So there was a lot of chatter on the ol' Facebook about the evils of private commissions about a month ago. Basically people appear to run into commissioners who needle them to death with revision requests and other nuisances.
I've had the opposite experience with private commissions always going smoothly so far. When reading these comments I initially just thought, "I'm such a lucky bird." I keep thinking about it though and I've realized that the people who I've made commissions for were fans. They approached me, were familiar with my work or had been following it and liked my style. Fans have respect for you and how you do what you do. Have you noticed that fans never haggle over prices? They actually seem to feel like they should pay you more.
Problem Group A.
I predict that problem commissions come from those who are bargain shoppers. They've got a blank space on their wall that's 20x30, your prices are decent per square foot, and you have a name that may mean the work will increase in value. That last detail may be why I haven't had any of these types approach me. They're probably only looking at superficial elements to determine whether your work is appropriate for them. You have a lot of details, texture, or the right color palettes for what they're looking for. Beyond that they assume you'll take dictation from them and stop doing exaggerated anatomy or start doing exaggerated anatomy, start using pastel colors or lense flares,etc. Your input isn't needed. They expect their directions to go into your ear, your eyes to glaze over ala Isaac Mendes, and a the image in their mind's eye to come out through your hands.
The bargain shopper might even approach you and they'll throw out an extremely low rate. You can haggle them up in price but be aware of the thought process used to develop that proposed rate they approached you with. That thought process often goes something like this; commissioner's career choice pays X/hour= 5A where A equals what artist deserves per hour because commissioner's education/skills are greater than the artist's. Then they take that process further and think, "it takes me 30 hours to make a website so it should only take them 5 hours to make this art because it's 6 times easier than making a website." I used web design as a random example. If you're approached with a super low rate you probably do find it disrespectful but sometimes I think you can extrapolate from that low rate and see problems down the road with commissioner expecting super fast speeds and that means revisions are practically negligible. If they think it only takes you 5 hours to make your work then they probably think changing the tilt of a head is going to take you 5 minutes.
Problem Group B.
You're the anonymous. Ralph Horsley told me about a nightmare private commission that came through a website set up by a client where their customers could click some buttons and send money for getting a private commission. Again I think this is a recipe for sending people your way who don't necessarily have any respect for what you do. Somebody who finds your work on a google search will likely be the same. Only seeing you as an anonymous artist for carrying out their art needs. If your private commissioner has obviously sent you an e-mail mysteriously absent of your name or mentions of your work, then you may be lucky enough to be part of a mass mailing to plumb the depths of the art community for a cheap artist. Or maybe they've even been kind enough to tip you off by CC'ing rather than BC'ing. I actually think I've been unconsciously doing some defensive driving when it comes to this because I usually ask people, who approach me about work, how they came across me.
I heart fans.