What to do When you Don’t know a Lick about doing art commissions online.

What to do When you Don’t know a Lick about doing art commissions online. 

I started doing my art freelance before I even knew what freelance meant. All I knew was that there were people that were willing to pay me for the art that I created and that was alright for me.


But what they don’t tell you are all the other things you become once you go down this path. Little did I know is that I was also becoming an accountant, customer service, marketing consultant and social media planner. Today I’m going to focus on how I got started with doing my art commissions on the interwebs.  




Technically. I started freelancing during high school. Back when I had huge dreams of going to the Art Institute of PGH and wanted to become an animator. I ended up not doing either of those things and got my first real taste of freelance art-ing. Fast forward to college, I started focusing on doing art commissions online.


1| I showed my best work

I needed a way to show the people on the interwebs, like you, that I made art and that I was available for art commissions. But the thing is that people need to see what you’re selling before they buy from you. People want to feel secure that your style is what they are looking for.


At the time, I made a WordPress blog/portfolio and picked out my top 10 - 15 artworks. I wanted so badly to show everything I ever created but the problem is that it’s (1) overwhelming to the person looking, making their choice harder (2) if most of the art you show has portraits you shouldn’t then add digital artwork of a turtle. While it may be good, it doesn’t fit with the theme of your collection.


Here are some other options for portfolios:

  • A Tumblr page

  • Squarespace (That’s what I use)

  • DeviantArt

  • Behance

  • Instagram and/or Pinterest


2| I used social media for my behind-the-scenes & recent work

So I had my Wordpress blog up and running and finally got my art situated. And now I needed to let people know that I exist. I started taking work in progress photos and posting them on DeviantArt and Facebook. Doing those behind the scenes shots helped people see how I tackle projects and the time needed. People were excited to see what the finished art would look like.

Try it!  The next art piece you start working on, take photos of your progress and post them on your social media or platform of choice. Now I use Instagram as my main go to media for sharing recent art or work in progress.

Don’t forget to add your name somewhere in the photo to be your watermark.


3| I offered free or low-cost sketches from time-to-time

When I started doing digital artwork for the first time I thought I was terrible. I wanted to find a way to practice and keep myself motivated. So a friend and I went on Gaia and started trading virtual money to practice drawing other people’s characters. We did this for a year. Now I can digital paint and I get paid for it with real money this time around.


I tried this experiment again with watercolor sketches. I let people from my Facebook page volunteer their profile pictures so that I could practice sketch in watercolors for a month. After the free sketches were over, I attracted people that wanted their own full artwork and wanted to book my time.


Trading practice for free art can work but keep it on your terms. It gets people excited to participate on something with you. It also establishes the effort you put into your work.


Try it! Is there something you want to practice or experiment with? Create a way to practice that idea and involve your followers or friends.


4| I found a pricing model that worked for me & my art

Pricing is always weird to me. I’ve already established that I would happily create art for free. Unfortunately there are these things called, “Cost of Living” and “Taxes” that prevent me from doing so on a regular bases. You understand.

I compared pricing sheets of other artists to get a sense of how much something would be worth. When I started I primarily compared pricing on DeviantArt artists.

What I didn’t know is that sometimes their art commissions are extremely underpriced. The artists are trying to out sell one another. But that’s none of my business. Sips Tea.


After jotting down some rates, I decided to go with minimum wage per hour x however long it takes me to complete an artwork roughly. Then whatever time you THINK it takes you to make something, add two hours to that. That is your buffer in case you have revisions, a mistake, or some other art crisis that prevents you from getting done within your time frame.


Hint: You can also use your best sketches to build up your portfolio!


Try It! Do some research on the platform you have chosen to sell your art commissions primarily. What are the prices that are showing for artists similar to what you do? Then figure out how much you want to be paid per hour (based on your experience). Don’t forget to consider the cost of your art supplies and materials.


5| I gave myself realistic time to get projects done.

Speaking of time, I have this habit of using the best possible scenario for time instead of the worst case scenario. Yeah...for me that isn’t a habit that I’d like to keep and I’m working on that.


When you start to pick up clients, always check and make sure you have time to actually do the project. Think about these before you say yes:

  • Am I actually interested in this project?

  • Do I have time to do this project?

  • Do I like the person that I will be working with?

I didn’t do this when I first started. I was accepting art requests left and right out of excitement. Then when it came to actually working on the artwork I had problems with staying motivated to continue.


Agreeing to something half-heartedly hurts both sides. Be honest with yourself before you say yes. If you need more time to think over the request, say that.


Try It! Decide how many project you would be okay working on in a week or a month. Do you like to work with one person at a time or several? Each time you get a new project, add it to a calendar or a list as long as it’s something you look at regularly. This will help you find your workflow and get settled into your freelancing.



So those are my essentials for beginning art commissions online. I hope that my mistakes and successes have given you a better understanding of what you need to do. But just in case you need a refresher, here’s the list:


  1. Show Your Best Work

  2. Share your Behind-the-Scenes

  3. Offer free (or low-cost) artwork in exchange for practice

  4. Price your Commissions

  5. Learn Project Management


Q: what’s the number one thing that is stopping you from doing online commissions?

Let me know in the comments below!

Trenita Finney is a Pittsburgh-based creative entrepreneur, artist and the Founder of Trenita Made it! She is most recognized for her vibrant watercolor works of women of color and photo-realistic portraits of inspirational musicians. As the creator of Trenita Made it! she promotes wellness + career development for artists + women of color through her youtube, podcast, Instagram, Pinterest and lifestyle illustrations + products.

Trenita has launched The Syllestial Collection VOL.1, an illustration book showcasing a collection of three years worth of illustrations during college. Trenita and her artwork have been featured in Raw Artist Pittsburgh, Redfish Bowl Art Festival, The Pittsburgh Comicon, Steel City Comicon and Layer Cake Festival. Follow on Instagram for the latest art creations.