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Charging for commissions

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  • Charging for commissions

    Hi all

    I'm picking up more and more commissions these days, which is great (although some have proved 'challenging'! lol)

    My problem is in pricing this type of work. As the commission piece is something totally new there is the issue of the extra time in planning and overcoming logistical problems along the way. Up to now I've been basically taking the price of the most similar piece I currently do as a basis for cost. Having said that some items have nothing to compare to.

    I'd be really interested in hearing from others about how you arrive at a commission price.


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  • #2
    Yes ... this is a problem that we have as well. We often get asked to make things like house name/number plaques and stuff like that.
    My honest opinion about commissions from a pottery point of view is that we would rather not do them but, of course , it's our living so we have to . I must admit that i have sometimes sat back and reflected on what we have charged for a house name plaque (usually around £25-00 ) and thought that it wasn't really worth doing as we could have made many more £s worth of stock items in the time taken to set up, make and fire the plaque.

    Recently though we made a 100 price card holders for a cheese shop based on our pottery mice and to go with these we made 4 menu holders . I quoted what we wanted for the work to be done and got the commission but that worked much better for us as we were producing higher numbers of items and this kept the unit price down to a realistic cost for the buyer.

    I suppose what i'm finding is that special orders are fine but individual commissions are hardly worth doing unless of course you can get really good money for doing one. I suppose this is one reason why artists get such big money for one off installations and we just look and say WHAT!!! 25 grand for that ???


    • #3
      I totally agree that this is a really difficult problem! For me, a lot of the orders I get are for bespoke colouring to existing designs which is obviously easy but for designs based on photographs and/or subjects that I don't currently have in my portfolio, I tend to base the price on a design of a similar size plus an additional amount added on for the extra time to research and create the pattern.

      I will also probably need to get to a stage where I charge a one-off fee for research & pattern creation for customers who have made enquiries but not placed an order as this can take a long time and doesn't always lead to a confirmed order. This pre-paid fee would then be deducted from the final price at time of ordering so the customer doesn't have to pay over the odds. I am still working on the logistics of this one though!

      I would definitely add a little onto the price you have for a pre-made piece to allow for the extra time it will take to design to the customer's specifications. Most people would not be surprised at this for a bespoke piece and certainly will understand if you explain the additional work you put into it.
      Ali x

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      • #4
        I agree with all the above! Commissions can sometimes be OK if they're just a variation on one of my usual items.

        I don't have to "set up" anything special for a completely new item as I hand throw everything anyway, but planning how to make a completely new item takes time and sometimes more than one try before I get it just right.

        I recently made a set of 3 teacups and saucers for someone - they originally specified certain colours which I don't keep in stock, so I specially bought some new underglazes. Unfortunately they didn't take well and I had to bin two of the sets, a complete waste of time and MY money. I explained the problem and did finally finish the commission but with glazes that I use regularly and trust, and they all came out fine. Not the colours he'd originally asked for but I think he was happy.

        So maybe we should charge a bit more.


        • #5
          Thanks everyone, it certainly seems we all have the same problems! I send people photo's of part way through items to check we're on the same wave length, before continuing. The last commission I did was such a simple design on the face of it, but was really hard to hand cut. I could have done 5 necklaces in the time it took to do that one!

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          • #6
            It's a real balancing act between customer serrvice and efficiency, isn't it. I always want to help a customer to get excatly what they want, but I know that I don't always get a good price for the time it takes.

            I think that the hardest thing to cost is time, especially when we're trying to do something new. then there's the problem that if you put in too much time, you can price yourself out of the commmission.

            So I also see the problem, but don't really have a solution other than what feels right.
            Sue Thomas


            Hand-made beautiful things



            • #7
              I did a commision last year and found as you all have that it took a lot longer to think, create etc. It was completely the wrong shade of cream when the dress was produced so I had to order new stock and remake from scratch. I had the 2 items, one was taken the other is now a sample.
              sending photos over did work, but I always say that they dont have to buy, but of course that may change !
              If you dont have a go ................... you will never know