"Hi there- Can you paint a replica of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling in my baby's room and make it look JUST like Michelangelo? But also I have a very tight budget... like I can only pay you $5.00 maximum. When can you start?"
It's often difficult to keep things professional and not respond with...
So to make a little easier on you I'm sharing the patented LEILANI JOY POLITE COMMISSION DECLINE! Guaranteed to get you out of an awkward payment explanation while maintaining professionalism and rapport with your oh-hell-no-it's-never-gonna-happen-client.
All jokes aside, when someone contacts you for a potential commission, it's a compliment! That person loves your work enough that they really would like an original custom piece of their very own. In most cases, that person isn't trying to take advantage of you or your time. Most likely they are simply a little naive about proper artist etiquette and the going rate for your services.
As a preemptive measure, it's a good idea to have your commission guidelines available on your website- what you will or won't do, turn around times and other policies. You can see an example of mine here: http://www.leilanijoy.com/Commissions
I would also recommend having at least an approximation of your rates so people can easily access this information and have an idea of it before contacting you. These things will cut down on the amount of are-you-serious-wtf-requests you receive.
BUT! If a commission request does make it through all your well placed booby traps you may have to actually politely decline. I prefer to reply rather than ignore, because again - this person is well intended and probably loves your work and may be a long time customer.
So below are two different ways to wriggle out of your sticky situation. One for a commission that doesn't fit the type of work you do OR you just don't want to do it, and a second one for outrageous budget constraints that would have you working for 5 cents and hour....
The Polite Decline #1:
Thank you so much for your interest in my commissions! I truly appreciate all inquiries for new projects! However, at this time I will regrettably have to decline this commission request. I am currently focusing on work that fits into my existing portfolio. While I love a challenge and new ideas- I typically focuses on ________ . If you'd like to commission something similar to my current body of work please review my commission rates and process here insert link to your website. Thanks again, and I hope you'll consider me for a future project.
The Polite Decline #2:
Thank you so much for your interest in my commissions! I appreciate all inquiries for new projects! However, at this time I will regrettably have to decline this commission request. My minimum is ___________ for a ___________ (whatever they requested). Have you thought of checking out Deviant Art for your commission concept? There are some very talented artists on there that may be able to work within your budget and may be better suited to your needs.
If I can be of further assistance or answer any other questions for you please don't hesitate to contact me back.
Well, my work here is DONE! Hope this helps! Feel free to add or change these as needed. It might not hurt to also offer them a coupon code for your online store as a token of your appreciation. and Remember it's ok to say "NO." Sometimes it's better to decline than torture yourself doing a piece you hate- especially for next to no money!