How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

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How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#1 Post by Amecha » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:43 pm

To preface, I'm an artist thinking about offering my art for sale here on the forums and I noticed a notable rift between buyers and artists. A lot of buyers have stories of artists jumping ship half way into an agreed multi-part commission, lack of communication, and just a high risk on the part of the buyer.

Although I'm still unsure if I will be offering art here, I was thinking if I did I'd like to hear ideas from buyers that would help reduce the risk on their part and make them more comfortable when buying from artists.

Also, how would any of you feel with a system like this for payment?
Half payment upfront for all of the sprites/CGs at once. And I know this would be steep for the buyers but I feel it would be safer.
The artist would begin creating all of the different assets but only up to the lineart stage. If the artist would need to back out at any reason they must offer a full refund if ALL lineart assets aren't complete. However if the buyer backs out before the completion of the lineart, the artist keeps the half they were paid already. Also, at this point if the artist for one reason or another cannot complete the coloring half of the commission it would be relatively simple for the buyer to take the lineart and have it colored by another artist.
From there the second half could be paid, repeating the same refund policy as before.
And by "the artist" I basically mean myself should I decide to sell art here.

I get that there are some less desirable things about this payment set up. Although technically the buyer could forego paying for all sprites at once and instead do two or three sets at that point but I couldn't guarantee I'd be able to do all the sets, as plans may change. This plan (full work, no sets) I know would work specifically for me as an artist because I assume a large amount of loss if I decide to back out before finishing all the lineart, and the buyer assumes very little risk. Plus I've signed on for the whole deal, all the assets lineart. Backing out isn't profitable or a smart move for me, and it will result in a lot of time and energy wasted on my part. It would just be better for me to buckle down and get it done. The only loss on the buyer's side is if they quit on me. However, I can see how this can be taken advantage of by continually pushing the deadline until the buyer gives up so there would have to be some trust placed in me that I wouldn't do that. This would probably be worked into the deadline agreement. The buyer would provide me with an optimal (but slightly tight) deadline by their standards and in return I'd offer my reasonably tight deadline permitting optimal working conditions (minimal distractions, other responsibilities, etc.). After checking how those two deadlines match up against each other we'd likely add a reasonable buffer period for setbacks and other life related issues, and then a failure point of some sort. Something along the sorts of, if I haven't finished X% of the commission before the pre-buffer deadline the buyer can back out with a full refund providing I don't have substantial setbacks. This x% would be a number that I would personally find unreasonable not to have finished by the pre-buffer deadline, and therefore would happily offer a refund.
With this plan in mind it would also encourage me to continue ahead and finish the coloring as well, as coloring tends to be the easier of the two. And at this point the buyer could even pay by piece for each colored piece with less risk.

Considering the amount of work posing, anatomy, and lineart takes it might even be an increased risk for me as a buyer could cop out of the second half, take the lineart to another artist to have it colored for an overall cheaper amount. But it wouldn't be a huge problem I don't think. I could also do a 75-25% split, where 75% of the money is put into the production up until lineart, and the last 25% is for the coloring. And then do basically the same split with the lineart, half of the 75% up front, the other half after finishing the lineart, and then the remaining 25% upfront for coloring.

I'm rambling. I'm just mostly curious if this would be a payment arrangement someone in the consumer position would be happy with, and if there are any other changes or precautions that could be made to it to make it better. Also, just any other plans to make the whole buyer/seller relationship more smooth. There are a few ideas I already have in mind for that but I just want to hear ideas mainly.

Side note I wasn't sure if this was more appropriate for general discussion, creator discussion or asset creation: art.

This is probably typo riddled. Just point it out and I'll fix it.

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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#2 Post by Jae » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:24 pm

I'm commissioning an artist right now for character art and while it's been smooth so far, there's always that thought in the back of your mind, no matter how much you trust a person, that something might go wrong and someone's going to be very unhappy.

The best would probably be if the person you're working with shares a very similar passion with what you're working on, regardless which direction (client→artist or artist→client). For example, I would never ask an artist to work on something that's unlike the bulk of their existing art. I only reach out because I find their existing material to match what I'm working on.

As for payment, for the artist I'm working with right now, we've agreed on this system:

1. I send the necessary details of what needs to be worked on. Characters, their descriptions, what I expect with the designs.
2. The artist agrees that he/she can accomplish what I'm looking for.
3. I send a partial payment (50%) to get him/her started.
4. Artist sends me lineart and/or simple color for initial approval and feedback
5. We get to the point where I greenlight him/her to finish the rest.
6. I complete the payment.

Now I also work with bulk demands as well. The artist usually charges on a per image/per character basis. However, since I'm requesting numerous images and eventually will pay a decent amount of money, I don't pay everything up front and only on a "per batch" basis, such as pay once every 10 characters. This way, I get my art, but if something happens and the artist cannot continue, I won't be paying for a bunch of art I never received.

