How to gain commissions
Follow our guide to get orders and price your work confidently
Just as Layla Robinson has found, gaining commissions takes time.
Caroline Jackman, Talent Development Manager at the Crafts Council, has been supporting makers for more than 15 years and has worked for the Crafts Council for the past two. She understands fully the importance of good marketing strategies to bring in income. Here are her tips on gaining a regular source of commissions…
Listen to your client.
‘What are they asking for exactly? Can you fulfil the brief within budget and to deadline? What particular conditions and details of the project are they asking for? If you need to be competitive in applying for a commission, it’s good to do as much additional market research as possible so that you have the competitive edge – find that special something that sets you apart from everyone else.’
Be really thorough and concise in costing your proposals.
‘Budget correctly and never assume your client understands the processes you use. You might have to explain them in detail, as well as talk through the cost of materials and the time required to complete the project, in order for them to understand your price point and the value of your work. Breaking it down in an email or on paper will further aid understanding.’
Provide good visuals of your proposal.
‘Use supporting images relevant to your work, as well as a CV of your experience. If you are new to working to commission and don’t have examples of work, be sure to provide a detailed outline of how you would achieve the project instead, including drawings and a written outline.’
Have good images of your work.
‘It’s even more apparent today that anyone promoting a small business should have the best images possible of their work, especially as so many artisans and makers market themselves on social media and websites. There are lots of really good apps for your phone, tablet or computer that will allow you to crop, enhance and lay out your pictures. However, if you are not comfortable taking pictures yourself, it can be worth investing in a professional photographer to help you. As well as enhancing your website and social media channels, these images could potentially lead to editorial promotion, too.’
Allow people to get to know you.
‘People love to get to know artisans and makers especially when they are considering buying your work. They like to find out your background and are always inquisitive to know where your ideas and inspiration comes from. Setting up an open studio session or exhibiting at local craft fairs are always good ways to get chatting to people, which can then lead on to business opportunities.’
Keep the communication lines open.
‘Having a good relationship with a commissioner is important. If possible, invite them to visit your studio or workshop. If you have a commission from abroad, arrange your initial meeting with them via Skype or Facetime if you can, using email and phone calls to follow up.’
Whether you work in the UK or abroad, it’s important to keep your records in check.
‘Having a paper trail is important while you are in the process of preparing or working on your projects. If your correspondence is by phone or face-to-face rather than in writing, remember to follow up each discussion with an email summary. Ask for a response for any amendments needed on the work or to check that nothing has been missed out in the detail to keep them engaged in conversation.’