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14 Oct 2011 - 13:3972336
Help and Advice on Opening Commissions
Hi, I'm hoping both existing commissioners and people who would commission cosplays can help me out here.

I'm thinking of making myself available for commissions for cosplay (costume definitely, wigs maybe and perhaps props too, if simple). Now my reason for doing this is not that I want to earn money from it, in fact I probably won't do much of that. I love cosplaying because I love to make the actual cosplay; I love to sew. Having fun with friends and photoshoots come second to me. The making is what I enjoy most. However, like many cosplayers I don't have that much money (I'm a London student, although I do have a part time job now). I cannot afford to keep making 5 or 6 cosplays a year, which is what I'd love to do. I'd could probably make more if I did simple ones or didn't do them as accurately as possible. But I'm all about the accuracy and I don't want to not be able to do the characters I want to do.

Anyway, the point of this is, as I'm not looking particularly to earn money, I was thinking of charging for the materials, plus a little bit more. But only £10 or £20 more (and I assume commissions usually cost more than that). So in no way is this going to be equivalent to a job or getting me that much extra. I just want to sew.

Is that a silly idea?

My only sort of problem is that I'm not well known within any large circle of cosplayers or the community in general. As such I don't have a reputation.
Now, I know that everything I make is a good standard because I know I can sew well (without sounding arrogant...) but I don't know how to convince others of this, especially since I have so few cosplays to my name as proof of ability. I mean, I might come across things I don't know how to do, but I'd work it out and acquire a new skill. I basically want to make cosplays for myself, but for other people to wear.....

So to those who don't make their own cosplays, what's important to you about the commissioner?

And to the commissioners out there. If you don't think this is a really bad idea, is there any advice you can give me on getting started?
I've started looking into creating my own website (I love coding, so even though it's not necessarily needed, I'd love to do it) and as mentioned I have an idea on price and 'services'. And I know not to stretch myself too much. If I suddenly got an influx of orders I wouldn't attempt to do them all half-heartedly.
Also not sure if I have to do anything about 'setting up a business'. I assume not as I'm not making much money and it's not a job for me, just a hobby.

So yeah, thanks for reading, if you actually did. Any advice will be useful, even if you think it's a bad idea and I should concentrate on making stuff for myself.

TL;DR: I want to charge not much for commisions (materials plus £10ish), would you order one from me?

2nd TL;DR: I don't know what I'm doing. Help me commissioners.


14 Oct 2011 - 14:0272339
I only very occasionally make cosplay for people and charge for it, so I'm by no means the best source for advice, but you need to rethink your pricing.

Although you said that you're not looking to make a profit, sewing a lot of things means using your sewing machine a lot more. You'll need to change lightbulbs, needles etc more often. You'll be using additional electricity.

You also need to remember to charge for postage!

Even if you're not trying to make lots of money, I'd say that you should charge what people are willing to pay. If they're happy to pay £5-8 per hour for your service, then charge it. Two main reasons:

1) Keeping the market balanced and healthy. If you "undercharge" (so to speak), people will turn around to other commissioners and say that they're overcharging when they're only trying to make a living. You want to be friends with other commissioners, not make enemies out of them.

2) Make people understand that things come at a price. Your ebay-ish rates will make people think that everything's cheap or takes no effort. In the long run that's bad for commissioners in general, again.

So I'd say you should charge more if people think your work is worth it. If you don't want that addidional money, donate it to a charity!

Last edited by Pez (14 Oct 2011 - 14:03)
14 Oct 2011 - 14:1472340
I had considered it 'not being fair' to other commissioners (as it were) but I thought I'll barely be doing any orders, at least to start with, so it wouldn't make much difference.
But maybe I'm just underselling myself. I don't imagine people will want to pay me £5-£8, but then again I don't have much self belief...

Oh, I don't know.

I think you're right though.
Don't think I'd be very good at guessing how long it'll take me though, I'm bad at estimating =p So I'd probably just have to come up with a random figure that seemed about right.

