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The Extra Mile

by Keith Bond on 11/15/2010 9:05:24 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


How do you treat your best collectors or gallery owners? Are you willing to go the extra mile for them? Will you bend over backwards for them [1]? Or do you treat your very best clients the like a prospective client or an occasional client?

 

Consider doing something a little extra for those who really support you the most.

 

Inevitably you will have collectors, gallery owners, prospective clients, show curators, etc. come to you somewhere along the way asking for more than you typically give. The requests can be quite varied. Some come in the form of a donation. Others may be a commission that the client needs yesterday. Maybe they are asking for you to do a demo or give a talk. Some "opportunities" should be turned down. Some you should accept. The trick is to know which is which.

 

There are many things to consider when trying to determine what to do – everything from cost/benefit analysis to your relationship with the person. Every situation is different. But let me give you a few examples of where it benefitted me (and the client) to go the extra mile.

 

On a few occasions I am asked by a client (whether directly or through a gallery) if I could do a commission by Christmas or a birthday. Sometimes I decline. But wherever possible, I go the extra mile and do it even if the deadline is shorter than I usually required. I have done some in just a couple days to meet collectors' needs. Why? To make the collector happy [2]. I have gotten telephone calls on Christmas day by thrilled collectors. They remember me because I was able to do something special for them. They usually become avid fans who collect multiple works over the years.

 

One more example. A year ago this week a client (a design team which places original works into new construction projects worldwide) came to me with a request which was almost unreasonable. I had dealt with the client for several years and had done 6 or 7 projects with them. They are a great client to work with. But this project was sprung upon them with short notice by the owner. If I accepted the commission project I would have to create a monumental artwork in an extremely short time to meet the construction deadlines.

 

The project manager asked if it was even feasible. What to do? The opportunity was a great one (both artistically, personally, and financially). But it would definitely require going the extra mile (or two) to drop everything else. It would require 60-80 hour weeks for 2 months to get it done on time.

 

After considering it for a day, I accepted the commission and delivered on my promises. As a result, everyone involved – from the design team to the owners to the visitors who see the artwork – was excited about the finished work.

 

I helped the design team out of a bind in order to get the project done for the owner. As a result, in the 8 or 9 months since then, I have finished 3 additional normal commissions (normal sized paintings) for the client. I am also currently working on another monumental work for them. And I have a standing invitation to propose ideas for existing projects they are working on. The client even had another project a few months ago (just prior to the one I am currently doing) that I had to turn down because I knew that I wouldn't be able to do it. Key, though, was to explain why I couldn't do it (both because of subject matter that I was unfamiliar with and conflicting time commitments).

 

Thus, in one year I have done just as much work for the client as I had in the 6 previous years combined. Why? Because I was willing to go the extra mile for them. In the past, I was on their list of several artists to consider for projects. But after that project, I was remembered first. I was at the top of the list when they needed artwork. I did something special for them and they now think of me first.

 

Remember, treat your best collectors special – even when they may occasionally request something that would be challenging to do. As with this client I refer to, you can turn down certain requests and still maintain a good relationship with the client. But don't pass up the opportunity to really stand out because you went the extra mile.

 

Best Wishes,

Keith Bond

 

[1] There is a difference between bending over backwards and being taken advantage of. Know the difference.

[2] I only do commissions that excite me. I only do commissions where I am given plenty of freedom for artistic expression. I always do studies first to show the client for approval. This way, both I and they are excited about the finished painting.



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Related Posts:

Get Paid for Painting at Parties

Evaluating Opportunities

Commission Terms

How to Give Without Being Taken Part 1


Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews | sell art 

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 25 Comments

Bonnie Samuel
via canvoo.com
Great advice, Keith, and thanks. I can see that weighing the pros and cons not only in time and feasibility, but the business angle is important in making these decisions.

misty beauchamp
via canvoo.com
This was a good article. I would offer suggestions however to avoid common pitfalls.
1. Make sure it is something YOU really WANT to do- don't sell yourself short or get stuck in a bind because you over-committed your time. You MUST follow through to be seen as a professional. If you don't, this will backfire on you and you will lose credibility.
2. Make sure it is something YOU are CAPABLE of doing- again, dont over-commit or bite off more than you can chew and hope you get lucky. Chances are, you won't and you will let down those you were trying to impress with your ability to follow through!

Tom Weinkle
via canvoo.com
Great Suggestions Keith.

And i agree with what Misty is saying above. It's good to stretch ourselves, it's good to go the extra mile, just make sure you are excited about it.

I have found that one opportunity always leads to another. And each one is unique. Sometimes the one you think will be great can be disappointing as the details are firmed up, and vice versa.

it seems to me it's hard to have a set of rules about “The extra Mile” that we won't bend or break, because you never know where it will lead. I think we have to take a bit of risk to be rewarded.

tom

Lori Woodward
via canvoo.com
Keith, thanks for sharing. I am amazed that you could put in those kind of hours - you were the right artist for the project.