This is all done with transparency. I push for the artist to ask me as many questions as possible so he/she is comfortable working with me. Likewise, I make sure before we proceed that the artist fully understands what I'm expecting.

Yes, it's all based on trust. Yes, there are crappy people out there who try to undermine you. But generally someone's coming to you because they don't have a whole lot of options. By trying to screw you for the sake of obtaining cheap art just seems like too much work. That's my take anyway. And if they do have a bunch of options, screwing one person may just come back to bite them in the rear when word spreads.

And I'm not 100% sure on this, but there are artist networks out there. If one person gets scammed, it's not hard to put up a black list of clients to warn other artists. Especially when payments are done through PayPal. Buyer information is right there. There are also sites like fiverr who help freelancers.

Use watermarks for any drafts so they can't just run off with those. Yeah, a skilled person can remove watermarks, but it's a hassle. And who else do they have to work with after that? Why not just ask the next person to begin with? If they want to color it themselves why not just pay less to begin with for just the lineart?

Trust and communication. I don't know if there's another way. Just be smart about who you want to partner up with.

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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#3 Post by Katta » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:35 pm

Paying for all the pieces at once (even half), even only lineart, is bigger risk for the buyer than paying per piece, so I'm definitely not doing it anymore. The promise of full refund from the artist means nothing, most artists wouldn't even note you if they need more time/can't finish the job, not to speak of refund.

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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#4 Post by infel » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:59 pm

I want to thank you for posting this. I don't think I've seen many topics on this for buyers in truth and it's something that is a problem in the EVN and JVN community. As someone who has gone through this a lot, I'll tell you there is no for sure safe way for either side.

I think the first thing that everyone should do even if it's not a commercial game is to make a contract. Even if it's a small visual novel, I believe having one will keep both parties safe.

As for your method in payment it can work, but it does depend on a few things like how far a person has planned the game. I know some artists don't like this method and want full payment once the sketch is done. The major problem I have with the method of paying half though is that, for example, if you offer 1000 dollar that means you pay 500 up front. Thing is though someone could easily take that and not have to do anything. Sure it's not 1000, but 500 is still a lot of money.


Frankly I doubt there are true fully safe ways for us to not lose money. I really think artists need to be sure they can work on visual novels. I think some go into them thinking they are doing a normal type commission, but when they get to the middle they realize it's much harder and stop.

I won't lie, I have become anxious with working with other people. As we speak the same thing is happening and my artist hasn't gotten back to me in over two weeks. As an artist it's your job to keep in contact and tell those you work with if things are wrong. Sadly for me I'm usually the one who has to keep tracking them down and it's really annoying. Please get that buyers have other things they must worry about for a visual novel like funds, management, writing (if they are doing it), etc. We shouldn't have to worry about whether or not the art is going to get done or if the artist will drop us....

But please don't get me wrong. I'm working with two reliable sprite artists and a CG artist, but these guys seem to be rare for me. I have nothing against a visual novel taking time or if things get stressful, but you need to tell me if something is wrong and not leave me hanging. As for artists who have jobs outside of art I understand that to, but if the job is too much then maybe they should really think about not working for a visual novels since they wouldn't have the time.

Still the best way I think for us all to be safer is to make a contract. Sadly some don't always think of this and I believe this forum should have a section about making contracts and have a section on helping buyers be smart when they commission. I and a good few others had to learn the hard way about commissioning and it's lost us a good amount of money.
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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#5 Post by firecat » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:05 pm

everyone is writing in full sentence, the only thing you need to know is paypal. even if your money is taken you have 30-90 days to recover it, dont send it by friend because that cant be recover.
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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#6 Post by Katta » Wed Sep 16, 2015 11:00 pm

I don't think a contract is any helpful because everyone knows no one will go to court because of this type of sums. Does it work psychologically? I think we need a wider statistic to speak about that.

Firecat, have you used this option yourself, to get the money back from paypal? Please tell more how it went. I wonder how easy it was. In my case the problems usually start with delays, so it's long past 1 month when I know the job won't be done. Maybe a stricter approach to deadlines would benefit me. Also it won't help if an artist did finish part of your sprites but you still need to redo the job for continuity.

I'm also interested if someone has used sites that hold the payment until the job is done (the buyer pays the sum but the artist doesn't get it until they deliver the art). The downside is that you have to pay like 10% for the service and it may not be very convenient for the artist in case of longer commissions. But I'm still curious.

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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#7 Post by infel » Wed Sep 16, 2015 11:08 pm

Katta wrote:I don't think a contract is any helpful because everyone knows no one will go to court because of this type of sums. Does it work psychologically? I think we need a wider statistic to speak about that.

