As you enter the guild hall to accept commissions, you should notice a podium or sorts directly behind Antoine, the rep you typically pass Portia commissions into (not, say personal ones).
This lets you view your reputation points.
Each commission you pass in earns you points.
At the end of each month, the workshop with the most points, earned by passing in the most numerous/difficult commissions, wins.
As the game starts, Higgins, your rival, already has access to copper and bronze bars, meaning the commissions he is capable of turning in are simply better than you are able to handle comfortably, at first, and as he starts with a few points, the quickest you are able to earn this is usually the second month of the game.
Pointers for getting this easily, and keeping ahead to always get the best rewards:
*Be AT the guild hall at 8:00 sharp. Higgins Idles in front starting at 7:30, and enters by 8:05. By 8:15, he accepts a commission and that commission is actually removed from the board and thus unacceptable for taking. He typically takes the best ones. If ONLY one commission with an earn able recipe is available he has a chance to go for another, but its NOT worth being late.
*You can have a personal commission AND a story commission at once. This is confusing, as story commissions are usually put under the Portia logo, as is a PERSONAL request by the city. You may ALSO turn in multiple story commissions a day, but may only do one personal a day.
The difference is story content, You will see, say, 5 dee dee stop commissions, which can be turned in one after the other on the same day, but for personal, like 3 talismans for Nora, you can only accept and do one a day.
*Commerce Hot Shot, a tier one social perk, raises reward by 5% and workshop point rewards by 1 for every point, up to 4, for 20% and 4 points respectively. This and Intensive Training, a tier one fight perk that raises experience gain by 5% for each point for a max of 25%, can help you get a few levels and better rewards earlier on when it matters for that head start.
*Though you will stall the story, you can idle on a story mission, such as poison fountain, to give yourself time to gather materials and only worry about one commission a day, thus always accepting the best one you know you could do.
*As with the Dee Dee example, you will find many missions have quests like, say, 15 iron bars, 20 ironwood, 10 copper pipe, all up on the board. If you reset the day, gather ALL the items that the board asks ahead of going back (As the commissions are chosen at the start of the day, thus only randomized the once), you can turn one in right after the other, giving Higgins the chance to maybe take ONE to your 2-4. That with a personal commission (Better if he ONLY took a personal) boosts your points by 600-1200 in a day over his 200-400.
Happy hunting (>*_*)>