Thanks to the internet, it has become easier than ever to find talented people who can create original artworks for you on a commission basis. A few simple rules can help make the experience more enjoyable for both the artist and the client.
There are numerous reasons why you might consider hiring an artist. You could be thinking about it from a business point of view, with artists being able to create patterns, logos, or designs that are both appealing and unique to your brand.
However, even as a private person you might find yourself interested in working with an artist. Custom-made artworks make for some of the best gifts imaginable and the possibilities are almost endless. Chances are, if you can imagine something, there is a freelance artist with open commissions out there who can make it – that is, as long as your idea does not go beyond the limitations of physics and technology, of course.
So, whatever your reason might be, let's say you have just opened up a new tab in your browser and want to find an artist to work with. While diving into the digital depths of the world wide web, DO feel free to look in different places. If you want to work with an artist on a more professional basis, e.g. for a business you are involved in or for an association you are a member of, you might be interested in hosting a contest. Sites like designcontest.com or freelancer.com allow you to set a budget and describe the project you need the art for. Artists then submit samples, and you choose the one whose artwork you like best.
If you need the art for personal use or if you prefer looking for artists yourself, Etsy is a popular and well-known platform to look for independent craftspeople and artists, and it definitely is a good choice. Social media networks – especially twitter and Instagram – are also great places to find creative people and allow you to get in touch with them directly. Use hashtags like #freelanceartist or #artistforhire combined with specific art styles or maybe a particular theme to quickly find results.
DO look out for the phrase "commissions open" in an artist's bio. It means that the artist is currently available for hire and your chances of being accepted as a client are higher. Of course, this also means DON'T just message any artist you find online. Most artists will make it very clear in their posts whether they are willing to do jobs. You might get lucky, of course, but as a general rule of thumb, just avoid sending messages to people who have not made it very clear that they are looking for clients – if you see the phrase "commissions closed", the artist even explicitly tells you that they do not accept any new jobs at the moment.
This might seem obvious to some but DO look at an artist's work before you hire them. Every artist has a particular style and specialty, maybe even a specific theme that they chose to work with. Respect that choice, or even better: Choose an artist because you like their style. DON'T just hire the first person you come across only to then get mad when they either turn down your commission or deliver something that may not be what you expected.
When hiring an artist, DO explain to them in as much detail as possible what it is that you want them to do. DON'T use vague phrases like "just do what you feel like doing", or "surprise me" it only makes the job unnecessarily hard for the artist and is bound to create conflict. DO include visual examples, if possible, that might give the artist an idea of which direction you want them to go with your project. A lot of artists highly appreciate clients who include a mood board, i.e. a collage of images that convey a particular idea or a feeling, with their order.
DO remain polite throughout the entire process. Again, some may think this is obvious, but you would be surprised. Despite what modern capitalism may make you think, hiring someone does not make them your servant. You want something, the other person is able to provide that something, and you are willing to pay for that: Both parties are on equal standing and should treat each other as such. Let's say, for instance, the artist sends you a first draft or a prototype of the artwork you commissioned. If you want them to change something or do something different, DON'T just shove criticism in their face without acknowledging the effort they are putting into it. Instead, DO use the technique of the "compliment sandwich": Start by telling them something you like about what they did, then politely ask them to change something or do something different, and then close it off with another compliment.
Throughout all of this, there is something else that you should always keep in mind: DON'T expect artists to work for free. Especially when working with smaller creators or maybe people just starting out, please never, ever be one of those clients that thinks "visibility" or "promotion" will be enough as "payment". You may think you are being nice, but such a proposition is an insult to every artist, no matter how long they have been in business or how small they are. You would not expect a plumber to fix your broken tap for free because you would post about it on social media and give them "free promotion", would you? DO treat artist with dignity and respect and pay them adequately for their time, effort, and creativity.
Talking about money, DO be 100% transparent with an artist regarding what their artwork is going to be used for. If you intend to use it for commercial purposes, i.e. sell a design on clothing or other items, tell the artist this upfront. Some artists have no problems with their art being used in this way, others are completely against it, while some would maybe be interested to know which business their work is going to be associated with if they take the job.
In the end, when working with artists, it is important to remember that art is something the creator has a deep personal connection with. Art is an extension of the artist themselves, and artworks can usually not be created passively. If you show the artist that you share the passion they have for their craft, you are sure to end up with something that is beautifully done and highly personal.