SELLERS.
Included in this article: How to contact a seller, securing payments, explaining the building process, detailing shipping expenses, and tips for both buyers and sellers.
Contacting a Seller
1. The buyer should provide the seller with basic information about the commission. List preferred materials, detail your preferences (certain colours or textures, weight), and state your budget.
Declaring a budget may be a touchy subject for some, but it can save time for both the seller and buyers. A seller usually has an estimated price in mind for certain items, knowing the budget allows them to offer alternatives. For example, making a cheaper prop in foam instead of wood. Also if the budget does not meet the seller’s expectations, the buyer can expect a quicker response allowing them to move onto other sellers.
2. Provide as many reference photos as possible, so that buyer and seller are both on the same page. Naturally, if a seller has already made the item, then no photos are needed.
Ichigo Mask Commisison
3. Include a deadline when submitting a commission inquiry. If it is a rush order, expect to pay more for both the item and shipping. The definition of a rush order depends on the seller; some require several months advance notice before taking a job. The earlier, the better.
4. Cost estimates: The seller must do research on the item, possibly look for additional references, research materials and determine which ones to use, in order to give the buyer a price.
At this point of the process, the seller could have spent an hour or more corresponding with the buyer without making a cent. A lot of time is spent securing commissions without a profit.
As a common courtesy, if a buyer inquires about a commission but decides not to order it for whatever reason (price, found someone else), inform the other sellers that you will not be buying.
Both the seller and buyer should agree on the method of payment and the price.
Buyers should expect to pay at least half of the commission price to get the project started. This insures that the seller is not left on the hook with the costs of the order – materials and labour - in case the buyer changes their mind. Each seller has different policy, some may expect full payment, so buyers should review commissions policies before inquiring.
Crafting of Ryutaros' helmet
The Building Process
Many things are factored into the price of a commission, especially if it a first time order - when a seller makes something they have never made before. Here are the four steps of the commission building process.
1. Research: When an order is received, research on the item must be done to ensure accuracy and to decide how make it. This can take minutes to hours, that is why providing many reference photos is essential.
2. Planning: Depending on the order, the seller may have to go buy supplies and materials. Time spent shopping, transport, and the costs for the items themselves are factored into the commission price.
3. Drafting: With references and materials in hand, the seller can then draft how to make the commission: take measurement, test materials, and make mock ups.
4. Crafting: The actual creation of the product is done at this step. Time spent working on the item is the last element included in the pricing. First time orders may require testing of new techniques and restarting from scratch, all while incurring costs.
A commissioner’s time is precious, since they must balance their work/school, family/friends, hobbies, and commissions all at once. If they dedicate time to an order, they would like to be compensated accordingly by making a decent profit.
Consider how many hours go into the four steps outlined above, and factor in that they should be paying themselves a decent wage by the hour. Also keep in mind that minimum wage varies by region, for example in Ontario, Canada as of March 2010 its 10.25/hr; however, if you are dealing with a highly skilled seller, expect to pay more since their skills are worth more than minimum wage.
For the most part, you get what you pay for. Exceptions to the rule would be someone who wants to take on a project for fun, making it at a discount or by being friends with the seller.
Ordering from someone who has experience making specific items means steps 1 through 3 can be skipped, resulting in a quicker turn around.
Shipping & Drop-Offs
Before I started taking commissions I always wondered why sellers, on eBay for example, would charge so much for shipping, when the sticker on my package had a much lower price. Now that I sell and ship items, I understand that there are many expenses to consider beside the cost of postage.
1. Packaging is not free: envelopes, boxes, bubble wrap, air packets, and packaging foam all come at a cost, adding onto the shipping fee.
2. Shipping estimates, are just that, estimates: Sometimes the actual shipping price can only be determined when the item is complete. Sometimes it weighs more or the dimensions are larger than expected, therefore the price goes up. When it is a dollar or two, I personally do not mind taking the hit, but do not expect the seller to incur great losses because of shipping. Sellers should make it clear when this is a possibility.
A bleach 'sword' commission
3. Handling charges: Preparing the item for shipping and bringing the item to the post office is also an expense. This may at first seem like nickel-and-dimming a client but consider this, it takes time to properly package an item to make sure it arrives in one piece. Sometimes this could take a half-hour or more to get all the labels printed and the item bubble-wrapped then sealed. It also takes time to get to the post office, and sometime that includes spending money on gas.
4. Drop-offs at conventions: They are a great alternative to paying for shipping, however, you cannot expect a seller to offer that option even if they are attending the same convention.
First, they must have the available time to meet with you. Depending on the convention, they may be a) very busy, b) unable to haul around the commission until they meet the person, or c) unable to wait around until the seller arrives.
Secondly, they may not have the room to transport it to the convention. Luggage restrictions, small cars, and sharing space with roommates all place limits on what can be transported to a convention.
I hope this article was useful. To top it off, here are some tips for both buyers and sellers.
Tips for Buyers
Tips for Sellers
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