Negotiating Commissions

We all know what a wonderful honor it is as an Artist to be given a commission but along with that honor, comes questions… How much should we charge? Should we ask for any money up front? What if the collector isn’t happy with our work?

You can offset several problems before you even begin to take commissions if you follow a few simple rules.

Ask for a Deposit–
It is very important to ask for a deposit before you begin to work on the commission. Not only will this protect you and your time and investment, but will show your collector you intend to handle your commission in a professional way.

Most collectors will understand and will not mind paying a deposit as they know you are doing the work at their request. Decide how much you want to take as your down payment, generally you will ask for 50%.

Send photo’s prior to mailing–
I always tell my collectors that once the piece is complete, I will send them photos for their approval and that if there is anything they would like to change, I will do my best to do so. I do also say that if the piece is not what they wanted, I will create another.
It can be very hard to create something for another person, you cannot see into their vision, only they can do that, and unless they send you a picture of what they want, you can only imagine.

Get the details upfront–
It’s best to get as many details as you are willing to take before negotiating a price and you may want to consider charging more for a commission than you would get for an eBay sale. Commissions can often be more work and cause a little stress. On the other hand, you may want to consider charging less as you won’t have to pay fees to sell your work on eBay or Etsy.

Establish a timeline–
Give your collector a date you are expecting to finish their commission by and stick to it, unless you encounter problems along the way and then be honest and let the collector know you may need a little more time.

Make a form letter–
It’s a good idea to have a standard pre written email to send out when you receive a commission request. This way you can get right down to business and know if the collector is serious about their request.

For example:
“Thank you for your interest in my work.
I do take commissions and price is based upon, pose, size details and props.
I do ask for a 50% non refundable deposit before I begin work, to protect my time and investment.
Commissions generally take two to three weeks and on completion I will send you photos for your approval.
If you are pleased , the remaining balance plus shipping will be due within three business days.
If for any reason you are not pleased with your doll I will work with you to either make changes or create another piece.

Again, Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.”

So, in summary, do talk to your collector, find out exactly what they want and keep talking, let them know how their doll is progressing and if you have problems, let them know. Be honest and keep them in the loop.

And do take a deposit for your work. This is very important. You have to remember you are running a business. It took me some time to figure out that I needed to ask for a deposit. I was worried I would scare away potential customers, little did I know at the time, that what I really would be doing, is weeding out those who are NOT truly serious in commissioning me and paying me. Sadly, there are those times, when, if you do not protect yourself, you will be faced with this problem, and be left with a doll you may or may not be able to sell and have nothing to show for your hard work.


Setting a Price

Following are some sales figures I have gathered from researching eBay sales over the past few months. These figures are for people selling polymer clay dolls. First is the approximate sales price, and then what kinds of sculptures sold for that amount:

$10-$40– Doll sculptures that are simple, small or are made by artists who are not well known or first starting out. The sculpture may also have anatomy faults, flaws in the sculpting or paint work or may be in a less popular theme, (Currently fairies and mermaids are the preferred theme).

$40-$100– Doll sculptures that a small, may still have problems in anatomy but are still pleasing to the eye. Usually these are sculptures in a popular theme.

$100-$250– These doll sculptures are usually very well executed, details are good but the artist may still be new or unknown. These sculptures may also be small sculptures or an unpopular themed sculpture from well known artists.

$250-$400– These sculptures are very unique, well done, created by new artists. Well known artists may drop into this price bracket in a bad economy period.

$400-$1500– This is where well know artists tend to sit- if you’re well known, your sculptures are of a great standard and you have a good collector base you’re pretty much guaranteed to fall in this price bracket. Achieving all of these prerequisites is not an easy task however.

$1500-$3000– Well known artists will sometimes achieve this price bracket if they have created something truly unique with a very compelling concept, if they have managed to sell in a good economy or if collectors were fighting over it.

$3000+ Doll sculptures that sell above $3000 are rare, and are normally ball-jointed dolls or porcelain. Polymer clay sculptures rarely get more than this even in a good time of year. To achieve more than $3000, you need to be an exceptionally well known artist and have a bidding war amongst collectors in your favor.

Source: Dollmaker’s Dream
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