What are some tips for working with your clients or customers?
If you’re going to be a working artist, you’re going to be working with clients or customers. Some will be great to work with and others will be, well, not so ideal.
Nurturing and navigating relationships is just one side of life as a working artist, though, as another challenge you may face is figuring out how to create what you want to create while still giving the client what they’re looking for.
Our Allies share below some stories and tips on what’s worked for them when dealing with clients and customers.
I looked at my photography as a product because it’s problem solving. That’s how it’s used, either editorially or for advertising. You can create the coolest image ever but if it doesn’t solve a specific problem, then it’s not going to be bought. A lot of times that’s hard when you’re sending in work to magazines over and over and it’s getting rejected. You’re kind of like, Why? I don’t get it, my work is really good, it looks as good as what’s running. But it just didn’t solve the particular problem that needed to be solved. I think that you’ve really got to do your homework today and figure out what you want to do, who you want to work for and the style you want to have.
If someone contacts me and their first question is, How much to paint this? I stop right there because that’s not the right question to ask.
It’s just a learning experience. I learned that those are not the types of clients I want. I do my best to be respectful and nice and tell them, Hey, I’m probably not who you’re looking for. I’ve found those people are looking for someone to paint a bedroom or a garage for $200 to $300 and my materials cost more than that. So I think they kind of weed themselves out or I’ve found a way to weed them out.
And then in the case where they have the budget, I typically just tell them my price per square foot and my minimum price. And if that’s within their budget or it’s reasonable for them, then we proceed onto the next phase of the process. But kind of giving them my minimum right off the bat has been helpful to educate.
Initially I had a hard time turning people down. I felt bad, but sometimes they wanted something I didn’t really do. So I’ve gotten better at communicating and I guess letting people down softly to where they understand where I’m coming from.
I think the most important thing is just being a nice person. Being able to go with the flow and just being able to get along with other people is probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned is valuable to have. Because you can be the best photographer in the world, but if you’re a total pain to shoot with and hang out with, no one is going to want to hire you.
I give a lot of things away for free. I’m constantly sending people little screen prints or the books or just random things. Sometimes if somebody orders a print I’ll say, You bought eight of my things in the last couple of years, here’s one for free.
I think it’s little things. People love it. I love it.
There’s this design studio in Switzerland that I love called Büro Destruct and somebody I met while living there set it up for me to go to their studio. I was just some random American kid in my 20s showing up but they gave me a tour of the studio and went to their flat files and basically said, Open some drawers, take some stuff out. They had all of these old posters and stuff. I was like, Holy crap, I’m leaving with ten posters, that just made my day, this is amazing.
So to be able to do that for other people, why not if I have extra copies? Yeah, I can sell it for $35. Or I can make this person’s day.