Do you ask clients for deposits? And if so, how much do you ask for? What’s your payment schedule look like for when you get paid any remaining fees?
It varies artist to artist, but most of the Allies do take some kind of deposit.
The amount of the deposit varies. Sometimes it’s just a small commitment (like $100) and other times it’s 50%. The amounts or percentages aren’t set in stone, though, and may also depend on the specific client and if the artist either already knows them pretty well or has worked with them before. In those cases there tends to be more wiggle room.
In general, the artists tended to fall in one of three camps:
- Those who get about 50% upfront.
- Those who get a small amount to cover fees and/or get some kind of commitment from the client.
- Those who don’t get a deposit at all. (the least common by far)
Those who ask for around 50% upfront:
I usually ask for at least half down in contracts unless it’s someone I’ve already worked with several times and there’s that relationship built.
I don’t do anything until I get a 50% deposit. I don’t do any design work, nothing. Basically I bid the job and if they’re on board, I send them an invoice for 50%. Then once I get the deposit I start the design phase and use that to order materials, travel expenses, whatever the case is.
The remaining 50% is due on completion. Typically the day I’m done is the day I should get paid and most clients are cool with that, but some it takes days to a week for their accounting department and that’s fine. Most of those companies are trustworthy.
For me, the design is big. A lot of artists I feel are doing design work before they have the job and I will not do that. I’m not gonna give you mockups, pencil sketches, anything until we’re on the same page. Do you want me to do the job? If so, at that point we can design for months, I don’t care. I’m not going to limit revisions or anything, I’ll make it so you’re happy with it.
But I think a lot of these graphic design sites, where they basically farm out a bunch of designs for free and buyers pick the one they want, I’m never going to give in to that. And for that same reason, I don’t do a lot of requests for bids and RFPs because I’m not going to give you a design and have you pick my design and hire someone else to do it who came in cheaper, right?
You either want me or you don’t. If you want me, great. If you don’t, you want me to compete with other artists, I’m out automatically. So that’s another client I would weed out. If they ask me for a design upfront, no.
I’ll try to get half up front and then half on completion. I’ll send them an invoice and that always goes through Esoteric Art, so I have the business name on there.
I use QuickBooks and my wife helps me a lot actually. She’s my unofficial bookkeeper . . . and helps me with the invoicing part and QuickBooks. She makes sure all the money goes through there.
I’ll have the client pay a 50% deposit and once they do I leave a message with the payment that says “Deposit for Zebra painting” or something like that. And once they receive their painting then the other 50% is due.
Whenever I’m trying to figure out everything I have to paint I’ll go through my Venmo or Zelle account and just keep records of who paid and who hasn’t paid and what I have to finish.
Those who get a smaller amount:
For paintings I just take a deposit to cover my materials and then they’ll pay the rest when it’s done. And that’s with people I don’t know. If I know them, the terms are a little more flexible.
We usually ask for a deposit of some sort that goes towards the design fee and materials and whatever is out of pocket. And then we usually just get paid once we’re done.[It’s not 50%], it’s usually just some kind of commitment. It depends on the project, but we’ve never had a problem as far as payments are concerned so far.
In the very beginning I didn’t charge any deposits — I had a lot of trust in people. But then I got that one person who burned me, so I started with a $50 deposit on my pet portrait commissions. That just covered my cost and initial time if, for whatever reason, they decided they didn’t want it at the end.
For my murals I have a $100 deposit that covers me going to the space, taking the pictures, drawing up the concept and the design and presenting that to them. If they don’t want to go with me, then I’m covered for my time. But if they do, then that $100 deposit goes towards the end cost of the mural. I don’t really know how I came up with that, it just kind of fits how much time I’m spending on the project.
Bree: We take a [hundred bucks for the] down payment now before we even start sketching.
Nate: Unless it’s a really large piece that requires a lot of computer time and designing. If we’re designing something like a logo we’ll take a larger deposit just to make sure they’re serious because we spend a lot of time doing designs and sometimes they kinda just disappear or stop responding.
B: We learned that lesson. Not quick enough, but thank goodness we learned it. It saved a lot of time.
And just general emailing – back and forth. The deposit makes them invested.
N: [They pay the rest when] they pick it up.
The way I do commissions is I do not take any money upfront. I do not want that person to feel like they’re committed to buying anything even when I’m done. It’s going to sell somewhere, but I do not want them to have the art if they’re not stoked on it.
Somebody else can say this is a bad business model and probably without 20 years of graphic design I wouldn’t have that as my business model. But I just do not want people to feel like they’re stuck with it or it didn’t turn out the way they wanted.