How to Create a Commission Contract for Artists

Artwork Archive | January 28, 2020

What is a Commission Contract?

A Commission Contract lays out the terms and conditions for an artist creating a commissioned work. Commission Contracts generally specify project dates, payment schedules, notable project requirements or constraints, and build in check-in points between the artist and commissioner. 


When Do You Use a Commission Contract?

Whenever you are being asked to create a specific work, usually on a larger scale or of a higher value, for an individual, business or group–you’ll want to make sure you are using a Commission Contract.

Commission Contracts keep all parties accountable and clearly define expectations for projects. 

If you are commissioned to create a public art project, something for a business, or for an organization you will likely be provided with a Commission Contract to review and sign. 

If you are commissioned for a private artwork, you most likely will have to provide your own contract. 

Even if a project or commission is small, having formal timelines and conditions of the commission in writing keep your projects on track and professional.


How Commission Contracts Protect the Artist

Commission Contracts guarantee that you will be paid and that you will be paid on time. Likewise, Commissions Contracts might ensure that your material costs will be paid for. 

Large projects change and shift. Having a Commission Contract in place ensures that you will be compensated for your time even if a project is put on hold or there are unexpected circumstances.

Commission Contracts can help you give shape to projects and plan your process of implementation over time. A contract builds in check-in points to make sure that your art and the vision of the commissioner continue to align. 


How Commission Contracts Protects the Commissioner

Commission Contracts allow the commissioner some control over and input into a project. 

Just as a Commission Contract guarantees you payment, a Commission Contract guarantees the commissioner deliverables and tangible ways to see their commission come to life and grow. 

If a commissioner is unhappy with how an artwork is taking shape and there are check-ins built into the contract, they are able to exit an agreement or give feedback.


A Commission Contract generally includes:

  1. An Introduction that explains the project, defines the artist and commissioned, and details the specific work that is being commissioned

  2. Payment Terms and Agreement that specify the agreement for payment installations. For commissioned works, artists are generally paid fifty percent of the agreed-upon price upfront and fifty percent when the commission is complete.

  3. Rights that define who owns the work after it is finished, an agreement about reproduction rights of the work, as well as stipulations about if the work is allowed to be exhibited, loaned, etc.

  4. An Artwork Proposal that details what the commissioned work will be like. Sometimes artists include a prototype, sketch, or example of similar work.

  5. A Termination Agreement that lays out how the agreement could be ended between the artist and commissioner and payment terms/ material cost if this is the case.


Commission Contract Details

If you are reviewing or creating a Commission Contract, make sure to cover more than just the basic topics of a Commission Contract. More is not less. Structure and details will make your relationships strong with your commissioning party. You will feel supported and prepared to create.

A timeline, including planned moments for check-ins about the art in progress, makes sure that you and your commissioner are on the same page. Depending on the scale of the commission there might be multiple moments for checking in. While the person or party paying for you to create might be familiar with your work, they have a vision in mind for how it will turn out. Make sure that all parties feel good about the commission process. 

The more explicit and detailed you are about your needs in the commission contract drafting, the smoother the making process will go. Make sure to communicate your material needs and to ask about expectations and costs for shipping, framing, and other non-artist costs. Hammering out details now prevents you from being in unclear or expensive future situations. 

Timelines, check-ins, and defined details throughout the commission process not only ensure a successfully completed project but pave the way for future commissions.


Examples Commission Contracts

Artists and commissioners all over the world use Commission Contracts. You can find template examples for creating a Commission Contract here.


Keep your contracts on hand for reference

Make sure you have your contracts on hand for reference. Store contract templates and previous contracts in your My Docs section of Artwork Archive to protect your business. 

Then, schedule your check-in with reminders on your schedule so that you don’t miss important dates with your commissioner. 

Not sure if commissions are for you? Ask yourself these ten questions.

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