Working to Commission
I have been fortunate to be commissioned to make jewellery for individual customers. It can be nerve wracking because usually they will have something specific in mind and you want to make sure you’ve understood what that is!
Here is some advice from my own experience on successfully working with customers on commissions.
Cufflinks Anna was commissioned to make as a gift for actor and writer Nick Frost
1. Gallery of work
Whether you make multiples of pieces or one-off originals I recommend you have a gallery of photos of your work on your website, blog, facebook page etc. This helps ensure potential customers are attracted to your style of jewellery design and are not expecting you to recreate someone else’s style.
2. Have a clear commissions process
Working on a commission is usually more time consuming and costly than working on your core jewellery pieces. With that in mind, you need to know that you are going to be paid for the work you do.
I suggest the following structure:
- Meet with/talk to the customer to discuss what they want. Agree a price for an initial design, a deposit for working on the piece and final price. Make sure you are also aware of the deadline. I’ve found people tend to want commissioned pieces on a quick turnaround!
- Complete the initial design and pass this onto the customer who can suggest alterations. If at this point they decide not to take it further you will at least have been paid for your work so far
- Make the piece, sending photos of work in progress if appropriate
- Send the piece by recorded delivery (after all this work you don’t want it to get lost!). I have one customer who always sends a car to me to pick up the jewellery!
Ensure you include a business card with your contact details. Often commissions are gifts and you want the recipient to know where to get matching items if they want them!
3. How do I work out what to charge?
A difficult question! I suggest charging about £100 for the initial meeting/discussion and design. You will need to make an educated guess about how long the piece will take you to make. When you have done that add at least two hours! I had one commission that broke in the same place three times and took a lot more time than I had hoped.
Normally with pricing jewellery we suggest the following formula:
Cost of time + cost of materials x 2.25
Do this calculation and look at the number that comes out. Remember that if someone is asking for a one off commissioned piece they should be expecting a substantially higher price than you normally charge, in my experience it has been at least three times as much (but this, of course, depends on the size and complexity of the piece you have been commissioned to make).
I have made the mistake of charging too little and was fortunate that the customer that sent the car actually paid me £50 more than I had asked for as he was so pleased with my work!
4. How do I get customer commissions?
Make sure you let people know on your website, social media etc, that you are willing to work on commissioned jewellery and give a clear way for them to contact you about this (usually via email).
Ask the customer for their consent to put photographs of the piece on your website but don’t be too disappointed if they don’t want you to do so. The majority of commissions I’ve made are not on my website as they were private commissions and I was asked not to publicise that I’d worked on them.
Have you worked on jewellery commissions? We’d love to hear your stories, what were the pros and cons? What advice would you give our readers? Let us know in the comments below or share with us via our instagram, twitter or facebook pages.