The Art Biz ep. 68: Procedures for Art Commissions with Sema Martin

By now you may have picked up on the fact that I am a sucker for a reliable system. My signature program is called the Art Career Success System for a reason. Systems work. They provide you with a framework that, once in place, you can return to repeatedly and update to match where you are at any given moment in your art business.

Waiting for Santa Sema Martin drawing of cat in christmas tree
©Sema Martin, Waiting for Santa. Colour pencil and pan pastel, 11.7 × 16.5 inches.

I love figuring out systems, maybe even more than I love following them, because systems are always there to support my progress. And my guest for this episode of the podcast has proven that a clearly defined system can take your art business to the next level.

Sema Martin is a full-time artist living in the French Riviera. She currently has a 4-month waiting list for her pet portraits, which is likely due in part to a system she has developed that keeps her organized and her customers satisfied.

In our conversation, Sema shares the the 8 stages of commissioning work from her.

We discuss how she standardized her sizes, how she makes it easy for clients to buy from her by offering multiple currencies, and how social media serves a dual purpose to both promote her work and to share her progress with clients. You’ll hear how she stays organized and at the end of this episode I'll tell you how to get a copy of her system spreadsheet.

Music by Wildermiss


  • Sema shares the journey that led her to becoming a full-time commissioned artist. (2:11)
  • Income streams and the percentages of Sema’s income that come from commissions. (5:50)
  • Developing the stages of the commission process, starting with sizing the art. (7:32)
  • What to include in your pricing. (12:15)
  • A comparison of SquareSpace and MailChimp email delivery. (14:18)
  • Contact forms and how to make sure you have proper communication with clients. (16:03)
  • The importance of collecting money before you start drawing. (20:46)
  • Handling a waiting list and the logistics of a payment plan. (22:09)
  • Guidance for helping customers choose the details of the piece. (26:54)
  • Sema’s workflow and how she works in the drawing zone. (30:03)
  • How many social media posts should highlight your current piece? (34:24)
  • Final approval ensures that the customer is happy before the piece is shipped. (37:00)
  • Mounting, packing, and delivery of the final piece and how each step ensures you will have happy customers. (37:56)
  • The bonus stage and how many customers take advantage of it. (42:08)
  • How do people find Sema? She maintains a focus on SEO that really pays off. (43:52)
  • Staying organized and implementing the systems that will keep you going. (46:11)
  • A glimpse inside Sema’s current project. (49:06)
Sema Martin Pet Portrait commission of small white dog
Pet portrait commission packed and ready to be shipped


Sema Martin Quotes

“Everything I’ve created, I’ve created through trial and error.”

“I keep my prices standard to the size rather than the subject.”

“There are a lot of questions that you need to have answered before any money is exchanged.”

“I want to be very careful not to burn out, because if I do it gets very difficult to get back into the drawing zone.”

“It’s so important that you get feedback and testimonials from your clients. It’s an organic way to convince new customers to commission you.”

“There’s no point in paying for a website if you aren’t going to make sure that people can find it.”

About My Guest

Sema Martin working on a commission in her home studio

Sema Martin is a full-time artist living in the French Riviera. Using the highest quality of color pencils, pastels, and paper available she creates realistic human, animal, and landscape drawings from photographs provided by her customers.

She is also the author of Art is My Career — How to Start an Art Business, a book to help and inspire other artists that it is possible to make a career out of your artwork.

Music by Wildermiss

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5 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 68: Procedures for Art Commissions with Sema Martin”

  1. Excellent interview! Sema’s engineering background clearly affects how she approaches her business and commission work. I love the circle of very sharp pencils in a photo of her process. Her use of email is brilliant as she has a record of all communication. I will definitely purchase her book and savor her spreadsheet progress tracker. Thank you, Alyson and Sema!

    1. Kathy: Thanks for listening. I love that photo, too! Almost as much as I love her extra clear steps.

  2. This was a great interview. I love hearing about order and implementing it in my business. There are times that order breaks down and being slowing getting it back together again.

    1. Shimoda: So happy you could listen. I can relate to a breakdown of order. Sometimes we just need to take time out to re-combobulate before we can be productive again.

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