Commissioned Art – How to Stay in Control Throughout the Process by M Theresa Brown
Commissioned art. It’s the bread and butter art for many artists. It’s what pays the bills. And it’s also the one area where an unsuspecting and unprepared artist first comes face to face with Client Changes. Learning HOW to prevent surprise changes is the key to an artist enjoying creating commissioned art.
So let’s start with the artist’s best scenario: You’ve created, completed and been paid for the art commission by your client. She is delighted, appreciative and cannot wait to display your artwork in her home.
Then comes the artist’s worst scenario: the phone call or email asking for changes in the commissioned piece.
What happened? Why would a client call the artist a month, 6 months, even years later and ask for changes? Recently, on our marketing forum, an artist put that query forth when the client asked her to make changes 4 YEARS after commissioning the original piece. The artist was trying to figure out what to do and how to handle it. If she did not gain control of the situation she would not only be struggling with an almost impossible task but destroying any chance of repeat commissions from the same client or the client’s friends. The key is to handle this long BEFORE the situation ever comes to this point. In this particular case, the client’s original dog portrait was not altered (and a new dog added to it) but a new portrait was initiated. To prevent this scenario from repeating itself, the artist then had to learn what to say to stop it from occurring again with another (or even the same client).
So what actually happened here? In the world of art, the consumer often assumes that an artist can go back to a piece of art at any time and change it. But why would that even be necessary when the client was so pleased initially?
This artist is experiencing a common phenomena called the “THIRD PARTY SYNDROME” and it happens everywhere in the world of marketing. It’s not “buyer’s remorse”. The client did not regret purchasing your piece of art. It is what happens when a previously happy client is influenced by a self proclaimed “third party” expert who picks your art commission apart and offers “suggestions” and puts doubt into your client’s mind after they get it home. This is the same personality type who will always know where you could have purchased something cheaper and better. It could be a friend, a relative or a neighbor of the client And this exasperating phenomena will continue to happen in your art career unless you take steps to stop it BEFORE it happens.
How do you stop it? Learn to HANDLE AN OBJECTION BEFORE IT ARISES! That sentence is the single most valuable sales tip I have learned in my long art career as a working artist! It has changed the way that I do business with commissioned clients and continues to smooth the path to long term and happy relationships with the same clients! Handling an objection BEFORE it arises is a well known sales technique. Despite the Third Party Syndrome being one of the most common problems in the world of the commissioned artist, the solution I am sharing with you won’t be found anywhere else in the art marketing world!
OK. So what do I do and say that puts ME in control of my artwork AND my clients and stops them from returning the art piece for changes that are not theirs? When I finalize a transaction and am handing over the artwork to my client, I say, with a professional attitude, smile and a laugh, something similar to:
“I am delighted that you love this piece! Now I don’t mind making any adjustments to it that you (and whoever else is paying for it) may like me to make within the next two weeks. After all, I’m working for YOU. But I’ll only make YOUR changes. (keep smiling) That’s because there is someone, somewhere, within your family, or your neighborhood or a social group, who is not only a self proclaimed expert but whose goal in life is to make you unhappy with any decision or purchase that you have made..(there is always a BIG smile or laugh by the client because someone has already come to mind!).. DON’T give them that power!“
Do you see what I have done? I have cheerfully and professionally HANDLED the OBJECTION before it has arisen. When the negative person in my client’s life becomes critical of my client’s new art piece, in the back of her mind are MY words, warning her NOT to let that critical person have the power to make her unhappy. I have saved myself untold hours of labor and exasperation. And you will as well.
Not knowing HOW to handle the third party syndrome is one of the biggest reasons that artists who start off doing commissions, stop. The frustration becomes overwhelming. What I have shared will put an artist in control throughout the process.
But you know what else I have done? I have given my client a much welcome psychological tool to challenge the negative individual in more areas than just my piece of commissioned artwork! I have given my client the power to negate the influence that the “expert” originally might have had over my client’s decision making abilities! And in doing so, both the client and I are the winners!
From the Art Career Experts