Thanks for your note about taking on work that you are excited about and can develop according to your personal style. Those are good reminders. Sometimes, I get dazzled by the money I can make without taking my individual style as an artist to mind - then I'm sorry I took on the commission.

As our work builds demand, we end up with more opportunities than we can complete - thanks for reminding us that when this happens, that we need to make solid, reasonable choices. Great blog!


Hele Horn Musser
via canvoo.com
Keith, you remind me of a weakness I have. It is very hard to accept a commission on a short lease. Never really know how long it will take. I do try and go the extra mile about special request from patrons and it makes for good relationships. If I am an artist I feel I should be flexible enough to accomodate their wishes. So happy to hear of your successes!

Kim VanDerHoek
via canvoo.com
It's rare to read advice that says its O.K. not to accept a commission. For me, I will often work the extra hours to do a commission because as an artist I am not able to predict when my next sale will be and a commission is practically a guaranteed sale. Your article is a good reminder to weigh all aspects of a commission.

Carol McIntyre
via canvoo.com
Thanks Keith, as I am currently working on a commission where the client, who is an artist, does not "get it" and that is taking the joy out of the work. I made the assumption that a fellow artist would understand the commissioning process. Wrong!

Little things such as giving a note card of the commission when the painting is delivered can be seen as going the extra mile.

I love going the extra mile for people who appreciate my work and are good to work with, being taken advantage of is something I weigh all of the time.


Diane Overmyer
via canvoo.com
Thanks Keith,

I have learned to take on projects that excite me, and that includes charity related events. Some events have left me feeling taken advantage of, and those I cross off of my list. Others have given back in ways I wouldn't have expected.
I recently participated in a plein air painting event that was set up by a non-profit gallery. The gallery got 100 percent of the profits, but the event was in a beautiful park in a great part of town and that galllery had hosted a solo show for me eariler in the year. It was a fun day, and I felt really good about being able to help an organization that genuinely works to help artists.

An unexpected perk resulted when a for profit gallery owner called and told me he had seen my painting and love my work. He then asked me if I would be interested in talking with him about future representation in his gallery!

Stede Barber
via canvoo.com
Hi Keith,
You noted something so important in your excellent article--that you considered your existing agreements as part of your decision. Making sure I can adjust all aspects of my life to meet a new challenge and then create a sensational result is a key.

Stretching a bit is always good, in balance with meeting the tineline with an excellent piece of work.

You describe such a wonderful attitude and win. Thank you for sharing.

Judy Mudd
via canvoo.com
Good advice, Keith. Yes, if the project excites you and you can work it out with your existing projects, going the extra mile is an easy choice. The rewards, at least in this case, were well worth the "extra mile."

Carol Schmauder
via canvoo.com
I agree 100 percent Keith that if you can go the extra mile and produce a beautiful product it is a good idea. I am glad your situation worked out so well.

Lynne Fearman
via canvoo.com
I've accepted a commission from a city and hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew. My former gift to the city led to this commission, and I want to keep the ball rolling for future projects.
It will be bordering on charity work, they are only paying for my time not the creative part. I'm a landscape painter, but now they want me to paint an object that represents the town. How do you decide to take on a commission, when you don't know the pitfalls yet, before you even start?

Karen
via canvoo.com
Going the extra mile definitely pays off. I've given donations to some of my collectors' pet causes, done commissions under cloak of secrecy under demanding time schedules, taken special collectors out to dinner, etc. People appreciate the extra care, they really do.

misty beauchamp
via canvoo.com
Lynne Fearman wrote: I've accepted a commission from a city and hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew. ...
It will be bordering on charity work, they are only paying for my time not the creative part. I'm a landscape painter, but now they want me to paint an object that represents the town. How do you decide to take on a commission, when you don't know the pitfalls yet, before you even start?

Well Lynne, to determine if the project is right for you you have to balance the investment (your time, supplies, time that you could have been spending doing other things, etc.) against the return (monetary, personal satisfaction,"stretching your creativity", worthiness of cause, etc.) and see if it balances.

I can see by your verbiage you are having doubts:
you did it to keep the doors open...you got the job from a gift (I personally feel that you should be very careful about giving work away as it leads the recipient to devalue your work in future)... charity work...only paying you for time...unfamiliar subject matter... to me just one or two of these are big red flags.

The way I decide if I am going to undertake a project is by weighing pros and cons, like this:

PROS CONS
sounds exciting no real compensation
will work with someone lack of organized
i respect plan- they dont
new media really know what new subject matter they want
new media
plenty of time new subject matter

Then I think about what will happen if I do it, and what will happen if I don't, both good and bad. This is totally subjective. You have to ask a lot of questions because the "outside impression" of the city's operation and their "inside reality" may be diametrically opposed. In other words, you might think you can get along with the people who are supervising it, and that they know what they want, etc. but they might not and you might not. You have to get as much info as you can and then run with it- or not. No one knows all the answers before undertaking a project- life is not that way.

