The Hostile Client – Art Biz Tip #601

The Hostile Client – Art Biz Tip #601

Years ago we got a call from a start up company – they were desperate to get artwork for their new product, they had 3 days to get an ad for a full page that they had already paid for. Same old story – the artist they first hired dropped the ball and now they had no time to figure it out.

One thing that Drew is known for is getting things done! So, he agreed, at an elevated price, to pull a few all nighters to get it done in time for their ad. The client agreed to purchase the original art as well. They paid for the artwork for the ad, but when I went to collect for the original painting, this is where things went wrong….

I’m going to preface this by saying that in hindsight, it wasn’t all their fault. I take at least half responsibility. You see, I’m used to people saying they want a painting but then when it comes time to pay, they change their minds. So, my policy has become, a painting isn’t sold until it’s paid for (or a deposit is put down on it). We had an art show coming up, and I knew that it would sell there. So I called the client and said, look, if you get me payment by Friday, then I won’t put it in our exhibit. I think that ticked him off, and it all went down hill from there. He freaked out, screamed and yelled, and after many nasty e-mails and phone calls, I finally got his deposit and agreed not to put it in the exhibit.

And as bad luck would have it, when he finally did pay it off and I shipped it to him, it got lost in the mail (I sent it USPS). He thought I was messing with him, and accused me of all sorts of bad character traits. The painting finally surfaced, and he got it eventually, but the bad blood was indeed bad.

In hindsight, I realize that I should have handled him better – been gentler, but still hold my ground. I shouldn’t have responded to nasty e-mails, because that egged him on, and I should have been 100% professional and kept my emotions out of it. I can honestly say, that was the worst experience I’ve ever had with a client.

MORAL OF THE STORY: When there’s a difficult client, take a look at yourself and see what you might be doing to contribute to the problem. After all, you don’t have control over their actions, but you do have control over yours.

And later, when it’s all over, ask yourself, “What could I have done better? What can I change next time I have this situation?”

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  • Maria "Spunk" Brophy
    Posted at 15:52h, 31 October

    Thanks, Carol! I tell Drew everyday that he’s lucky to have me. Maybe one day he’ll believe it! (Just kidding)

    I hope that sometime soon we’ll be working with you and Mod!

  • Carol
    Posted at 16:48h, 28 October

    Maria – i love these articles. You really are great – Drew is lucky to have you in his business as well as his life. I am still trying to figure out how we can work with you – and know it will come to pass. Thanks again for keeping me on your e-mail list. Carol Dukes

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