Requests, commissions, and the “boy I’d like to see thats….”

Richard Charpentier 30 Days in the Dells, Notes from Rich, Photography, Prints, RLC Design, Wide Format Printing 5 Comments

In the past few months I’ve learned a lot.  Ian has gotten a chuckle out of some of my gallery lessons.  The funny thing is, I keep re-learning them.

Up front I’ll say the following, and I’m not crabbing, just relaying experience:

When you order prints online you pay up front.  I’ve used for quite a while, and I love their work.  That said, here’s what I don’t get to do….. I don’t get to sit and look at the color calibrated monitor that the printer has.  I don’t know if my screen has told me what their screen tells them.  In the end, I’m hoping that the colors match what I think I’m getting in a print.  No slight on any online printer…it’s just a fact of the business.  Personally I’m glad to sit down with every client, show them what my monitor and printer believes their colors are, and work on matching what they want.  That said……

It’s been my policy to invoice customers and have them pay afterward.  I sit down with folks, tell them costs involved, ask them if they want to go forward, etc.  All up front and on the table.

I’m going to become more like online re-sellers.

A few weeks ago a client was a little surprised at their bill.  I went back over it with them, recounted our conversation, the works.  They acknowledged that they’d dropped off an extremely large job, heard my prices, agreed, saw me create their invoice, but were hoping for a deeper discount than the one I provided.  I was pretty surprised.  They tied me up for an entire day, and I turned away other clients who needed work completed that day….Hmph!

“You know, this economy is tough on folks…….”drift and sigh.  I’m living in this economy too young fella.  And unfortunately my Airstream ain’t made of Platinum or some other amazingly valuable metal.  😉

Going forward I’m going to be a “cash at time of order” kind of a guy.

Why do I write about this today?  Well, I almost did it again, only this time things worked out the right way.  What did I do?  Let’s cover my first lesson……

After opening the gallery (Grand opening that is) a few “regulars” from Ian’s old gallery popped by.  I knew them from previous locations and found them to be pleasant people.  They looked through my selection of “minis” (smaller prints) and found one they really liked, but it was too small for their purposes.  They suggested I create a smaller sized gallery wrap of the print and they’d buy it immediately.

Watson LakeI instantly got to work on my first small gallery wrap!  Hey, they wanted it, and they’d buy it!

After producing the small wrap I didn’t see our regulars for a few weeks.  Owning several homes in the U.S. they are busy folks, and they’re not always here.  Time was required.

Finally they made it back in and checked out their custom wrap.  The borders on the wrap were black, not continuous image, and that’s what they’d hoped for.  Unfortunately when we spoke that’s not what they requested.  The custom print was not what they wanted, so they didn’t buy it, but they were sure somebody would.  They asked if I could make the same wrap size with the image going all the way around.

That day I made the second custom wrap.

Weeks later the folks popped by again.  The new image was done and wrapped.  Unfortunately, the location they wanted to hang their new prize was a little smaller than they’d specified.  The wrap was perfect, but a little too big. They picked up one of the unframed minis and purchased it instead.  They had a small frame that the print could go in, and the frame would fit the extremely specific location in their home outside AZ.

Not too long ago I slightly dropped the prices on my minis.  After visiting many galleries across AZ I decided to sell the minis a little lower.  My huge prints are well below the market average, but my minis were a little higher for the region……

My special request folks returned, saw the new prices and were bent out of shape.  They wanted an extra one to compensate for the price drop (no, the price didn’t drop by half).

It’s at this point that I’ll say the two custom canvases cost me a sizable stack of minis worth of printing.  The stretcher bars were paid for retail, not wholesale.  And I felt that a wrap in the size requested wasn’t a great idea.  But I did it all.

There’s the old story…..custom request….they should be paid for up front, written down, and signed off on.  Simple stuff.

Quite a while ago I had another custom request.  This time it was a specific photo that I had not taken.  A certain location, a certain scene, a favorite place for the person making the request.  They popped by the gallery a few times to check on progress.  I’d been hopping, printing like a mad man, and spending a ton of time at the gallery, not on location.

Finally I got “on location” and did a series of shots.  Early in the morning, hair still wet from the shower, waiting for sunrise.  Freezing.

treesetup-1-of-2Did I mention freezing?

Well, I got the shot, and a few more.  And they were worthwhile shots for folks interested in local landmarks and pretty scenes.

I called the client recently.  Let them know that I had a series for them to review.  Heck, I even printed a 16×24″ wrap I liked it so much and knew they would too.  Did a few minis and a few unframed larger prints. I didn’t hear from the customer for a few days after my call…..

No show…….  Oh no, I did it again!

Ian has told me multiple times of his war stories.  Requested paintings that he’d spent weeks on.  Then when they were completed no call backs, no visits, no shows.  He finally started requiring up front payment on commissions.  That’s why they’re called commissions.  Guess I still need to learn a little more.  He’s figured it out, but he’s been doing it a while.

Fortunately there’s a neat ending to this story.  I made a 16″x24″ gallery wrap of the specific scene requested.  The image came through so nicely that I thought it would be cool to make the print.  The client hadn’t come in yet, but I liked the print that much.  And when it was done Ian liked it that much too and popped it in the window.

A woman walked in and asked about the gallery wrap mere hours after it went in the window.  It reminded her of something she’d heard in reference to her son who’d passed on some time ago.  She saw the image walking by the gallery and had to come in.  She wanted to know if we’d do a lay away for her.  The image just caught her and she wanted to make sure she could get it.  Glad we popped it up in the window.

In the end, the person who requested the image also came in, and they liked it!  Wow, ran the risk and this time it worked out.  Still, I think custom work will have to be paid up front.  One bad lesson in hand, one positive story as well.  Still, there’s a lot of investment up front when doing work for others, and if you approach that type of work the wrong way you could loose big time.

Anybody want two small gallery wraps of the Granite Dells??? Seriously, I’ll make you a deal….  🙂

Comments 5

  1. Your work and time are valuable. Those who fail to show, pay or respect that probably take away from all of us because you won’t have the time or resources to continue to be creative. Someone’s always looking for a deal. You’re making the right decision. Custom and or commission also means committment. Yours AND THEIRS. Best to ya.

  2. Yup, for commisioned work either ask for full, up-front payment, or at least a sizable down-payment (50% or full materials cost at minimum). And just to cover yourself, get the specs in writing and signed off on, that way you can’t be denied payment due to breach of contract.

    I’m not sayin’ you have to be mean, I’m just sayin’ it’s better to be safe than sorry, esp. where “regulars” and “friends” may try to push their advantage. This way, y’all remain friends without it getting into nasty he-said/they-said kinds of meltdowns.

  3. Post

    Tony & Rob, well said both. 🙂

    I can generate an upfront invoice with Quickbooks and print it right off. That’s what I’ve been doing, but we’ll go a step further. Has to be done, and it isn’t mean. Just making sure I can survive in the tough economy too. 😀

  4. You know…they say, “if all be-backs were green-backs…we’d all be rich!”

    I mean, you are still Rich by default, but there’s nothing more annoying than holding something for someone, or making something for someone, and then they don’t follow through on their end of the bargain. Money up front is a wonderful idea…so are lay aways with 25% non-refundable down payments…

    Just sayin’ 😉

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