I wanted to share some things I've learned from my first commission. Before this fiber art project, I had never done something of quite this caliber. Sure, I've created custom jewelry and different pieces for customers, but never an actual installation for a company! Here are some things I learned along the way:
Charge enough. I cannot stress this enough. Going into this, I had no idea what I was supposed to charge the company. I did as much research as I could, and decided to add up my hourly wage, the estimated cost of supplies, and estimated shipping. I was lucky enough to be working with a really helpful woman, who encouraged me to up my prices after reading my first quote.
Set a timeline before committing. Make sure you know what they want, when they want it by, and how long it will take to create it. Overestimate your time, for sure - you don't want to be rushing to finish last minute. This was one mistake I made: the company contacted me, and I mistakenly assumed I would be starting work on the commission right away. Unfortunately, they waited until a few months before the due date of the project to pay me, and I had to work extremely hard to finish in time.
Source all of your materials beforehand. Do your research and make sure you can find what you need either wholesale or in bulk so that you can order in large quantities (depending on what you're making). This makes quoting your customer a price much easier, and you'll be able to order ahead of time, once you're paid.
Request 1/2 payment upon receipt of invoice. The usual thing to do is request half of the payment upon receipt of invoice (once they get your invoice). This way you can buy your supplies and have a good chunk of money to get going with. When you finish the project and send it, they'll pay the second half. This procedure establishes trust between the customer and artist, setting the bar for a good working relationship. My experience was a little unusual: because the company's timeline fell behind schedule, they ended up paying me the full amount before I began work. Luckily, we were already on good terms and because I kept the communication lines open about where I was at with the project, they trusted me enough to pay me in full before I finished. Which brings me to my next point:
Communication is key. Keep the emails going. Send updates on the project. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Keep your tone positive and professional, and remain open to your customer!
I hope these tips were helpful! No matter what sort of artist you are, fiber, paint, mixed-media, whatever, I will end by saying: remain professional. Don't take anything personally, which is so hard because art IS personal. Remain professional.