Thanks =]

14 Oct 2011 - 15:0372344
I make 90% of my costumes, but I've commissioned in the past, both full and partial costumes. I've also made the odd thing for other people. As a commission customer, the most important thing to me tends to be the ability to see someone's past work, because it's the best way to judge the likely quality of their work.

At the moment you have very few costumes on your profile, and those you do have don't have very many pictures on them. If you want to be taken seriously as a commissioner, you'll need to be able to show what you're capable of, or people most likely won't trust your word. You want to build up a portfolio.

If you haven't got that many costumes, or you prefer not to have pictures of yourself up, try getting someone to model for you. You can put them in your costumes, or if you have cosplaying friends, try working out a deal with them whereby they initially pay for materials and you make the costume for them, then you get some high quality photos of them wearing it on the understanding that you can use it to advertise your work. They get a costume for the cost of materials, you get a portfolio and free advertising when they wear it at an event. Also, take careful note of how long it takes you to complete these, so that you'll be able to estimate how long it will take you.

In terms of pricing, you're definitely aiming too low. People will be attracted to those prices but as Pez says it can breed negativity. As well as the other costs incurred, bear in mind that you'll be working to deadlines and customers can sometimes be very difficult to deal with, so even if you love the sewing you need some kind of recompense for that! Minimum wage for over-21s is £6.08 p/h, so even if you're aiming to be on the cheaper end of the market you don't really want to be aiming below that as a reference point for your rate.

If people really want cheap, they'll go to ebay. The advantage of a proper commissioner is that the customer should have more control over things like fabric and materials choices. When I've commissioned, the commissioner always starts by doing a detailed breakdown of what parts are involved, the methods they intend to use (including patterns if that's how you work), how it'll fasten and go together, what fabrics/materials they suggest and a price estimate. Then they've updated me on the progress. These are the things that really appeal to me as a customer and that's what I'm willing to pay for.

Hope some of this is useful to you.

14 Oct 2011 - 15:2672346
Good quality reference pictures with examples of what you can make, with approximate costs for different levels of complexity would definitely be useful. I wouldn't commission something unless I had a very good idea of the quality of the seller's work. Whilst what other people have said with regard to charging an hourly rate is fairly sensible, since you want to be reasonably compensated for the amount of work you put in, its worth knowing how roughly long things are going to take to make so you can give a fair estimate of a total price.

15 Oct 2011 - 19:1272414
I too am considering opening a commissioning business, with stuff on the side, so I've looked a bit at it

Firstly, I think you need to up your rates; yes, you don't want to live of this but you don't want to put other people who do want to make a living from it out of business. Also, the cost of maintenance on your machine AND the cost of scissors and pins. Cause scissors and pointy things blunt with use, so you do need to replace them.

Right. You need a portfolio. It's all well and good that you say you can sew, but you need to show off the fact you can by making costumes and taking photos from all angles. And have a range of costumes. It's all well and good showing what you can to, but if it's basically the same style costume repeated with the same materials then it doesn't really tell the buyer what you can do. IE my costumes are typically formal attire sorta costumes. That's cause that's what I cosplay. So, to expand my portfolio I've also offered my services to my friends, one of which who typically does moe costumes and cute short ones and such. Doing this also shows people you can make costumes for various shapes and scissors (again, using me and my friend; I'm tall and a size 16ish she's very very petite - 5" ish and like size 6)

EDIT: Oh! And show you can work with a range of fabrics too!

Ayacon Plans

Last edited by NixieThePixie (15 Oct 2011 - 19:14)
18 Oct 2011 - 11:2272581
If your main goal with this is simply to be making costumes for the joy of making them then personally I’m not sure taking commissions would be a good idea.
I assume at present when you make your own costumes it is at your own pace and with costumes you personally find interesting or want to do. If you start taking commissions you’re offering a paid service and the person commissioning you will expect whatever they have ordered to be done in a reasonable time. And if this is something you’re only doing for the fun of it that may not fit in with the time you actually have to work on the costume. There’s also no guarantee the work you’re offered will be something you will want to do.

