From time to time, I take writing commissions, and this is like taking art commissions in a sense. To me, taking writing commissions has a much more relaxed air to it than professional freelance work does. But no matter what you do, it’s still an obligation of sorts. You promote and offer a service; people pay you for said service; and it’s your obligation to follow through or to return that money. It’s very easy and very straightforward.
Typically when it comes to writing commissions, it’s usually in the form of creative literature. This gives you a chance to flex your writing skills, to try your hand at various characters and world creations, and to learn to write in different genres. “Creative” literature commissions come in all shapes in sizes, and people out there are very imaginative with their ideas. You need to establish a basic “do” and “don’t” list so people don’t ask you for things that you’re not comfortable with. If you can’t think of things at the time, surely something will come up.
Know your time schedule and then let other people know if it’s a busy time for you or not. State that in your commission post so other people are on the same page as you. You might have to reiterate your reliability a lot, but the people that need to know your availability most of all are the people commissioning you. If there’s anyone that needs to know your progress most of all, it’s your clients.
Keep yourself organized too. Make sure you have a written list somewhere of your commissioners, what they want, and the prices. It doesn’t help to be detailed with your notes. Just stay on top of things to prevent mistakes. Ask for references and clear up any information about characters that you need. When you’re given creative reigns with someone else’s ideas, make sure you have as much information as you’ll need.
Also, set your limits. Unless you know for a fact that you’re the type to write down chapters upon chapters, try to set a bare minimum of one and establish your cap. If you can’t do more than just one shots – single chapter stories – then focus more on character or plot developments. These are things that other people can benefit from in a creative sense.
Establishing a price might take a little work for you to figure out. Start at a base of $5 for your work and work your way up in easy increments. For many people this would seem to be a very low price, but if this is your first time working with commissions or if you’re trying something new, this is a good place to start. But don’t let your prices go below that. Don’t have a blowout sale; don’t offer discounts. If you’re starting out with $5, then you might want to keep it at that way. If you’re more in stride with this, don’t let your regular prices fall beneath $10. This works for literature/by chapter commissions. If you’re doing something a little more creative such as character or plot development, then it’s probably best to start at the higher number. Sit and think on it for a while – ask other artists for their opinions. Try a price for a while, and if it’s not working out, tweak it a little bit here and there. Don’t make it a habit though. Try to find and set a price as soon as possible.
Having a work in progress when it comes to literature commissions is a little more difficult. So if you want, it’s best to just check up with your client; let them know how you’re doing per chapter and to ask any more questions if you have any. It’s best to check in every once in a while if it’s a longer commission. Of course, you don’t have to, but it’s good to let them know that your stride is steady and that you haven’t slacked off. No matter which route you take, it’s important to have open communication.
Having literature commissions is best for blogging and social media platforms like tumblr or for art sites like deviantArt. However, promoting that line of work is undoubtedly hard work. While people will read fiction of their choice, you really have to push to encourage people to buy works of what they want to see. Make sure you have different samples for them to look through on your commission page, and encourage them by making your post sound interesting.
Remember that doing commissions is supposed to be more relaxed. You don’t have to consult job boards and contact professionals to get your footing. It’s best to stay in art circles and to keep writing creatively for your own leisure. Building up your ‘portfolio’ is just as important because you want people to get a feel of what you can do. Make sure to set boundaries early. Understand that getting out writing commissions is hard. It’s not about trying to outprice your fellow writer. You just need to set your prices and make sure your quality is worth paying for.
Don’t open a number of slots that you can’t take, and don’t promise something you can’t/don’t feel comfortable with delivering. You not only have to worry about quality for your client – you need to worry about yourself. Make sure that you’re being paid well for your efforts, but never push yourself to make things you know you can’t. If you’re really intent on trying out new things, take it easy and keep your pace.
Good luck out there, guys, and may business be good.