Welcome back to “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z.
In today’s article, I’ll be focusing on the letter “Y” for Yes.
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Joe Harless was a big man with a very big booming voice from the southern United States. Joe taught me how to design job aids (visual, step-by-step instructions for tasks) as well as something invaluable that I use in many, many aspects of my career.
From Joe, I learned to say “Why, yes I can do that!” to any assignment I was asked to do, by anyone who wanted to hire me for my training and design skills.
As artists, we’re already used to saying “yes” to the creative urge when it comes to making art. When you say yes to comfortable experiences, you know pretty much how things will turn out.
But in business, saying “yes” is more difficult. It’s not as easy, and it doesn’t always come naturally. Yet I try to challenge every artist who wants success in business to start saying “yes” however they can.
Simply put, this means doing things differently than you have been. For example, saying “yes” could mean taking on new promotional activities. It could also mean stopping activities that bug you, and have yet to yield results even though everyone says “you should do this.”
I’ve found that saying “yes” to everything that appears in your in-box of life as an artist, along with all the other roles you play as a responsible adult, may bring some unexpected twists and turns.
And that’s exactly the point of saying yes.
You will get many more creative challenges that stretch you. Some will be really uncomfortable and what comes out of them you may label as failures. Other will bring you rewards that you never could have imagined.
Let’s take a lesson from artists who make a living doing commissioned work. These artists are very familiar with the practice of saying yes first, and then working out the details. Here are 5 steps to follow as you say “yes” to new opportunities for your art:
1. Clearly state what you can always say “yes” to
Artists who offer commissions start by clearly defining their specialty (for example, pet portraits). They must also be clear about contractual terms and conditions—like which kinds of pets will cost more to paint, or what they expect from your pet during the painting process.
The more clear you are about what YOU expect, the happier your clients will be.
2. Waste no time regretting the things you say “no” to
If you do pet portraits, don’t even think to offer paintings of your client’s homes unless your “portraits” of buildings are every bit as good as your portraits of animals. And don’t let that decision keep you up at night—it’s just not worth it!
In the long run, it’s never worth sacrificing the quality of your art or your services for the sake of a quick buck.
3. After saying “no,” help find a solution
It’s important to help people find what they are looking for, whether or not you benefit directly.
When you say “no” to a request, but solve the problem by finding someone who can say “yes,” it’s a win-win-win situation. Both the client and the other artist will remember you and may recommend you to an important person in your future.
4. Once you say “yes”. . . negotiate
When you agree to something, you should already know how you will use your artistic skills to represent the client’s vision, how long that will take, your fees, price and installment payments, etc. If you don’t have this all worked out ahead of time, you won’t know what you are negotiating.
Any kind of sale can be tricky if misunderstandings arise—and it happens just as often in direct sales or gallery sales as it does in commissions.
It helps to regularly check in with your client or representative—at least three times durin the project, if not more. Each time they say no or yes to your questions, you’ll have more information about their desires, and get a little closer to creating a work of art that your client will love.
You also won’t waste time or materials on something your client doesn’t want.
5. When something’s wrong, fix it and go one better
Even in the best of commission situations, things go awry. (The nose looks too long, even though it’s accurate, etc.) That’s why it’s best to check in often before too much damage is done.
Of course, you should also be ready to apply your talents to solve that creative problem so that you fulfill the terms of the commission. That’s basic customer service.
Smart artists (and business people) know that good customer service means doing something above and beyond after fixing the original problem. This is also called “customer recovery.” You might offer to hang and light the finished portrait, for example. Now they’ll remember you for what you did, long after you’d been paid.
So. What will you say yes to today? And what will you leave for someone else, or another day?
Follow the links below to read more articles in “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z: