Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote,
Ellen Million

Today, on the chopping block: Commission-Control

Commission-Control is a place for artists and clients to connect, and manage their commissions. This one is a natural expansion of the Portrait Adoption project, but less 'already finished.' With Portrait Adoption, there is no appreciable risk. The client is buying something that has already been completed, with an option to change things, but not to start from scratch, and involves no tools for interactive in-stream modification. I wanted to keep it that way, because the premise of Portrait Adoption is that you buy what you see, you get what you buy, and you're done. Simple, streamlined and there's no pressure on me to make sure that my artists deliver what they've promised. From the very beginning, that was a big part of what I wanted at PA.

But there is a community need for a way to handle commissions that, by their nature, require interaction and modification. The customization option didn't easily allow for sketch approval, for example. Changing eye colors is one thing, but commissioning a portrait or illustration from scratch when the client has a picture in their head is a very particular process - one that doesn't fit neatly within the established PA site.

So, following some brainstorming at the forums, the Commission-Control project began to take form:

Making Connections

The project would allow clients to browse available artists, to find one - or more! - with the style and subject matter they were looking for. There would be checks in place to make sure that artists were currently accepting work... probably artist galleries would time out if they didn't continue to assure their availability, or at least they would slide to the end. Logging in and being active would keep an artist at the top of searches.

Likewise, if a client is looking for something particular, they'd be able to post their project for review by artists. Whether they're looking for a single portrait, a series of RPG illustrations, or a full set of tarot cards, they could give a price range, a description of the project, link to some examples of the style they're looking for, and give an idea of rights and terms. Artists would have the opportunity to contact the clients anonymously (or not) with questions, privately or publicly.

Pre-established client-artist projects could also be brought to the site. If you've got a client you... just don't have a lot of trust with, or you're a client who's found a great artist, but you're a little leery of paying the fee up front because they might run off without delivering the artwork, ask them to sign up at commission-control, where you both get all the fabulous tools and communication to keep complete tabs on your project.

Managing Projects

Once a connection is made, the site will keep tabs of every aspect of the commission - including the contract.

The parties may choose to upload a copy of a personal contract, and it is stored at the site for private access only by the artist and the client.

They may also choose to use a template contract available through the site - one that outlines what happens to the copyrights at the end of the project, what the kill fee might be, any non-disclosure requirements, liability, all the the legal mumbo jumbo and also the payment requirements, including pricing and extra revisions or project changes.

Deadlines can be set for various milestones of the project, and the site will automatically send reminders when one is approaching. The client can grant extensions. Artists who miss their deadlines may be penalized at the site (with appeals, for things outside their control!).

Once the contract is in place, either party can upload artwork. Revisions of the artwork are stored on the site, including approvals at each step. The artist uploads three sketches, the client approves one. The artist uploads a refined sketch, the client asks for changes, the artist uploads a revised sketch, the client approves it. The artist, at this stage, has stipulated that no further changes will be available, or that only minor changes may be made. The client's approval accepts this.

Comments are available, back and forth, making it an excellent way to keep a communications record, neatly organized for both client and artist. Emails are also optionally sent, with the full body of communication, as an additional method of record-keeping. Never wonder again where that important bit of information is, or if an email has gotten lost!

Multiple artists may be involved in a project, and the artist involved may accept 'peer review' on the project, even if it is protected by non-disclosure. This allows multiple artists involved in a project to see what else is being worked on - what this world's version of a goblin looks like, for example - and provide support and peer critique. This can be done invisibly to the client, or publicly.

At the end of the project, a high resolution file can be uploaded to the site. A supporting client may store them there, so they have all their files easily accessible at the site and organized.


The site also records payment status. If a client marks a project as half-paid, the artist has to approve that, indicating that they've received that half payment.

Additionally, the site offers an optional escrow service - a client can pay me, and I hold the money until the work has been approved. This offers a lot of safety and mitigation of risk to a client with a big project and little trust of flaky artists. There is a 12% fee for this - 10% for paid users of the site (either artist or client may be a supporter to receive the discount - this may make the supporter artists more attractive to a client...). If they don't deliver by the deadline, and haven't made an appeal, the client may select another artist for the project, or receive a refund (less the service fee).

Dispute Resolution:

Although the site solves a lot of 'he said-she said' problems, invariably there may be disputes. If a client requests that the weapon be changed to a dagger, and artist does not - do they pay for revisions after the artist has finished the piece? If a client approved a sketch, but the artist does a crappy job on the final piece, do they have to pay?

On request, I will personally review the communications, contract and artwork, and render a judgement. I've done formal dispute management before, and it's not fun, but I'm very good at it.


This is a fantastic idea. There's a necessary place for it in the art world. I want to make this happen.

I am, however, not going to make it happen out of the goodness of my heart - I am all dried up on general charity, and I know from experience that building a service like this is time-consuming like nobody's business, even though it will require very little to keep it going once it's in motion. I need to spend that development time working to pay my bills.

I'm on a serious hunt for paid coding work... and this project requires said coding work. I want this project to happen. So, maybe I can do both with this.

Taking a page from the Sketch Fest site, I am going to crowdfund this project. You can see from the above link that the domain is reserved, a basic site with login and registration has been started. It will take about $450 worth of work to finish getting the very basics in place: login, registration, small, unmoderated artist galleries, project entry, contract upload (but no template - you provide your own), basic communication (logged at the site and emailed), and private project artwork posting, with approval tracking. Another $250 would get all the payment tools in place, including tracking off-site payments and managing the escrow system. Another $200 would put the contract template service in place. Deadlines and alerts are a little tricky... probably $200 there, too, but more info once I get further into the guts. Another $50 gets you gallery search tools. Peer reviews and other improvements I can't even foresee at this point will be available in the future (options to commission writing as well as artwork? print services? advertising?). (And let me note that as someone who has in the past been a client buying webpages from other people, this is about half price for a project of this magnitude.)

Paypal's limitation on refunds is 60 days. If you donate to the project and we don't hit the $450 cap to get it up and running by February 1, your donation will be fully refunded. Anyone who donates $5 or more will receive supporter benefits throughout beta testing and for one full year after the site is out of beta testing. Anyone who donates $20 or more will receive supporter benefits for life. Work starts immediately once we've made the $450 threshold.

Make Commission-Control happen!

Don't have money? You may use EMG credits! Remember that EMG-Zine articles, fiction and poetry pay in credits - submit work to support this project! Spreading the word helps, too! :)

$367.50 / $450 to Commission-Control. 82% done!
Tags: chopping block

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  • Mondaily

    FIVE INCHES OF SNOW! I'll try to take some photos when it's a little brighter out. Piano lesson accomplished. Laundry is folded and put away.…

  • Saturdaily. Book rank. Plans.

    Just over 1000 words written yesterday, and a sketch for a client. Also transferred hosting for another client, and had the serviceman in to look at…

  • Thursday Update

    When I went to take Guppy to school this morning, I discovered that I'd left a dome light on in the car. Dead, dead battery. So Jake came home and…