How many times do we get an email saying “I love this piece, can I use it for *insert reason here*”. I got one of such emails last year around December, and like many times before I rolled my eyes, most especially because it was for promotional and or commercial purposes. I have the habit, however, of not leaving unanswered emails and of incessantly try to educate people, I assume most people are not trying to take advantage of the artist but are under the wrong impression that we will work for free because ah, la boheme! This idea is spread by the popular culture and, sadly, many artists themselves…. As if accepting money was prostitution.
So I promptly and politely explained that art is my livelihood, and having to care for two children I really can’t afford not charging for it. But if they wanted they could commission me to work for them. I was surprised when a mail did follow up, very honestly expressing their disappointment at not being allowed to use the Crow Triskele for free but willing to hear about me working for them. Soon we were going back and forth about possible ideas but there was a lack of enthusiasm from their part, they really loved the original piece as it was.
After a few emails and a good night sleep it finally occurred to me that if they liked the piece as it was then I could refine it, since the original was little more than an advanced draft and very old. My main concern was that the piece they liked is one I offer as a tattoo for free and it is my most popular piece, which brings me business, therefore I was reluctant to let it go. So we decided that I was going to rework the piece to refine it, and that we were going to share commercial rights while I still could continue to offer it as a free tattoo.
Lessons learned :
Do not disregard possible commercial opportunities. While most of the times these kind of mails lead to nothing, this one time not only I got a commission out of it but also I got to forge a positive and amiable relationship with my client.
Be honest but polite. Explain art is your income, people can understand that. Keep the sarcasm to yourself, it is not professional. Expect honesty in return and respect it, this is a possible client, respect is fundamental in your relationship.
Be willing to find a creative solution to keep both parties happy. You might find out that a little thinking can solve a conflict where a flat “I’m sorry, but no” seems the only answer at the beginning.
Remember that a happy client is a returning costumer and can refer you to others, do your best to offer the best quality possible.