There is a very marked difference between doing something for the fun of it and offering to do that same thing as a commercial transaction. If people are paying you for a product or service there is a certain base level of expectation of what they are entitled to. So if you are intending to do this in a “for the joy of it” capacity you will need to make it clear at the start to any potential customers exactly how long they are likely to wait for there commission as it will probably be longer than someone who is doing it as their main source of income.

18 Oct 2011 - 14:5272597
Okay, lots of things to reply to =p
Although, in general, most of what you have all said I had considered. Anyway, here goes....

@Odangochan: I know I don't have a lot to show at the moment. It's partly the reason for charging less. Unfortunately, pretty much all of my cosplay friends make their own. I might be able convince them to let me make something for them, but I don't know.
Although, that really only affects the amount of people who would ask me to make something...
The money thing, I understand. But I don't feel as though I'm underselling myself. I mean, I am, but as money is not important to me in this case, I'm not. Does that make sense? However, I don't want to take away from or annoy any other commissioners, and although I doubt I'd get enough orders in to do that, if I ever get round to starting this, I'll raise the price =]
And thanks for the details on as someone who would commission as well =]

@Carmina: Thanks, I will definitely have to sit down one day working stuff like that out. I'll have to try my best with estimating hours, but if I underestimate I'm not going to worry about then being paid less (although I would give myself plenty of time anyway to make sure if it took longer I wouldn't be delayed in getting it to the person)

@NixieThePixie: Okay, thanks =] I'll have to see what I can do with regards to making a larger portfolio. I might be able to make some non-cosplay things possibly to add to it.

@Ilpalazzo: I do realise this, but I know how much time I have on my hands. I'm not going to accept more orders than I can handle. Because I'm not trying to earn money from it, I don't need to accept everyone that asks. I wouldn't want to be too particular and just keep turning people down, but if there was something I really didn't want to do, or didn't feel I could do, then there is nothing stopping me saying no. If no one was offering anything I liked the look of, I'd probably have to stop being so fussy =p

Okay, so thanks guys =]
It seems I need to charge a decent rate and find any way to increase my portfolio that I can.
[As said near the beginning of this post, part of my reason for not charging much was because I can't show the quality of my work very easily. It was partially to entice people into commissioning me, and as I didn't expect to get much even then or that I would accept very many, I didn't feel as though I'd be taking from other commissioners. If I had a lot of interest, and after a period of time, I probably would have put my prices up to a more standard rate]

18 Oct 2011 - 16:0272600
In that case, I would suggest offering up a set, limited number of portfolio commissions, something where the commissioner just pays for materials or pays a set flat rate on top (ie £30), on the understanding that it's to build up your portfolio. I would say 5 of these is enough to get you on your way without taking too much away from the other commissioners, and I'd also suggest sticking to slightly simpler designs - if someone asks for something really complex, suggest they go to an established commissioner. Don't do any more than these or the other commissioners might feel a bit put out, but a small number won't be taking away from the market too much.

That way you get something for your portfolio, and as well as that you'll also have people willing to give feedback on your work that you can then use as an incentive to get other people interested. Just make sure you're clear that this is a one-time-only offer.

18 Oct 2011 - 17:2272604
i do something very similar to what (i think) your talking about.

I dont really advertise mysef as a commisioner as my costumes arent great. But alot of my friends ask me to make costume and prop pieces for them.

for example, im currently making someone a cape for thier costume as it wasnt something they could find elsewhere, and they were too busy with work. (im an at home carer so i have lots of free time :3)
I personally only commision size free items, like props, hats, baggy stuff and some accesories as i am terrible at fitting things to myself, let alone another body shape XD

As they are friends i genrally ask for matirial costs and then a little bit extra (usually £15) but sometimes i will get given a little bit extra as it was a favour

I dont know if this is any help to you, but offer services to friends you know and trust, and trust you and you'd be suprised how quickly word of mouth can spread

good luck ^^

~smarter than your average idiot!~
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