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How to commission art for absolute beginners?

OK, so I'm 100% new to this so I'm going to need an idiot's tutorial because I honestly have absolutely no clue how to do this, i.e. how to find artists open for commission, how to pick an artist out of the tens of thousands that exist, how to know what kind of art you want, how to contact them, when to contact them, how to pay them, when to pay them, how to tell them what you want them to draw you, what you need to provide them with... everything, really. I'm lost. :(

I need as much detail as possible. A full step-by-step guide with tons of important information would be nice. I've never commissioned any kind of art before in my life and quite frankly I'm scared that I'll get this wrong, waste money and cause problems for myself without loads of help.

Not that I'm in any big hurry to do this though, I just want to know for when the time comes. Commissioning furry art is a huge part of the fandom experience and arguably something that every furry should try, so at some point I'm going to have to learn to do it. This is really stressing me out. Help would be much appreciated. :D
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Getting thru it all
It's okay! It's good you're asking instead of going willy nilly and possibly making the process more difficult than you should.
I'll try to address all your points
1. For finding artists open for commission you can of course use social media or the art sales and auction thread here on the FA forums. The forums has a great system where you can see in the title who's selling their commissions. If you're not using the thread and using social media, FA's main site shows on the artist profile if they are taking commissions (it will be in green) or if their commissions are closed (in red.) Or in other social media sites you may see a pinned post that may have the artist's commission info at the top of their page. If there is nothing that indicates to you that they are taking commissions, don't be afraid to ask! I don't have any commission info on my pages because I'm fairly new, but it always makes me happy when someone PMs me asking if I do commissions. It also indicates to the artist you like their work enough to buy it! Which is always a nice feeling.
You can also put a post out saying you're hiring and looking for art with your budget.
2. As for picking an artist, look through their page! All you need to do is see an art style you like. All artists have a different way of making their art, some styles will resonate with you more than others. And note if they make art you are interested in. Don't ask an animal artist to draw a car for you. Also be aware of your budget! Art that takes more time to make will cost more, and more popular artists have the ability to raise your price. Know your price range and that will help you choose an artist within your budget and that you like the style of. Personally I would suggest supporting small artists, as big art accounts are able to find clients much more easier than small ones. It means the world when you're a small artist and someone values your work. And they are generally less costly.
3. For finding what kind of art you want, well that's completely up to you. Know what you want drawn first before looking for someone to commission, it makes everyone's job easier if you know what you want. And again, pay attention to style, some art styls you will prefer over others. It all comes down to choose what you think would look nice.
4. Contact them through whatever social media you find them on. If you are trying to contact a big artist, comments can be lost in the comment section. I recommend for any artist just PM them directly unless their account says not to. Don't be shy!
5. For when to contact them? Anytime unless their account explicitly says not to contact them during certain hours. They will respond to you when they are available.
6. How to pay them: It all depends on the artist's policy. Some artists will do split payments and other will require the money upfront. For me I give the client a choice of sending all the money before I begin their commission or they can pay half before the commission and the other half after I send them an uncompleted sketch of their commission. Don't be afraid to ask the artist about how they want their payment!
Ask the artist also what payment options they accept. Paypal being the most standard form but also be aware of venmo, and applepay. You don't necessarily need all these options because paypal is pretty much universal.
7. When payment is given is again, up to the artist's policy.
8. Just tell them what you want from them. Being completely straightforward with what you want makes the drawing process easier for the artist, and also if the artist asks you any questions for clarification, tell them what you want! Artists would rather follow what you say instead of not making you like your commission.

You can ask your artist for images of their work in progress!
Please don't rush the artist if they have a valid reason for taking time on your commission. Art takes time and artists have lives too.
Don't be afraid to mention a mistake in the drawing. Obviously be respectful but if the artist got something wrong (ex. markings are missing where they should be) bring it up to them!
Refunds are tricky. Depending on the artist they may give you a refund if you are unhappy with the work. Don't expect it though. Remember that they already sunk time and effort into your drawing. This does not apply if you find out that their art is traced or copied or if you got scammed.
To avoid being scammed, look through the artist's work, see if they have positive feedback in the comments, or if people are claiming the art is traced or if they too, got scammed. Most artists are honest so don't be afraid but it doesn't hurt if you're cautious.
Credit the artist! It helps the artist get more out there.
Again, Support small artists!

Those are all of the top of my head if you have any questions feel free to ask.
I suppose I can help here.

Step 1: Know what you want done.
The most frustrating thing for any artist is when their client doesn't know what they want, a surprise is fine, or it can be a disaster. Think about in detail what you want from the person, background, full body, art from an rp or scenario in your head, anything and everything.
Step 2: Be flexible
Even before you look for an artist, bear in mind each person may have a different timezone, lifestyle, art style, or communication needs. Be patient and understanding and always be an open book and willing to work with the artist.
Step 3: Search
Probably the most important, but most frustrating step. There's a world of artists, some more pricey than others. Popular places to look are here on the forums, Deviantart forums where you can post what you need. This leads to our next step
Step 4: Have a price range in mind.
Even if you find a super good artist who looks perfect for the moment, they may be too expensive for you right then. You can either save up for something later on, or look for a cheaper artist in the mean time. It really matters what you need and how quickly you need it.
Step 5: Communication is Key
It should be obvious, but you're going to need to talk to the person drawing your thing. Most forums or sites have a chat feature, but also many artists prefer if you send them a private message as opposed to messaging their profile page. In this initial message, introduce yourself kindly and courteously, be respectful as you would like done to you. Mention in detail what you want, be it furry, SFW or NSFW , whatever, if you have a date needed by mention that too, but understand they may have a life outside drawing. If you haven't browsed and seen what they charge, they will probably tell you shortly after this message, as well as maybe how long it will take them. Sometimes though, they may not be able to take your request at all. It won't be personal, not everyone likes the same things or may not be confident they could do what you need. It's fine, move on if this happens without begging or making a scene. Assuming they said yes, we can move onto the next step.
Step 6: Paying
Every artist is different, but I notice many (myself included) Prefer the "Split" method of payment. Meaning they prefer half up front, and the second half upon completion. Typically Paypal is a preferred method of payment, if this is, many artists won't start until the confirmation has been received. Some clients scam artists with paypal's return/ refund feature, and it causes the rest of us to get paranoid. Message them to let them know when you sent the first half, so they can be watching for the confirmation.
Step 7: Wait
Pretty self'-explanatory, art takes time, and for some it takes more.
Step 8(sort of): End Transaction
Assuming you used the "Split" Method, when the artist is finished they may message you letting you know to send the second half of payment, when that is received they will then send you the file, or a link, or image, ect, whatever you agreed on. Then it will be yours. Of course, all credit should go where it belongs. Leave watermarks alone, and if you would recommend the artist or use them again let the world know that as you share your new shiny.

Hope this helps.
Thanks for the information! I managed to commission someone last night and I'm getting a sketch made! I got very lucky, finding an artist who can draw what I had in mind for a good price.

I'll use all this info in the future too to make it easy for myself! I highly appreciate the responses :)