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Get More Clients in Your Art Business & Manage Them Effectively (2021)

Making a living as an artist is not as stereotypically daunting as it seems when you understand how to create working relationships with your clients. In this blog, I want to share 6 elements of art business that will help you learn and develop the skills needed to be a business-savvy artist.

These steps are all important and skipping one may drastically impact your pay, work environment, expectations, relationships, or prospective clientele.

1. Artistic Direction and Branding

Every client is going to resonate with a different aesthetic and want your piece to represent something unique about their brand. It is your job to make sure the client has a piece that accurately represents their company and leaves them feeling happy. To do this is really quite simple.

  • Make sure you take the time to truly understand design - If you are able to communicate important design elements (color theory, composition, negative space, etc.) it can help guide art direction for both you and your client. Being versatile in art styles can really give you a unique advantage to catering to a client’s requests, but always stay true to your style! Remember your portfolio work is a demonstration of the work you want to attract.

  • Ask questions - Make sure you can picture what the customer wants and do not make guesses. The client would much rather answer a few questions and have a piece they truly love than have you take a shot in the dark and give them something that might look great, but not embody their branding.

Why does this matter? Establishing yourself as a designer and branding specialist allows more authority in these conversations and allows you to price your services higher.

2. Negotiations

Negotiating can seem tricky but we’re here to help you out. An important part of negotiating is establishing a budget for the project. When planning to do a mural a typical budget will consider the following:

  • Size of mural / square footage

  • Purchase of equipment and installation materials (brushes, tarps, rollers, buckets, etc)

  • Cost of paint, primer, clear coat

  • Rental of scaffolding or lift equipment

  • Artist design fee - For more information on pricing click here (link to the previous blog I wrote)

  • Artist labor fee

  • Travel expenses (when needed)

  • Costs to cover the unknowns. This will typically be around 10% of the total project budget.

Always set a minimum budget and be adamant about not dropping below that minimum and selling yourself short. We’ve found that the cheaper the client is, the harder they typically are to manage. Remember you do not need to be intimidated. You are talented and the client knows that. If you are already in the negotiation phase, they more than likely are very interested in your work.

Why does this matter? Nothing is set in stone until a contract is written. Negotiating allows room for more creative freedom and ensures you get proper compensation.

3. Contracts and Deposits

Contracts are VERY IMPORTANT because they:

  • Stipulate everything you need to facilitate a mural deal

  • Clarify what needs to be done to do the job correctly

  • Establish a proper timeline

  • Protect you in multiple areas (if written correctly)

  • Set the price

  • State how many concepts and revisions the client gets

Clients will get used to taking advantage of you if you do not set clear enforceable boundaries at the beginning of the process. Don’t learn this the hard way, trust us here! We’ve done it and know how much of a pain this can be.

An important part of the contract is concepts and revisions. It is standard to have 2 concepts and 2-3 revisions. Anything they request that is not stated in the contract should cost extra. Always remember that your time is valuable!

Additionally you need to clarify who is paying for what. Scaffolding or a scissor lift should be provided by the client or included in the price. We would recommend charging at least 2X the price if you are paying for it.

A simplified contract example:

“50% upfront deposit. The concept development for “BRAND XYZ” is going to be due in on (this date). From there we have a 7 day deadline to create revisions. The mural application will also take a week or so. Upon completion of the mural the artist will take the remaining 50%”

Remember to include deposits in the contract! If for some reason there is a difficulty or fall through you will have your materials and concept development covered. A 50% UPFRONT DEPOSIT is common.

Art Business Disorganized Depictions
Burning Man Project by Fine Artist, Fnnch.

4. Professionalism

What is professionalism you might ask? Eric Mochnacz, the HR consultant at Red Clover, defines it as “someone's inherent ability to do what is expected of them and deliver quality work because they are driven to do so.” Acting professionally displays loyalty, dependability, and responsibility.

Signs of professionalism include:

  • Proper attire

  • Strong communication skills

  • Ethical actions

  • Calm under stress

  • Coming prepared

Why is this important? Being professional helps clients take you seriously. This can mean higher pay, better working conditions, and more creative freedom. Often clients will also recommend you to other potential clients and if you have your best foot forward more referrals are likely to follow.

We recommend always bringing everything you need for a project, even when a client offers something. This leaves less room for complaints and stipulations. This portion is really left up to your judgement, but we have had experiences where clients have hassled an artist about using a piece of their equipment after the client had politely offered it!

5. Expressing Gratitude & Authenticity

This is a great thing to practice in your day to day life, but it is especially important when interacting with clients. Art is a very personal thing and clients are going to want you to be one with your art and yourself. When you are passionate and believe in your work others will see and feel it.

When you receive a signed contract and are hired to create a piece of art for a client, they could have chosen from many people. They decided to choose you and that is something special. Appreciate that they really want to work with you in particular and show them gratitude.

Show gratitude by:

  • Saying thank you

  • Doing your work on time

  • Putting in full effort

  • Going above and beyond

Why is this important? You will be interacting with your client over the course of a couple weeks. It will make the process go much smoother and will make the job easier for you. When you have a positive attitude and act grateful these clients are more likely to refer you to other potential clients as well.

6. Collecting Feedback

“Client feedback is vital to the creative process,” says Jamie Fleming – head of copy at London-based design agency Purple Creative. “Clients see a project from a different perspective, and understand the business objectives in a way that a creative never will. We have been known to get too close to a project to see it objectively.”

Client feedback will help you streamline your process by :

  • Addressing issues in the contract - figuring out how to make things run smoother next time

  • Helping you practice branding by offering suggestions

  • Help you bulk your portfolio with positive reviews

  • Establish credibility in the industry

Hopefully these tips were able to help you understand client relationships and get the confidence to get out and start selling your work. Remember, creating the art is the hardest part. Once you can start practicing these steps you will become a huge success!

Need further help or development in your art career?

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