At Coscove, we work with a ton of awesome commissioners and people who are seeking commissions. Overtime, we've heard a lot about the little things that separate a good commissioner from the great. So today, I thought we could share these tips and best practices with anyone who's curious about becoming a commissioners, or anyone who wants to level up their commissioning game. We'll take a look at each step of the commissioning process and will give you tips for every step. Let's jump in!
1. Managing Your Intakes
As a commissioner, you are not only a craftsman, but also a marketing guru. You need to get your name out there through social media, your Coscove Maker profile, your own website, your Etsy store, etc. There are endless channels you are on and you need to manage your intake of potential clients effectively. The last thing you want is for a message to be stuck in a forgotten DM on a place you no longer check regularly, or for you to be constantly typing out the same message to let people know what you need on your intake form. So the way to manage your intake is through one main source of truth.
You could set it up so your email is the intake, and you put in all your social media channels that people interested in commissioning should reach out to a specific address
Pro Tip: setting up an email just for commissioning work will be super handy rather than using a personal email with several purposes
Tip 2: Saving a reply template that asks people for details on the commission can be a great way to save yourself some time
Using a standard form is a super easy way to get all the info you need in one place, without excessive back and forth communication. Just put the link to this form on your socials and direct people as needed.
Pro Tip: Don't make your intake form super long because no one have the attention span, but DO ask for the key info you need to get a sense of what this project will be like. A couple of things we always ask for include, Contact Details, Project Deadline, Series/Character, Parts needed, Notes and any reference images
(Example intake form from our friends from Ptybt Art Atelier)
Your Coscove Maker Profile
Your Maker profile on Coscove is a great way to keep your portfolio, requests, achievements all in one place. You can share details about your past commissioning experiences, any awards you've won, skills you have etc. And you can upload and update your portfolio at anytime. Your commissioning requests will automatically be collected and sent to you, and any reviews that your clients share will be added to your profile as well!
(Example: Anythingsews Profile, Portfolio, and Experiences on Coscove Maker's page)
Pro Tip: Any time you can get a client to post a photo of them in the costume, do ask for that and do add it to your profile. Costumes with a human in it will always be more eye grabbing and we consistently see our top makers adding, sharing and updating their portfolio with the latest photos.
(Example: Dia's commissioning portfolio on Coscove)
2. Understand and Building in Buffer Time
Imagine someone comes to you with a project request from a fandom you love, with a budget that's easy to work with, and everything just seems so perfect and exciting, but only thing is, their deadline is 4 weeks away. Are you going to take the project?
If you think about it, the first week will likely be used to align on a design and what fabrics to go with, then a week for the fabric and materials to arrive, then the last week will be shipping time. All of a sudden, that leaves you only a week in the middle to complete all your work.
For newer commissioners, not building in enough buffer time is the biggest cause of burn out, which is the biggest cause of makers quitting commissioning. Most experienced commissioners will require a minimum of 3-4 months for a full costume project. If you want to turn your maker skills into a sustainable business, then you'll have to be able to manage deadlines, plan for buffer time, and not take any work with deadlines that you might have a hard time meeting.
Pro Tip: give yourself a week for two for early communication and locking down the contract with your client. Give a week for materials to arrive if you're ordering online.
Ask about your client's deadline, not just the one they gave to you but what event are they wearing it to? If the deadline they gave you is the con date, then that means you need to build shipping time into the deadline. Plus, you need to give make sure the costume arrives a couple days to a week earlier so your client can take it to a local tailor for any last minute fittings.
3. Provide options
After you have an initial touchpoint with the client and before you put together the contract, you need a plan for what materials, how much time, etc that you will need for this project.
The best way to go here is to provide options for your clients. Typically we see commissioners offering
- A lux version (if the commissioner used the most accurate fabrics and techniques)
- An econ version (cheaper fabrics and less time-consuming techniques)
- And maybe something in the middle (though two could be enough)
This way, you are letting the client see the full range of potential so they have full control over what choices they make. This is also good for setting expectations (if they end up choose a more economical option).
4. Communicate frequently
Many commissioners will tell you that communication is as big a part of the job as the actual crafting.
Think about it, someone just paid you a huge chunk of money for something that they have never seen, that won't be delivered for months, from someone they don't know, and it's for a deadline that (very often) has little flexibility. Think about how nervous they must be and what a huge leap of faith they're taking by choosing you as the commissioner. The psychology is actually not all that different from getting a wedding dress made for the big day.
All that to say, the more you communicate with your client, the more they will feel at ease, the more they will trust you, and the more likely things will go smoothly during this collaboration.
At a minimum, you should be communicating with your client once a week, even if not much has been done. It's always better to have a regular rhythm, so your client knows you haven't disappeared and that they can reach out to you if needed. Don't make them wonder when you'll communicate (they tend to start thinking horror stories if they don't know what to expect), just stick to a schedule of quick updates, even if you haven't done much.
You don't always have to stick to email either. Text works great for you to snap a pic and add a couple of words. Social media posts or stories are also great because you're increasing your exposure and credibility at the same time as giving your client an update. Two birds with one stone!
(Check out these example updates from our great friend Nerddreamz who's mastered the art of keeping clients in the loop)
Pro tip: update your client at LEAST once a week, even if you haven't done much. They'll appreciate it, as we've heard from folks who have commissioned on Coscove
Tip 2: use social media to your advantage. Clients love to see updates on their project via social media. Increasing your interactions on social media will also make them more likely to share and tag you in the photos after they receive it, which you definitely want!
Clarity is key here. Clients want to see invoices that clearly outline the various materials, labor, and anything else that went into the final price. By tracking these things clearly during the project, not only will you have a clear picture of your business, but you'll also seem super legit and credible to your client.
(Credit: example invoice from Adaria Designs Ichigo Mew Costume)
6. Finishing it up
Last but not least, you as the maker of the costume need to think about the experience your client will have when they go to unbox that baby.
If it has many parts, great commissioners will film a short video that explains what each part is how to put it together.
If you're working with delicate items, wigs, or props, make sure you're packing your items properly so they don't get damaged during transit. There's a ton of creative packing tricks and tips on Youtube as well if you need some ideas.
If you had scraps left over or extra buttons and such, throw a couple into a baggy in case things wear and tear as the client shows offer your creation to the world.
There you have it! 6 tips to help your cosplay commissioning business. Are you a maker? Did we miss anything? Ping us to share and we'll continue to collect best practices from the community to share with everyone <3
Mengshu is a co-founder of Coscove. Growing up in Canada, Mengshu loved theatre, dance, and all things photography. She did photoshoots in costume before even learning what cosplay was! Find her on Coscove: coscove.com/mengshus