I've never done a lot of commissions. Usually, I simply paint my landscapes. Sometimes they sell. More often they don't.

My very first commission was a disaster. I did not know how to negotiate properly. I accepted a price far below what was reasonable. I invested much more time than was necessary. I did not ask for a payment of "Earnest money" up front.

And, of course, the client/patron decided they needed to see the nearly completed work. He "didn't like" the painting and refused to purchase it. I was stuck with a work outside my usual sphere, that didn't appeal to ... well... anyone. I was out time and money.

A few weeks later, the patron came back and offered to buy the painting at a much lower price than we had agreed on. I protested, but I was desperate and ill-informed, and I finally gave in. I sold it to him for less than the cost of my paints/canvas.

Fastforward. I now use a written contract for all commissions. I insist upon a non-refundable deposit before work even begins. Usually, it's half the price of the artwork, it's always at least 25%. At least that way, my supplies are covered, and I only lose time, not money. I've had very few problems since I began this practice.

Recently, I've been (obsessively) browsing these forums, and I've seen several posts where a commissioned map was stalled because the patron either backed out completely, or stopped replying. This started me to wondering if any/all of these members had contracts, or had GOOD contracts, and whether or not everyone here was familiar with the true value of their work.

Your maps are ART. What goes into a map varies (as it does with any artwork) and prices will/should fluctuate based on many factors. But it is art. And any handling of/pricing of art can and should cover everything you put into it.

You should also, unless you retain all rights, receive something before you give your work away. An author receives an advance. A realtor receives an earnest payment. A car dealership receives a deposit.

So, too, should an artist. And, as I've said, Cartographers *are* artists.

Each artist (each Cartographer) is different. Your needs/desires/expenses... everything is different. So there's no form I can point to, and say, "Use this contract," or "Demand this payment".

I can, however, share with you the contract (originally ripped off a CC webpage somewhere, and edited to suit my needs) which I use as a *template* when I come to an agreement with a patron.

If you're an old pro, you probably have better, but if you're new at this it might help a little. (If you like, you can change "art" to "map" and "artist" to "cartographer", but it means the same thing.)

Contractual Agreement for the Commission of Artwork

This agreement is made this ______ day of ______________, __20_____ (year) by and between:

Artistís Name: ________________________________________________(h erein known as "Artist")

Address: ______________________________________________


Patronís Name: ________________________________________________(h erein known as "Patron")

Address: ______________________________________________

All parties agree as follows:

1. The Patron is commissioning a work of art created by the Artist. Subject matter will be described herein.

2. It is the intent of all parties that the Artist creates artwork for the Patron that the Patron will purchase the work. However, if, after the work is completed, the Patron does not wish to purchase the work, the Patron may refuse the created artwork. In that case, the Artist will retain the refused artwork and the nonrefundable deposit, free of any claims or interests of the Patron and the Patron will owe no additional fees to the Artist.

3. Artist reserves ___________ to all works commissioned by Patron that are created by the Artist, including _________ rights and the right to claim statutory copyright. The Patron may _________.

4. The Artist will decide selling price for the artwork. Fee will be based upon size and complexity of completed work, time taken to complete said work and will be consistent with other comparable works by Artist at the time of sale. For additional and/or unusual services, a "hassle-charge" may apply. All parties will agree to price in writing prior to the commencement of the artwork. The Artist and Patron will mutually determine size.

5. A nonrefundable deposit of one- half of the selling price is required before any work shall commence. Payment in full is due upon receipt of artwork(s).

Artwork # ____________

Working Title _________

Medium ______________

Size _____________

Price ___________

Date _________

Initial of Patron

Initial of Artist

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the parties hereto have executed this Agreement on the day and year written above.





The Artwork # field, and those that follow, can be repeated for each map/painting.

The important thing, imho, is to make sure 1) They're serious, 2) You're agreed on what you both want/need, and 3) That you have proof of that.

Of course, my way is not necessarily the best way. I'm curious. For the seasoned vets out there... What's your method for insuring payment?

WOW I really do talk too much...