Art Commissions: What To Know When Buying or Selling Art

Art Commissions: What To Know When Buying or Selling Art

Commissioning art is the process of a client hiring an artist to help create a custom art piece. For example, a client can pay an artist to create a pet portrait, a painting of a loved one, branded artwork for a business, or even landscape pieces of a home or favorite getaway.

Art commissions allow the client to get involved in the creative process—meaning the client is more likely to end up with art pieces that match their requirements.

For a smooth art commission process, clients should explain their ideas to the artist in detail. The client and artist should also sign a contract that formalizes their relationship and highlights their obligations, rights, and responsibilities.

This article explains what art commissions are, how they work, and why people commission artists. We also offer tips for selecting artists and buying commissioned work—and highlight some of the places artists can sell their work.

Art commissions basics

You’ll want to understand the basics of art commissions before diving in. Keep reading to learn how the process works.

What are art commissions?

Commissioning art is the process of finding and hiring artists to produce artwork based on specific client requirements. Art commissions allow a specialized artist to create a client’s unique vision.

Why do people commission artists?

You might commission an artist if you want custom or personalized artwork—this could be a picture of your loved one, a pet portrait, a favorite anime character, or a particular landscape. You can then use the artwork as a present, keep it as a memory, or even resell it.

You might also commission an artist if you want artwork in different sizes. For example, you may find a painting you like, but it’s too large to fit in the area you want to hang it. In this case, an artist could complete a similar artwork in a smaller size.

Another reason to commission an artist is to get artwork that features specific colors. For example, corporate clients and organizations may want paintings or other artworks to display their unique colors and branding. Interior designers may also want artwork in certain colors to fit in their clients’ homes or other interior spaces.

How does an art commission work?

From developing an idea to hiring an artist and reviewing the final draft, you’ll want to follow a certain process to get the best quality work and avoid any problems.

1. Decide what you want

Determine the artwork you want created, including the desired size, colors, subject matter, and style. You may also have a preference when it comes to the materials used.

For example, oil paintings on canvas can last longer than on acrylic paper. Be careful when selecting the materials. Get advice from art experts to help you make the best choices.

2. Research artists

Artists have different styles and areas of specialization. A good place to start your search for artists is Upwork, the world’s work marketplace. Experts on the platform include art consultants, illustrators, digital artists, sketch artists, painters, and more.

Sites like Artfinder, MadeMay, and Etsy are other good alternatives for artists to create custome work.

3. Get a quote

Artists price their services depending on the project’s complexity, size, and time frame. Once you find your preferred artist, submit your project details to them and ask for a quote.

Getting a quote ensures that the art project is within your budget.

4. Sign a written contract

When you find a particular artist and agree to their terms, you’ll need to sign a written contract that records your commitment. Think of a contract as an agreement between the commissioner and an artist that defines and highlights their obligations, mutual rights, and responsibilities.

A good custom art contract should include a project description, payment plan, timeline and deadline, copyrights, a shipping and delivery plan, and exclusivity expectations.

5. Create a commissioned piece

The artist can start working on the piece once the contract is signed. During this process, the artist should refer to the project requirements to ensure the artwork is done as expected.

6. Review the work

Typically, artists share the project’s progress. This ongoing approval process gives clients time to review the artist’s work and ask for revisions if they want changes in particular areas.

As an art commissioner, you should provide feedback at an early stage in case you need any alterations. Asking for revisions when the entire project is complete can be expensive and affect the agreed timelines and deadlines.

Buying commissioned art

One challenge of being a successful art commissioner is finding the right artist for your project.

Artists have different levels of knowledge, styles, and experiences. Read more on what you should consider when searching for a custom artist, including tips for buying commissioned work.

How to find an artist for a commission

Upwork makes it easy to find the right commission artist. With hundreds of art experts—including art consultants, illustrators, digital artists, sketch artists, and painters—you can find the right professional for your needs.

Begin your search for an artist on Upwork by writing and posting an art job post, which should include the following aspects:

  • Scope of work. Indicate your requirements and project details. What do you want the artist to do? You should be as clear as possible to allow artists to gauge their skills and decide if they’re right for the job.
  • Background. Upwork gives all artists—regardless of their level of experience, style, and background—an equal opportunity to apply for jobs. So, be clear about which level of expertise a freelancer should have to be fit for your project.
  • Project length. Specify if the job post is about a small or large project. Will this be a short-term, one-time art creation, or will multiple pieces of art be done over a longer period?
  • Budget. Set your budget and indicate if you will pay the artist a fixed amount for the entire project or an hourly rate.

When you post a job or project on Upwork, qualified professionals with unique proposals will apply to work on the project within 24 hours. As you go through the proposals, you can screen the freelancers depending on their experience, client satisfaction rate, and style—among other factors.

How to choose the right artist for your project

Many factors can influence your decision to hire an artist—including the type of project you’re interested in, the artist’s style, their previous work, and your budget.

Type of artwork

From paintings to sculptures, you can request different types of artwork. However, artists may have areas of specialization. Depending on your project, choose an artist who specializes in that area to get better quality.

Artist style

Artists have different styles that set them apart. Some take a more modernist approach in their work, while others specialize in surrealism.

Other popular art styles include abstraction, cubism, pop art, and impressionism. Hire an artist whose style matches your requirements.


Your budget for an art project will affect your hiring decision. Emerging artists may have lower rates and more time to work on your project.

Meanwhile, more established artists can bring a lot of experience to the table but may charge higher rates. Established artists may also have more projects in their bucket and a less flexible schedule, meaning you may have to wait longer for completed work.

Previous work

You can also look at an artist’s experience level before offering them a custom job. Well-established artists may have worked on similar projects and can use their wide experience to meet your expectations.