Firecat, have you used this option yourself, to get the money back from paypal? Please tell more how it went. I wonder how easy it was. In my case the problems usually start with delays, so it's long past 1 month when I know the job won't be done. Maybe a stricter approach to deadlines would benefit me. Also it won't help if an artist did finish part of your sprites but you still need to redo the job for continuity.

I'm also interested if someone has used sites that hold the payment until the job is done (the buyer pays the sum but the artist doesn't get it until they deliver the art). The downside is that you have to pay like 10% for the service and it may not be very convenient for the artist in case of longer commissions. But I'm still curious.

I'm...not to sure. Contracts can be important especially for big visual novels. For me I don't care even if it's just 200, if someone stole it I won't just sit around and not get it back. That 200 could've been spent on things for the game. Would I really just let it slip by? I find that to be wrong. And contracts should not be used psychologically. They are a good thing to have for both parties. I've been told by countless game de's to have one. Even if the payment isn't super high, it doesn't mean getting it back is pointless to get.
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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#8 Post by Katta » Wed Sep 16, 2015 11:48 pm

infel wrote:I'm...not to sure. Contracts can be important especially for big visual novels. For me I don't care even if it's just 200, if someone stole it I won't just sit around and not get it back. That 200 could've been spent on things for the game. Would I really just let it slip by? I find that to be wrong. And contracts should not be used psychologically. They are a good thing to have for both parties. I've been told by countless game de's to have one. Even if the payment isn't super high, it doesn't mean getting it back is pointless to get.
So how did it work for you? In case you had problems did you sue the artist and get money back because of the contract? In case you didn't have any problems how many people have you commissioned?
Also legally, I thought evidence of agreement like e-mails work in court as well.

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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#9 Post by infel » Wed Sep 16, 2015 11:56 pm

Katta wrote:
infel wrote:I'm...not to sure. Contracts can be important especially for big visual novels. For me I don't care even if it's just 200, if someone stole it I won't just sit around and not get it back. That 200 could've been spent on things for the game. Would I really just let it slip by? I find that to be wrong. And contracts should not be used psychologically. They are a good thing to have for both parties. I've been told by countless game de's to have one. Even if the payment isn't super high, it doesn't mean getting it back is pointless to get.
So how did it work for you? In case you had problems did you sue the artist and get money back because of the contract? In case you didn't have any problems how many people have you commissioned?
Also legally, I thought evidence of agreement like e-mails work in court as well.

The problem was when this happened I didn't have one so I couldn't sue him. I regret not getting a contract for The Reject. If I had then I could've sued him and got back money that would've been spent on a new artist. I will say for me not having one is a lot more dangerous then having one I just read on here about someone who lost 3000 dollars due to how artists were always bailing on them. If they had done a contract there could've been a good chance for them to get that back and not have lost so much. As for the email thing that doesn't always work well especially if you delete the email or if it gets lost. Also for many they don't always make an oath in a email and just start commissioning, so using e-mail might not be the best of options.
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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#10 Post by Tempus » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:24 am

The reason nobody is going to sue for less than, say, $5,000 is because that's probably around how much it will cost to have a lawyer represent you. Court cases also take time. Depending on the location of the person who wronged you they may be able to simply ignore you too. Then you've spent thousands of additional dollars. If money is so tight that you're worrying about someone running off with a couple hundred dollars, there's no way in hell you can afford the risk of unsuccessfully suing someone.

If you manage to successfully sue someone you can also get them to pay your court costs, but that assumes you win. I suspect someone from the US would have a lot of trouble suing someone in the Philippines or Russia. What do you really think happens if they ignore you? Do you think the Russian authorities are going to force them to acknowledge you? I don't know the answer to that, but I'm willing to bet there's a lot of countries that wouldn't do shit about it unless it were going to cause an international incident.

Unless it's a big sum, cut your losses and prevent it from happening next time as best you can. Contracts are still useful for clarity, and they may have a psychological affect on the signers, but just remember that they cost time and money to actually enforce and even then they can still be ineffectual. FWIW, when I do commissions I get clients to pay me after I've finished a piece. And for the first piece I get half in advance. Using this method protects both parties as much as possible. The compromise is that you get hit with more fees.
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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#11 Post by Kia » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:54 am

All of that rules and percentages are useless without a good reputation. People don't care much how you want to get paid when you are known as the artist who finishes his/her job no mater what. Nobody wants an artist who quits halfway. As an artist you know how frustrating it is for both side when the client is forced to force you to emulate some style because their last artist left them.
To me people who step up and say: "I do the job and I demand to be paid this way" are more reliable than people who say: "If I quit I'll give back the money" because "If I quit..." means they already considering it.
and from the client side: paypal, contract, promises and websites. nothing work better than finding artists with "get the job done" attitude and reputation.

