10 Tips for Artists to Land More Commissioned Work

Elysian Koglmeier | March 3, 2022

Image credit: Muros
Mateo Conner is VP and Co-Founder at Muros, an art activation agency specializing in out-of-home advertising and street art. 

The “starving artist” trope is a thing for a reason — talent alone doesn’t ensure professional success.

Unlike most jobs, when you’re an artist, there’s not a clearly defined career path, and demand can be spotty. To be successful, you have to approach art as a business, and that means getting commissions.

I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with and facilitate jobs for many diverse and talented artists across the country, and I’ve noticed three things the artists who consistently land commissioned work tend to have in common: 

  1. A willingness to promote themselves 

  2. A dedication to networking

  3. The right attitude 

Here are 10 tips on how to land more commissioned work based on what I’ve seen across the art scene.

You’ve got to put yourself out there.

Unless you can afford to hire an agent to promote your work, you’ll have to excel at self-promotion. Here’s how you can put your best foot forward:

  1. Make sure you have a top-notch portfolio, website and Instagram presence. A potential client will probably form their first impression of you online. Make it count! Also, don’t assume that people who visit your site and social feeds know you accept commissions — say so explicitly. Our team admires the strong social presence Atlanta-based muralist George F. Baker lll has created for himself. On his colorful Instagram profile (@gfb3) you can find his work beautifully displayed with descriptive and passionate captions outlining the story behind each project. In addition, his website and contact information can be clearly located in his bio. 

  2. Do cold outreach. Cold calls are a staple in sales because they work. Use the sales playbook and reach out cold, sending an intro email and a PDF of your portfolio (easily created within your Artwork Archive account) to potential clients you’d love to work with. It won’t always work, but every time you reach out, you create new opportunities.

  3. Reach out to local galleries. Take the initiative and get in touch with local galleries to let them know you’d be interested in showing your work. The more you put your art out there, the better your chances of snagging a commission, so get in touch instead of waiting for art dealers to come to you. 

  4. Talk to the local media and/or do a podcast. Podcasts about art or a related topic and local media outlets that cover art and culture can be a great source of publicity. Reach out to local reporters or podcasters and let them know you’ve got something to say about your work. Check out our 7 Essential Podcasts for Artists.


It’s all about who you know.

Networking is a strategic way to land more commissioned work. When you make connections, you expand the pool of potential clients. Here are some networking tips that can help you make it happen:

  1. Attend gallery openings. Related to point #3, if a gallery showcases your work, make sure you go to the opening and network with the people who attend. Chances are everyone who shows up is interested in art, and some of them may be potential clients. 

  2. Get to know the people who support your artwork. If you sell a piece, great! Now try to get to know the person who bought it. They might become a collector of your artwork. Learn how artists are using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to work smarter and thrive. Also, if you create artwork for a business, sign the piece with your @mention and share high-quality photos with your community on social media. It’s called a social network for a reason! 

  3. Apply for grants and volunteer for art-related organizations. Doing work under a grant for cultural enrichment and volunteering for organizations that promote art can also be a great way to network and gain support. You can meet potential clients while broadening the audience for your work. 

Image credit: Muros

Maintain the right attitude.

The way you approach commissioned projects can make or break your chance of getting additional work from a company, partner or individual. Here are some ideas to help you generate a positive result:

  1. Be patient and flexible with clients. Projects don’t always go smoothly, especially if you’re working with someone for the first time. That’s why it’s critical to be patient and keep your balance even if priorities change or the client is too involved or not involved enough. There’s always a happy medium; it’s just a matter of finding it. 

  2. Go above and beyond every single time. Your success in landing new commissions will depend in part on how well you handle the job you have now. If clients have a good experience working with you, chances are they’ll be back — and be willing to happily recommend you to others.

  3. Work within the client’s budget. Sometimes a client’s description of the work they want doesn’t match the budget they’ve outlined, so you have a choice. You can pass on the work, or you can get creative, proposing a simpler design or on a smaller scale. If you want the commission, be creative and explore how you could still take the project on but is fair for both parties.     

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