During the Success Summit I had this past summer, I invited a variety of panelists from the trade and interior design community to come and speak to artists to share their insights and tips for working with them successfully. While they answered many of the questions relating to how to get work seen and discovered (and I’ve dedicated blogs to this as well), one of the most common questions was: Once you’ve secured a commission or sold a piece to interior designers and trade buyers, what can you do to maintain, and even improve, your working relationship so that you can guarantee success in the future? Interior designers and trade buyers want the same things their customers and clients do—they want to be served and satisfied. While there are innumerable ways to make your own clients—namely interior designers and trade buyers—happy, I’ve whittled them down to 6 Ways to Guarantee Success Working with Interior Designers and Trade Buyers
Artist Karen Rolfes is very successful creating commissioned works for her clients because she practices these 6 tips:
1. Be Flexible.
This seems painfully obvious, but it’s true. Trade buyers and interior designers aren’t the ones calling the shots—their clients are. So don’t be surprised if dates shift, plans change, budgets change, or meetings get canceled. Interior designers and trade buyers are, like you, trying to keep their clients happy and maintain a positive relationship. This requires that everyone be a little flexible. That’s not to say you can’t charge for your time and work, but it does mean you maintain a gracious and understanding attitude when things don’t work out perfectly. A trade buyer or an interior designer will be much more likely to hire you again if you are easy to work with and accommodating.
2. Be Professional.
While you have to be flexible with your clients, they may not always be—or can be—as flexible as you, because their own clients are making demands that they’re trying to appease. So it’s best to operate as professionally as possible. This means responding to emails and phone calls immediately. Responsiveness can make or break client relationships. Another is to adhere to the budgets that the interior designer or trade buyer has set. They are often given these budgets by their clients and don’t have a lot of flexibility. So you need to be sure you’re doing whatever you can to execute the order on time and on budget.
2. Be Humble.
Now we’re not saying you can’t be proud of the work you do, but you don’t want to be so proud that you can’t take a suggestion or a criticism. Try not to be easily offended when an interior designer or trade buyer asks you to change or modify a piece of work to match their clients taste or specifications, especially when working on a commissioned piece. Don’t take it as a personal attack on your work, the client may just prefer different colors, textures, or size.
3. Be Transparent.
You want to be as clear as you can about your pricing and commission-payment structure up front (for example, do you expect to be paid 30% upfront, 30% midway, and 30% upon completion of the project or do you expect to receive flat payment upon submission?) You also want to be honest about your schedule and the time you have to commit to a project. If you don’t think you can make a deadline, say so. Better to be in communication with your client than leave them disappointed. By being completely transparent from the beginning about your own expectations and limitations, you will avoid awkward conversations in the future.
4. Be Accessible.
Keep your website up to date with quality photos of available work and recently finished projects. If you are willing to do a commission work, be sure to state that on your website. Designers are always looking for specific sizes and colors for their projects. Also, make it as easy as you can to navigate your website and to contact you. Make clearly visible your email address and phone number. You don’t want to lose out on a potential client because they had to click through too many pages to find your contact form.
5. Don’t Poach.
We’re not talking eggs here. We’re talking clients. When we say don’t poach an interior designer or trade buyer’s clients, we mean don’t go around an interior designer or trade buyers back and contact their client directly to sell the work to them. Yes, it seems like a lot of money interior designers and trade buyers get in commission from selling your work, but in the long run, they could sell a lot of your work for you (all the while incurring the costs of marketing, selling, and spending time keeping a client happy). And know that an interior designer’s or trade buyer’s clients may try to reach out to you, often to save themselves some money and cut out the middleman. You don’t want to damage long-held relationships or potential future relationships with the interior designer or trade buyer for a short-term gain.
Know that trade buyers, art consultants, and interior designers are your partners and are looking to serve both you and their clients at the same time. I work with interior designers and trade buyers every day to help them find the artists and the work that will best serve their projects. One of the ways I do this is by sharing our trade catalog, The Blink Art Resource, with clients. If you’re an artist who wants to work with trade buyers and interior designers, the Blink Art Resource reaches over 10,000 designers, trade buyers and art collectors each year. To learn more how you can be featured in Blink Art click here.