View Full Version : Taking on a commission :)

07-20-2010, 08:48 AM
Not so long ago torstan put up a post on "how to get commissions and get paid to map (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10646-How-to-get-commissions-and-get-paid-to-map.)" not so long after mearrin69 started the thread "Rates for cartography commissions (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10993-Rates-for-cartography-commissions&highlight=commission)"
So, now I'll follow up with a talk about what to do when you plan to get that commission or allready got it.
See, its not always easy to get to agree on how the commission goes or what rules and rights one should be aware of. So I'll try to summarize some of the stuff for you :)
This is just of the top of my head , so feel free to comment and add information to this thread :)

As mentioned in mearrins thread this is a difficult area. A lot of things should be taken into account:

Size of the map
a bigger map would normally mean it'll take more time to produce
Quality of the map
the highter detail level the more hours it will take to make

Pixel or vector map
doesn't have to influence on the pricing of the map - but be aware that later scaling of the map might be a problem if there are not enough pixel to work with (for professional printing you'll use at least 300 pixels pr inch).

Shall the client obtain the original files as well
Normally the client will only obtain the finished document, typically in .jpg or .png - that means that you keep your original files. If the customer wants the original files then he (in theory) don't need you anymore rather he can get anyone to work on the job using your files as the basis. Normally you'll want to keep those files, not nessecarily to keep the client comming back, but those files represent the knowledge you have, the work you've done and what the client has payed for are only the result of the work, not the basis knowledge/your job secrets.

Exclusiveness of the map (may you sell it to other later - say after a set date)
If the client want to have exclusive rights to the map (many will) then the price should also reflect that, or rather if the client don't want exclusive rights, your prices should reflect that.

Is it fantasy or real world - are there many rules to uphold (scale, placement of stuff)
Rules can be good and bad for you. They do help you structure your work, but they can also hinder the flow of creativity and make you spend a lot of time looking over guides and so forth.

Time you use talking to the client
Of course you won't know this when you first take the job (unless you've heard from others), but some clients take up a lot of your time, either going over the details of the job again and again - or just chit-chatting. While this can be nice with some clients, it can also be anoying with others and at some point you'll have to concider if you'll need payment for that. Especially if it takes away time from other paying jobs.

How many edits will you do without charging more
Some clients might want you to correct this little detail.. and that, and this... and... and small details bunch up and suddenly you're spending hours correcting and editing a map you thought was done. So it might be good to assing x-number of edits up front or x-hours.

How much could the client pay factor
You sometimes charge less to a small client or to a client who wouldn't use the map commercially either to get the practice from the job or to just be nice

The "how big an artist are you" pricesetting.
The bigger the artist the bigger the price. Especially with maps in soho galleries there'll be more reconizion of the artistry of fantasy cartograhpers :)
This unfortunatly also works the other way - so if you've never done commissions before - your prices can't be to high if you want the job :(

Get an idea from the client
If you can get a ballpark figure from the client - you'll quickly decide if you wanna do the job for that or not :)

Payment terms
Remember to agree on how payment is handled. For big amounts an escrow service could be prudent (they hold the money), small amounts could be handled via transfers. Remember that if you trade via PayPal it can be an advantage that you deliver the final product physically (on a CD) so you'll have a reciept that the client has recieved the files, Paypal has been known to freeze your account if you're accused of "not delivering" (yep accusation is enough).
Feel free to ask for some money up front and during the process - for instance - 25% when the continent has been placed and so forth. You can also withhold the high res version of the map until the final payment has arrived.

Normally the artist retain copyright of the work. What one "sells" are use rights, and often "exclusive use rights". This means that you the artist own the work, but that the client has the right to use it. Most clients should be satisfied with this arrangement as they get to use the work without having to pay extra for the copyright. You should also always make it clear that you get to use the work in your portfolio - of course in a way that doesn't infringe on the rights you have sold. So for instance you shouldn't post a map in high resolution so people could just download it instead of buying the product your client wants to use it for.
You might also restrict what the client can use the artwork for, or how many times he can use it. For instance you might agree that the map is use for a Roleplaying scenario and only for that. That means that if the client later on want's to use it for a map-pack, he'll have to purchase extra rights for that. This can help you control what your artwork is used for and also to make sure that it isn't used for things that you don't want to be assosiated with (hategroups, illegal activity etc).
Also normally the client has only purchased the right to use the artwork in his own works, that means he is not allowed to sell your artwork for others to use it.

Merchandize etc.:
if the artwork is supposed to be used for direct merchandizing/selling products as the carrying element, for instance on t-shirts or coffee cups, then the price should reflect this (higher price).
Please remember that it is your art that you copyright - the client has most likely supplied you with a lot of information about names and land placement, so he's got the copyright on that part, so often a map has shared copyrights. Of course if the job was "make an inn" all the input might be yours :)

