Anatomy of a Commission - How Does it Work?

The week was Spring Break for my kids. That coupled with this commission that I need to finish, kept me from "going out" to paint. And the weather has been perfect - so annoying.
So, How does the commission thing work? Sometimes, it is as simple as someone asking you (artist) to create something for them and you work directly with them as the client and end buyer. In my case, the work came through an Art Representative or REP. They act as the mediator between artist and client. The REP hires artist to create art for the client's need, (remember that space over the couch?). The REP's job is to know what their client wants/needs and as well, be familiar with the artist's work, their style and what they can do.I spent years as a professional designer/art director and am very comfortable with this idea, except now the shoe is on my foot. I am the artist being art directed. Still I know from experience that it is in the REP's interest to encourage and "direct" me with the right kind of information and, in the end the REP's job to "sell" the work to the client, who I may never meet.Whether you are working directly with the end buyer, or with a REP there are risks for ALL of the parties involved. Here are 2 important points to think through:
1. FEE: How much will you charge and how will you get paid. Amazingly, at this point, common sense often goes out the, well, you know....
My policy is strict: what ever the total fee is to be - I will not start the job until the check for 50%, up front, clears the bank - no exceptions. The money thing- it always makes artists nervous, but my Dr. and certainly, my son's orthodontist never bat an eye when waiting for me to write a check, - for the TOTAL amount. 2. TIME FRAME: Before taking any money, be honest with yourself and your client about how long it will take. It can be helpful to set benchmarks with the client as to when they could see - for example, sketches, layouts, or the piece very nearly done. Bear in mind that this kind of thing is mostly for YOUR benefit, to keep you on track. And what if the client wants the job in half the time? Again, be honest with yourself, or - you may hate life later. If you are willing, however, to "crank it out" more quickly, you have good reason to charge more. Thinking ahead about these kinds of issues, doing some research as to how other artists handle things makes for fewer surprises in the end when it is too late to wish you had done your homework.
Below are the comments of 3 artists whose work I admire and whose blogs I follow. In regard to my last post on commissions they said:

Alan Heuer, "I like commissions as it gives me a focus which many times enhances the creativity, or with the clients added perspective and feedback I head off in a completely new direction." www.alanheuer.blogspot.com

Chuck Sale, "The independent spirit in me prefers to work alone. A commission places the client right behind me, looking over my shoulder. There is an intimacy in this, even a discipline: I must know something about the client and the subject to get it right." ChuckSalePhotography.blogspot.com

Eldon Warren, "Heck yes, and commissions are scarey! I've been pretty lucky tho in that I've not had anyone throw one back on my front porch. I'm in process right now of doing a 24x36 for a fellow from California. It's of a subject that fortunately we both find interesting and paintable. Like Chuck says, it helps to know the client. I think it is important too, that you know the client knows you." EW