How to Sell Digital Art Commissions Online
Whether you’re a hobbyist or dreaming of becoming a professional, learning how to sell art commissions is crucial for artists wanting to make money from their skills!
This article will cover how to sell art commissions online, while emphasizing security, organization, and general best practices: for both artists, and clients!
No matter what you’re selling (even digital art), taking on clients still means opening your own business! That’s an exciting step, but it comes with extra responsibilities too. When starting out, it’s easiest to operate under what is known as a sole proprietorship.
A sole proprietorship means you can operate as a business, but not have to file any extra paperwork with your state (if you are located in the United States). Instead of an EIN (Employer Identification Number), you would instead use your Social Security Number (SSN) on any documents.
It’s important that clients have a way to pay you that is both professional and secure. Many artists sell over PayPal, but some also use Stripe, Payoneer, or other options. Your chosen payment method should support clients from any country, especially if you’re finding buyers from social media.
It is not recommended to use non-business Venmo, Cashapp, or PayPal “Friends & Family” transfers for your payments. If your client is asked to pay this way, they won’t be able to get their money back if something goes wrong. Experienced clients will associate these payment methods with scams, and might not trust you.
Always conduct your payments in the most trustworthy and professional way that you can, or it might cost you clients. This is especially true when you’re just starting out with digital commissions!
Whatever payment processor you choose, they will still charge you a fee with every sale. This is usually a small percentage of the total price (2.9%-5%). It’s not ideal, but that is the cost of doing business. Be careful about charging clients extra to cover these fees.
Why? This is a practice known as “surcharging” and is against the Terms of Service for most payment processors. Don’t risk your account! Remember, keeping 95% of a sale is still better than nothing at all.
Terms of Service
You will need terms to govern your business transaction. This protects you (and your clients!) in case a deal falls through. These terms should also outline what your client can and cannot do with the commissioned piece.
Should your client be able to sell things with your design? Who owns the rights to the work? All these questions should be answered in your Terms of Service.
We recommend using a sample ToS from an established creator. Nadiaxel is a freelance digital artist with a fantastic sample ToS that you can reference for free: https://www.nadiaxel.com/terms-of-service
Offerings, Pricing & Organization
Know What You’re Selling
When first starting out selling commissions, it’s best to specialize in your offerings. For example, if you’re great at character portraits, start by selling only digital character portraits.
Offering too many different commission types might overwhelm potential clients! Build your confidence, and ease into working with clients with a style you’re comfortable and confident with!
Pricing is one of the hardest things for a new artist to figure out. Honestly? We could write an entire, separate article about this.
In short: Charge a fair hourly wage for however long it takes you to complete a piece. 10 hours? At $10/hr, that’s $100 you should be charging! And $10 is a low hourly wage, by most standards.
To sell art commissions, artists often use a slot system, usually in the form of a “counter” in their display name. For example: “Artist_Name (0/3 Commissions Open!)”. This lets clients know if you’re open for work.
The slots might be taken either on a first-come-first-served basis, through a random selection of all applicants, or by any other means that the artist might prefer. Note that you will have to update slot numbers and commission status periodically, or risk confusing your clients.
To increase transparency to clients, especially when taking on multiple commissions at once, consider using a queue. You can use a site like Trello or Notion to keep this organized, but it is extra work to constantly keep track of.
Despite this, a queue allows clients to see the status of their commission! It will also help you keep track of which clients have paid, which need work delivered, etc.
Selling to Your Followers
Each of your followers on social media is a potential customer! Start by telling everyone you’re open for commissions. Post the announcement, along with your commission sheet, in as many social medias as you’re present. Keep it visible in your profile, update your bio!
Make it as easy as possible for potential clients to see what you’re selling, and for them to reach you.
If you’re willing to put in the work, there are lots of art commission subreddits, facebook groups, and forums where you can find potential clients. Make sure to have a portfolio ready, so potential clients can see if your art style is what they want!
Clients might contact you via email, Twitter DMs, Instagram DMs, Discord DMs, etc. Their message ideally includes a description of what they would like drawn, as well as any reference images, or any additional questions. Be sure to reply to clients as quickly as possible, and obtain any additional information you might need!
Accept or Decline:
After accepting the commission, set your price. Communicate with your client if there are any extra charges for a particular request, i.e. a difficult background or additional character.
Make sure to ask all the needed questions before you start working on the piece, to avoid wasted work.
Get Paid & Begin Work:
When the artist and client agree on the price, it is customary to charge 50% upfront, usually through PayPal.
You should give your client an ETA on the commissioned piece, periodically delivering sketches or Work In Progress (WIP) of the work. Make alterations according to feedback from the client, adjusting things as and if needed.