I was hit with a message on Deviantart.com asking if I take requests. I immediately knew the nature of this inquiry, but advised the interested party that I would at least consider it. While not going too deep into the details, the request was for an erotic fetish piece with the requirement that I keep the piece "private". In other words, I would be sharing the work with no one but the person making the request. I asked what I felt was a fair question.
What's in it for me?
Of course the person making the rather complicated request had nothing to offer in payment or in trade. Had the request been inline with the kind of work I enjoy doing, I might have considered it, but the fetish was not one that I shared and I could not see myself investing time in the work an enjoying it. At least if I could share the work with others, that would have been something (I don't know why they guy wanted it to be private, but whatever). We conversed for a bit, and eventually he made the argument that makes every serious artist cringe.
"But you draw for fun, right?".
I do. I really do. And when I do, it is stuff I want to draw or paint. You will get a better deal on your commission, maybe even a free piece, if the work is something I am really into. Making art for me is fun. Making art for you is work. If I have to stress about getting it the way you want, if I cringe every time you send me an email because I know it is going to be another formatting revision, if what you want is not what I do, it is tedious, menial work.
This is why I am slow to take a commission. Most people simply don't get it. Hiring an artist for a commission means getting their interpretation of what you want, done in their style. It is a commissioned piece of art, not a graphic or commercial design. The artist assumes that you have seen the work they have done and that what you want is within the realm of those works. When it is discovered, or expressed, that the patron just wants someone with the skill to utilize the medium in a manner that satisfies their need or vision, the "art" is sucked right out of the project for the artist. It is just work.
I find myself asking if the person, in whatever it is they do for money, will take requests? Moreover, will they do the menial part of their job, the part that requires nothing but a knowledge of the process and maybe muscle-memory to accomplish, for free? If you expect to be paid for your work, why would you assume that someone else would want anything less? It suggests a naivety at best, and a disrespectful lack of appreciation at worst, on the part of the person who makes that assumption about artists.
Just don't be that guy, my friends. If you like what an artist does, be cool and they will more than likely give you some of their art. If you want someone to labor for you at something that is work, expect to pay what that person thinks is fair.