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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#12 Post by Roxie » Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:31 am

Has anyone tried escrow?
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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#13 Post by Amecha » Thu Sep 17, 2015 5:23 am

@Katta Yeah I do understand that a majority of the issue here is the artist holding on to their end of the bargain, and a promise of a refund is just a promise and even with a contract could easily be ignored with no real major penalty. Like others have said, filing a lawsuit on a 200$ dispute isn't worth it. Hence building a reputation is super important to put the buyer at ease. I do know that if you pay through paypal (Not gift the money. This can be a danger to the artist as well as the buyer) you can file a dispute there. A secondary option is to pay via DA points. The issue with buying through the forums is that the admins are not in control of this, the money doesn't pass through them and as such they don't have the ability to step in as a mediator. If you do cash through paypal (even if the agreement was made on DA) DevianART doesn't have as much control. But if you pay through points you can make a complaint directly to DevianART.

I've never taken DA points in the past, but there is a bit more security with it now that they've changed it to a full currency and they are a bit more reasonable to take. I as an artist can turn DA points into USD through paypal, and since I'm a premium member I don't take a payment cut, but you as a non premium member would take a small percentage cut if you tried to pull your currency back out. Of course you could always just use that currency for another artist on DA.

Would you find this system safer? It involves much more of a middle man, and would add extra steps for me to collect my money at the end but I think it would offer extra protection as DA should have more legal control to strong arm refunds out of artists, or at least reimburse buyers. I'll look into the policies and exchange of points a little more regardless, but if this is a safer method I'll probably offer it to my buyers as an alternative to paypal or other payment methods.

@infel I do agree that there really isn't a fail-safe method on either sides of the bargain and that's always going to be a problem. One side is always going to assume more risk and bad things will happen. The payment plan I listed is basically the core payment agreement in a contract. It would be something I list in my information that anyone can look at and then tailor a little more to fit them perfectly. It would just be the core structure.

I also understand how you feel about being contacted by the artist. Most of the buyers I've worked with in the past have been extremely pleased with my level of transparency and how often I check in. But for this, to see is to believe. I'd probably explain in a section of my information how often I plan to check in, and if the buyer requests we can ad more or less frequent check ins. I'd probably offer to allow them to skype, pm, note, email, or even text me since its not an issue for me to change my text number and it could offer a more personal connection. Whichever option is more comfortable for them

@Kia The "if I quit" is more of an outlined agreement I provide somewhere in my information. More along the lines of "in the case of," instead of straight telling my buyer "so if I quit on you", which is just in bad taste and honestly if there is a foreseeable chance I'll quit I wouldn't take it in the first place. And also, of course I don't have a reputation here, but half the battle is being able to build that reputation up in the first place, and your completely right that the reputation and the attitude is very important. I do know that right now its just numbers and percentages but I'm just mulling over the ideas until I can better finalize them. Something that is front and center of my information explaining that these are my self imposed guidelines and restrictions. Its not going to be a lot to dis-spell doubts and worries, but over time it will become a core foundation to how I work. Also having these restrictions beforehand helps prevent mistakes and miscommunication on my part, and the buyer will know what to expect from me before money ever changes hands. All of these are plans for my own self restriction, and I simply want feedback of things I could also incorporate to make my customers more comfortable.

Once again, this is probably typo riddled. Just point it out and I'll fix it.

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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#14 Post by Kia » Thu Sep 17, 2015 6:25 am

I always been on the paid side and never experienced paying but I can understand how a client feels when they are forced to risk their money when I didn't do anything for them yet so I chosen to trust them and let them pay when they got some or all of their design. I know I own the copyright of my work and if they don't pay, I can simply enforce my copyright and they won't be able to use it. of curse it never happens when client is satisfied.
that's the simple solution I can suggest for your complicated problem.

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Re: How to make commissioning art easier/safer for buyers

#15 Post by Ryuno » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:05 am

Budget for the whole project with the artist, but pay per asset.

50% upfront on that asset, 50% upon delivery. That's how I work with music and it protects everyone involved.

It protects me if you don't have at least 50% on what is expected, I shouldn't start working based on the promise you'll get me everything at the end.

It protects you because an asset is supposed to take considerably less time than a batch of them, so if you're unhappy with any aspect we can stop at any time and issuing a refund is as easy as three clicks on PayPal when it's within the refund period. The sums are also smaller, and that makes less of a dent in anyone's pocket if anything ever goes awfully wrong as opposed to a big sum.

The disadvantage? A lot of invoices to do and the need to stay communicating about them. It's time consuming, but it's the best I came up with in the two years I've been doing this full-time.

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