You should also be sure to be credited for your work. (C)2010 Artist name

A wise man once said - "If you got an idea - chances are another person has allready gotten it". Most original ideas turn out not to be so original when it comes down to it. Somebody has allready done it or are doing it. This goes for authors too. I do understand that somebody who's poured his heart and soul into a project want's to protect it at all costs - and so writes and NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) to make sure that the artist doesn't steal an idea. Now, there is nothing wrong with NDA's, but please be aware of what you sign. If in the business world you have an idea and you go to a business angel to try to get funding - you'll never get him to sign the NDA, he'll show you the door instead and tell you that sometimes you'll have to trust people and that he sees so many ideas each week that your's probably won't stand out - but if it does, he just might have money for you.
The thing is, what a business angel buys isn't really the idea.. but the guy behind it. And when somebody has written that killer novel, its their brain thats the real gold and not the map/notes/etc that sells that. So basicly nobody is going to steal the novel. BUT as I said, I understand the protectiveness. However, you as the artist must also be protective of your upcomming work and I'm not talking about copyright - we've covered that. No, I'm talking about protecting your ability to work with other authors. So read the NDA closely and make sure that it doesn't impose rules upon you that may reflect negativly on your work with others. Remember the unique idea that the client think he has might not be so unique and when another client contacts you, you don't want to be bound by rules telling you that you can't take his commsions just because you've signed and NDA for a potential other commission. It is theoretical I know - but just be careful :)

So check price/payment terms
number of edits

and remember you're not bound by anything until you sign a contract (a verbal deal is also binding although harder to prove) and feel free to ask for explanations of things you don't understand and feel free to propose changes to the contract as well :)

Good luck on your commissions :)

07-20-2010, 10:32 AM
This is a great summary - and could definitely be thrown up in the tutorials section (or even the FAQ!).

Thanks for the note about Paypal freezing - I didn't know that.

Just to chip in my own practices - I tend to ask for 50% on line art approval and then the balance when I turn over the finals. There are a couple of companies with whom I have a different agreement, but that's on a case by case basis. Also, I've found the games world to be a friendly and honest one so I think it's fair to assume a certain amount of good will and good behaviour with small presses. You should definitely make sure you have a clear idea of the parameters of the job when you start, but it's not always worth putting hard limits on numbers of edits right up front. Jobs are organic things and things come up that you don't expect. If the client starts asking for unreasonable changes then you can usually deal with it in a careful email rather than placing hard restrictions on the job in writing. A little flexibility on the part of the artist is usually rewarded with a little flexibility from the client when you need it further down the line. The best working relationships come about when artist and publisher get along well.

07-20-2010, 10:45 AM
I couldn't agree more - some of the outlines are a bit "worst case scenario" and seing as the gaming community is a small one, it pays to be nice for all parts involved :)

07-20-2010, 11:30 AM
Really great post Tilt - thanks for making it.

07-20-2010, 11:40 AM
Good post, tilt. Can surely be of help.

07-20-2010, 12:13 PM
I respectfully disagree with Torstan. I think it's good to have limits explicitly spelled out in the contract—they can always be waived for a good client, but it's difficult to put the brakes on a bad one unless you have the contract to back you up. "Good fences make good neighbors," as they say.

On the topic of too-restrictive contracts, just because someone asks you to sign an NDA doesn't mean you have to sign it exactly as given. Read over every contract carefully; if there's something you object to, it's okay to negotiate a change. And if there's something you don't understand, definitely try to get it clarified before you sign. Remember that informal talks are not binding; the contract is. So if there's something in the paper you're given to sign that is different than what you had previously agreed upon, that's a signal that your client is still in negotiation mode.

Oh, and "business angel?" That's very poetic! I think the English would be either "investor" or "venture capitalist," if I understand your meaning, but I think if I ever have money to invest I'll call myself a business angel instead.

edit: The topic title is a little vague, by the way. Maybe "Advice on taking a commission" or something similar would be clearer that this is a how-to topic.

07-20-2010, 12:19 PM
Always happy to be respectfully disagreed with :)

You're right of course - it's easier to waive a condition than to impose one later.

07-20-2010, 01:47 PM
title changed :)
and yes business angel is a bit "romantic/poetic" I don't know who had the idea for that name, but yes, venture capitalist or investor would be the same :)
added a bit to the end concerning being bound by contracts :)

07-20-2010, 10:44 PM
Nice job, O Tilted One! Gives me much to think about in future endeavors...

07-21-2010, 10:13 AM
*lol* - glad to be of help :)

07-21-2010, 10:22 AM
That's actually great info. I've been dealing with commissions for awhile now and have had great results doing it the way i've been doing, but there's a few things for me to think about in there :P Plus this would have been *way* helpful as I got started.


07-21-2010, 04:25 PM
I think about two main things before I even send an e-mail to the requester - am I burned out or not and does the world make any sense to me? If I just don't feel like I have my A game then I know the map will take forever to finish and the customer will get upset. If I see all sorts of logical or physical inconsistencies then I know that I'd mention them and I don't want to start arguments with the guy paying me...had that happen once...and I'm a stickler for making things realistic even if the requester isn't. The only other thing I think about is how much thought has already been put into the project...if the requester wants me to come up with everything (from the shapes of the landmasses and where the deserts are all the way to coming up with names for hundreds of places) then that's a red flag because I know endless edits are coming. Sure there's the guy who just wants a map to play a game in/on and those guys are usually pretty good to get along with cuz they're happy with whatever I come up with but the guys who want to write a book based on their short idea and 80% is stuff I come up with then that is a big no no. I know I'll rename each town at least 5 times and then move the lake over here and make the jungle a bit bigger and what if we put some mtns here (which means starting the map from scratch if it's satellite style), and how about we move this kingdom (and hundreds of labels) over there. Oh, and by the way, this is going to be in a book so I also need a black n white line drawing so it can be printed (thanks for telling me that beforehand). The more thought that has been done before you get to work means all you have to do is make it pretty.