I also tend to go with my gut a lot. For example, I recently had an opportunity to illustrate a book and I completed one satisfactory illustration that could have gotten me the job, but the author was unable/unwilling to compensate me adequately. He had attempted to have amateurs do the work before, and wasted a year on unsatisfactory results. However he chose not to pay me a token fee and take the rest out in trade, opting instead to try using a student again to get the work for free, basically. I was unwilling to drop my rate below a level I set, and I am very glad I stuck to my guns. Now, I just have to wait and see if my unpaid-for drawing shows up in the book. If it does, I will be forced to take legal action. My gut told me to let the "opportunity" go, but I gave it a shot anyway, and it was a complete waste of time.Thank goodness I did not get wrapped up in it.

Another thing- if you feel "pressured" or "coerced" or "guilted" into something in any way, don't walk- RUN away from that project! Those kinds of things rarely turn out well. I have coined a phrase: "high maintenance- low impact customer" to describe those people who are users and opportunists. There is no satisfying these people and they are never truly happy with what you do and are not grateful for your help. They are nitpicky and whiney- thus "high maintenance." They end up creating a huge deficit when you consider your valuable time, your blood pressure, and your sanity, so they are "low impact" to your bottom line. Guard yourself against these at all costs.

As far as deciding whether you CAN accept a commission or job, you have to ask yourself if you are capable of the type of work they are looking for. If so, great- then weigh the pros and cons. If not, then DON'T ACCEPT, no matter how tempting. I am not talking about "stretching" here. A "stretch" might be attempting to use a different media or subject matter. A no-no might be a different media AND subject matter on a tight time constraint. Only you know if you can pull it off, and if you can, do you REALLY WANT TO?. If you do indeed find out you bit off more than you can chew, then I suggest fessing up as soon as you possibly can to allow them more time to get a replacement for you. This is not to say that you have decided that it won't be profitable to do the work for whatever reason. I am sorry but I cannot defend the idea of not following through because it will not profit you in some way if you have already committed. What I am saying is if you come to the realization that you CANNOT complete the project satisfactorily, you need to be honest and straightforward immediately.

Now, that all said, you have to either bite the bullet and do it, or back out as quickly and completely as you can. Best of luck to you.

misty beauchamp
via canvoo.com
sorry lynne- the spacing on the post got messed up.
PROS: sounds exciting, will work with someone I respect, new subject matter, new media, plenty of time. CONS: lack of compensation, no real organized plan- they don't really know what they want, new media, new subject matter

Michael Cardosa
via canvoo.com
Hi Keith,

Your posts are always interesting and informative and never disappoint. Good luck with this collector you're working with. I think it's and understatement to say that anyone willing to do commission would love to have an on going relationship like this.

thanks again,

Michael

Esther J. Williams
via canvoo.com
Keith, this is good sound advice. I am taking note in my brain. Misty`s advice is golden also. I have taken on commissions that were super and almost commissions that were nightmares.
One more piece of advice, do not appear desperate even if you are when talking to someone about commission work. Just be pragmatic and cool.
I just sent a thank-you card to a recent commission customer. It is good to let them know you really appreciate them and their business.

Delilah
via canvoo.com
It is so wonderful to hear when a commission works out super for an artist.

Spencer Meagher
via canvoo.com
Keith you are right. Going the extra mile for your clients does pay big dividends. Sometimes it is an inconvenience, but they appreciate it.

Periodically I will include a small print with the sale of an original. Just a little something that means a lot to the collector and isn't a big expense to me.

Barb Stachow
via canvoo.com
I must say this gets a person thinking...Misty has the right idea though, don't bite off what you can't chew! Be cautious!

Joanne Benson
via canvoo.com
Hi Keith,
Thanks for the good advice. I have just taken on 2 commissions due for Christmas and have been agonizing over when I am going to squeeze them into my busy schedule. One is a repeat client and the other a new client. I know I will get them done but I tend to stress out about things. Painting is not a full time gig for me and so I have to fit things in around the rest of my life.....Need to quit my real job! LOL

Sharon Weaver
via canvoo.com
I have had great experiences with the commission work that I have accepted. It is a wonderful feeling when the client it happy but I have heard sad stories about unsatisfied clients and difficulties ending the job. With the current climate, it becomes tougher to not take everything that comes my way but I have my list to go through too.

Marian Fortunati
via canvoo.com
Keith,
You obviously have sparked some great thoughts.... And Misty... wonderful comments and well thought-out examples...

Dolores Stuhr Scobba
via canvoo.com
I accepted a commission for a mural sized painting on canvas, (166"x77") when I had never painted anything larger than 24"x36". However, I knew when I said yes, I would finish it to the satisfaction of the customer, no matter what. And I did. I am a very strong willed person, and when it's time to do it, I do it. I think it is important to determine your level of tenacity, by thinking back on previous projects. Then you should be able to determine if a commission offered to you is somthing you can complete.

Donna Robillard
via canvoo.com
I think we naturally want to go the extra mile. We do need to weigh all the cons and pros; and we each know our own selves well enough to know if we went to attempt that commission. Also, the little things like writing a thank you note means a lot to the recipient.










 

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