Emerging artists, on the other hand, are typically just starting and may want to build their portfolios. It’s up to you to give emerging artists a chance to work on your project or hire more experienced artists.

Tips for buying commissioned work

Looking to buy or request a piece of art? Follow these tips to work well with artists and get the most out of commissioned work.

Expect a contract or make one

A contract is an important part of commissioning an art piece. Among other functions, a contract highlights the obligations and responsibilities of each party.

If you receive a contract from the artist, go through all sections carefully and make modifications as needed. Sign it only when you’re satisfied with its contents. If you don’t receive a contract, take it upon yourself to create one and then discuss its contents with the artist.

Be specific when discussing what you want

Artists require specific details to work on and deliver the expected work. Be as clear as possible when giving your project requirements.

If you have examples of previous works similar to what you’re looking for, share them with the artist to help them better understand what you want to accomplish.

Communicate with the artist frequently

As in any other relationship, effective communication is necessary when working with artists. Encourage artists to ask for clarification whenever they don’t understand something or need confirmation before taking a next step.

You should also request regular project updates to give feedback and ask for changes early on. When there is a dispute on whether the delivered art meeting requirements, the contract will help to effectively settle the differences.

Selling commissioned art

As an artist, you spend an incredible amount of time and effort working to meet client requirements. It’s important to be paid appropriately for the hard work you deliver.

In this section, we’ll look at where you can sell your work and how you can promote your artwork. We’ll also dive into some best practices for selling custom art work.

Where can artists sell their work?

Today, many platforms allow artists to sell their art online or promote their art business, including Etsy, UGallery, and TurningArt.

Commission artists can also use social media—such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok—to promote their work of art and meet prospective clients, which could eventually lead to a sale.

If you’d like to sell your art pieces, meet prospective clients, and build powerful relationships, Upwork could be the right place for you.

Selling your art talent on Upwork is a straightforward process. It starts by creating a freelancer profile that highlights your style, area of specialization, and pay rate. Then, browse through hundreds of jobs posted by prospective clients and submit proposals.

Since many artists apply for similar jobs, your freelancer profile needs to stand out. Learn how to enhance your freelancer profile.

How to promote your artwork online and offline

As an artist, knowing how to promote your artwork increases your visibility—allowing you to meet more prospective clients.

When promoting your artwork online, consider creating an art portfolio. This can be a website that showcases your art world—including your work, skills, accomplishments, experiences, and other personal attributes.

Clients can learn more about you by visiting your website. You can use website builders like Wix or WordPress—or even better, hire a web developer from Upwork to help you set up a portfolio website.

Consider creating business pages on social media like Instagram and Facebook. Apart from helping you showcase your work to hundreds of prospective clients, business pages can enhance your professional appeal. Running ad campaigns on social media can be a good promotion tactic.

Promoting yourself offline is also an effective way to build your image and sell your work. You can get started with offline promotion by showing your art at shows, marketing yourself through networking, attending art fairs and exhibitions, and joining reputable art organizations that can help market your creations to an existing audience.

How much to charge for a commissioned piece of art

The amount to charge for a custom art piece depends on several factors—including the type of materials a project requires, the time allocated to the project, the complexity of the commissioned work, and your reputation.

If you’re starting and don’t know how to price your services, consider looking at the market rates for your art style. Research your competitors and evaluate the features they offer, including their price points. Next, calculate your overall costs when producing the art piece and determine how much you can adjust your prices to make a profit.

You also have the option to discuss an hourly rate with the client. Some prices professional artists on Upwork charge for their work include:

  • Logos. Most logo designers on Upwork charge between $15 and $30 an hour.
  • Digital art. Depending on the style and complexity of the work, digital art artists charge as little as $50 per project and can go as high as $300.
  • Original hand-painted artwork. Most acrylic painters on Upwork start with an hourly fee of $30.

Learn hourly rates for different on-demand jobs on Upwork.

Tips for selling commissioned work

Producing custom artwork requires a lot of time and effort. It’s important that you receive a good offer for your work.

Some top tips you should consider when selling your commissioned work include:

  • Be timely. Once you agree to a specific deadline with your client, ensure that you follow it to the letter. This allows you to achieve different milestones and improves your professional appeal.
  • Communicate with your client. Maintain an active communication process. Check in with your clients regularly and update them on the project’s progress.
  • Ask for partial payment upfront. You should begin working on the art piece only once you receive 50% pay (of the overall cost) from the client. The payment allows you to purchase the required materials and meet other expenses. Upwork allows setting a timeline of payments at specific milestones of the project.
  • Ask for clarification and details. Revisions to artwork when done late or when the project is complete can be frustrating and expensive—and strain your relationship with the client. Reach out to the client and ask for clarification. Request specific details to better understand the client’s requirements.
  • Have a contract. A contract highlights your obligations, mutual rights, and responsibilities. It also formalizes your relationship with the client. A contract is a must-have when working on a project. If the client doesn’t provide a contract, make one and ask the client to go through it and sign it.

Find a commission artist on Upwork

With art commissions, clients can find artists to work on their projects based on specific requirements. Art commissions allow clients to purchase art pieces in their desired size, colors, and materials. Meanwhile, artists can showcase their skills and get compensated for their work.

If you’re looking for commission artists to help bring your art project to life, a great place to begin your search is Upwork, the world’s work marketplace. You can find and hire artists that match your style.

If you’re an artist looking to sell your work and meet prospective clients, Upwork can also help you reach your target audience. Get started by building a freelancer profile, and Upwork will help you showcase it to potential clients.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.


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Art Commissions: What To Know When Buying or Selling Art
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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