Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ten Tips for Artists on How to Work with Clients on their Commissions

Wire-haired Pointing Griffon Oil Painting Portrait
I know, I know.  I've heard it so often from my artist friends that commissions are a minefield, that they would never do them because it inhibits their vision, they are afraid it will be rejected, etc.

But I love them!  I love working with the clients to mesh THEIR vision with MINE.  I LOVE meeting new people through their pets and homes.

Here's my tips for making working with clients on portrait commissions an easier process:

1.  Ask specific questions.  WHY do they like the photo they are sending you.  ARE the colors correct for their pet or house?  Is there anything they want emphasized?  Are they interested in a complex background or more simple? Once you know what they have in mind, it's our job to guide them.  Bringing us to...

2.  Be confident in your suggestions.  Few who commission pet portraits or house portraits have the knowledge and experience YOU do.  Explain why you are advising what to do and not to do. Keep it positive, why x is better than y.  Don't let impatience show!  If what they want won't work, try again to explain it. (I have this issue with folks who want a small portrait but for a group yet expect the detail they see in my portfolio of large portraits).

3.  Don't be afraid to turn down a commission if it will not work.  

4.  Insist on good photos.  Ask for more for details, if you need it.

5.  Stay true to your style.  Your portfolio shows it.  If they want something that's nothing like how you paint, suggest they go elsewhere.  You might be able to copy a style, but it will kill your enthusiasm, and will show.

6.  ENJOY your customers, you met someone new!  Keep in good touch.  I let my customers know where I am in the process.

7, Take good care of your clients.  I thank them for the commission in every communication.

8. Get paid upfront.  I went from no deposit to half deposit to payment in advance.
House Portrait Painting in Watercolor and Ink

9.  Get everything in writing.  I don't do contracts because I wouldn't ever sue anyone who didn't love my work.  But I DO restate all the conversations and decisions made down to the color of flowers in a house portrait so there's no misunderstandings or confusion.

10.  Don't introduce negatives.  I'm amazed at artists who spell out in contracts what they will and won't do, how much it will cost the client, etc. if the client doesn't like it!  If you do all of the above, have a portfolio so they can see what you do, are technically able, then chances are they will love it.  Why suggest to them, before you even start, that they might be nitpicking and putting you through the paces and what their push backs will be.  They found you, chose you, over the hundreds or thousands of competent portrait artists on the internet, why won't they love your work?  If you follow my tips above, trust me, they will!

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