Historically speaking, the patronage system and artists go hand in hand. That is to say, an artist creates what a customer requests. Creating by request can be a challenge, but I like to think of it as an adventure. After all, we all come from different ‘communication’ cultures and can have varying ways of communicating our needs, wants, desires, and ideas to eachother.
The best advice I can give in regards to creating successful and, well… LOVED, custom order is to work on your communication. The more specific your correspondence is before you create a custom order, the better the results of product and customer satisfaction.
Here is a quick checklist:
Inquire to specifically what the customer is looking for. This is an important step, by using the guidelines below you will help the patron (customer) and yourself. I find sometimes those who’d like a custom order, aren’t sure exactly what they even want. The artist can help shape the concept from ‘imagination and desire’ into concrete reality.
* Listen, listen and listen some more. The customer might have a great idea you’ve never even thought of. Don’t go in there with your big plan before finding out what their ideas are.
* Find out what final ‘item’ is being requested. Most customers will know this right away.
* Find out what materials you need to work with.
* Find out any specific artistic “image, theme, or purpose” the item will represent.
* Find out how the item is to be used. Usually this is clear, but just in case…
* Find out how much the customer is expecting to spend.
* Find out if your time frame of completion matches the customers expecations.
* Always check your stock before making promises on time or cost.
* Be ready to fulfill any ‘promises’ you made.
The last one especially is important. If you do not think you can finish an item in time, or with the cost or style your customer would like, do not promise to make it.
Personally I have turned down custom requests on several occasions.
Sometimes a customer’s needs do not match my style, or even can be completely unrealistic into what can be created. Sometimes I do not have the materials on hand, or the materials needed cannot be easily acquired for the time or price expected. It is always important to be honest with you’re potential customer and turn down the order if you need to. If you want to be helpful, you can even refer them specifically if you know of someone else who would be a ‘better fit’ for their needs. I have no issue giving others business for those projects I won’t be able to’take on’. This frees me to work on other things,and helps satisfy the customer and other artist. Help is a good thing 🙂
Having good communication skills, and artistic integrity is a way to differentiate yourself as an honest, easy to work with artist. Being a skilled artist is only ‘half’ of what you need to be a successful artist.
Happy custom creating!
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