Monday, August 9, 2010

Commissions Gone Wild, Part III

First off, I apologize to you all for not getting a post written in a few weeks. I'm prepping for an endurance race on my sister's horse, plus I am breaking in a colt as my summer night job, so time is a precious thing for me right now. Anyhow, I wrote my last couple of posts for the collectors. This one is for you artists who take, or are considering taking, commissions.

Common Mistakes You Artists Make Doing Commissions

  • Putting yourself in a position of extreme financial desperation. Just. Don't. Do. It. Before you get too desperate, get a regular job. The stress of it will affect the beauty of your work, your self-esteem, and your decision-making ability. Plus it is the root of ALL the mistakes listed below. To keep yourself financially strong, open a free savings account, and start growing $1000 of emergency money. It's simpler than it sounds. Every time you are paid, put some in, even if it's a couple of bucks. Not only will you eventually have $1000, but you'll also have developed the habits necessary to grow it back. If you don't have this kind of discipline with money, please, get a job at Wal-Mart--you'll never cut it as an artist.
  • Putting up with bullies. You might fall into this if you're financially desperate. But don't do it. It will crush your esteem. You don't deserve that treatment, and bullies should NEVER get what they want by bullying, because when they do, the world becomes a darker place. Keep in mind that bully customers are never as loved and respected in the doll community as they will have you believe--they match the psychological profile of a controlling personality to a tee. Also keep in mind that they bully because they get some kind of sick rush from pushing around other people--it's an addiction to them, and they will not stop unless you put an end to it!
  • Taking on too many. When you need money, it will be tempting to take on a million commissions so you can get all those down payments. However, what happens to most artists is the money gets blown on loans and bills, and then they're stuck doing all these dolls (which would have probably sold higher on Ebay, bringing in more exposure, plus feedback). The artist ends up financially desperate again, with a ridiculous amount of work to do, and no money coming in any month soon.
  • Doing only commissions in the beginning of your career, and no Ebay dolls. This is important. Even if you hate Ebay, understand that at the time of this post, it is the best tool for developing your 'fan base', which is vital to your career. In fact, people have attempted to start doll-only auction sites, and so far, they have all failed miserably. Why?
    • None of the alternate sites had the traffic Ebay gets. It was kind of like plopping a doll store in the middle of the prairie, instead inside a big mall complex. I know this because I've had people writing to compliment my dolls tell me they were shopping on Ebay for something else and accidently pulled up my auction in their search!
    • None of the alternate sites provided a trustworthy feedback system. Ebay's feedback system is currently biased towards the buyer. However, it's still the best out there. It assures people they will have a safe transaction with you, because other people have. Many of the alternate doll auction sites that have come and gone were anti-feedback--I'm pretty sure the people who started them were the same who burned their bras back in the sixties, only to realize they couldn't run a marathon without one.
    • None of the alternate sites provided the unbiased mediation and security Ebay provides when a sell goes to hell. For example, once I bought a gold bar on Ebay. The seller took my payment and poofed. Ebay and PayPal reimbursed me within a week, even though they probably never recovered the money from the crook. Now, a small doll-only auction site would never be able to afford that kind of coverage for stolen money.
    Anyhow, even if your work sells higher in commissions at the beginning of your career ... which it will ... don't fall into the trap of being buried under those commissions. Eventually you'll reach a point where the value of your work won't go up, and your artist pals who started at the same time as you will soar right on past you, because they've been listing on Ebay. Why? Nobody knows and trusts you as an artist! You've been slaving away for a few private individuals, that are not doing near as good a job promoting your work as Ebay would. And what's worse, is they're probably sharing crappy pics of your dolls on the forums, giving you bad publicity. So, until you have a pretty good 'fan base', I recommend avoiding commissions like the plague.
  • Taking too long. This is directly related to taking too many. A commission should not take a year, unless the customer agreed to it.
  • Not communicating with the customer. I know you feel guilty, because you took too many and it's taking you too long. But that's no excuse for taking people's money, and then keeping them in the dark about when they'll be getting their dolls. Eventually, they'll start asking about you on public forums, because you've given them no alternative. Now, what I would do in this situation, is give every customer a number. Then I'd post a frequently updated list on my website with their numbers, and where I'm at with each one. That way, customers at the bottom of the list wouldn't get too impatient because they'd have a clear visual of when their doll would be ready. Here is an example:
    Doll 1: Finished
    Doll 2: In Progress
    Doll 3: Pending
    Doll 4: Pending
  • Working with someone who has a different idea of beauty than you. If the customer shows you a picture of an actress you think is doggone fugly, and insists you paint her, don't. You have a different idea of beauty than this customer, and will NEVER please them. Trust me on this.
  • Working on the wrong mold for a job. If a customer asks you to use their 'favorite darling mold of all time' for a celebrity repaint, and you can't see the celebrity in the mold, refuse. Or else you'll end up with a mutant Natalie Portman and an unhappy customer.
  • Working without a contract. A well-written contract can save you so much heartbreak. So write one. E-mail it to the customer so the customer can print it, sign it, and mail it back to you with their doll. It should state something like this:

    I, the customer, am paying for 30 hours of repainting on my doll. I understand art is subjective, and that the artist may give their all, yet not produce a face to my liking. Included with my doll, to be returned to me are: Tonner stand, original Tonner box (inner and outer), 3 hair ribbons, hair net, and a packet of silica.

    Customer signature: Doll Collector
    Date: 05-05-2060

    Notice I make the customer list everything they're mailing to me? This is EXTREMELY important. It's very easy for a customer to think they mailed you something they didn't, and then demand you send it back to them (as if artists' work spaces aren't buried deep enough under customer stands, wraps, shoes, outfits, and ribbons--personally, if I took commissions, I would insist my customers send nothing but the dolls).

Well, enough of that! How about some cookie dough?

I give you the sexy dough fairy. She can be found under Dolls > Art Dolls-OOAK > Fantasy, and looks something like this:

Her defining feature is that nothing about her looks sculpted. Her head? A ball, with a lump for the nose. Her ears? Two sloppy banana-shaped things. Her eyes? Crooked and murky. Her neck? Virtually nonexistent. Her body? Rolled clay, with two balls for the breasts, barely smoothed in. Her joints? Bent clay, like Gumby's arms, with absolutely no bone definition whatsoever. Hands and feet? The pic says it all. Skin texture? Lumpy, covered in fingerprints, and often chalky from the artist painting over the dirt that got caught in the clay. Bikini? Not flattering for her body type--couldn't the artist have at least given this poor girl a dress? Don't get me wrong. Everyone has to start somewhere. But on Ebay? Asking $150? Seriously? A ten-year-old child could sculpt this doll in fifteen minutes!

Sara unleashed

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