Thursday, August 30, 2012

More Work, Fewer Clients: Create Lasting Business Relationships

Repeat customers is the key my dad used to say is the way to build your business. If your customer knows he will be treated with respect and honesty, they will usually come back. That was in the grocery store, but the same applies to the Illustration business. Long time business relationships become that way by the following:

1. Be real. And real nice. Clients have hired you to be the expert. If you feel that there is a flaw in the document layout or a better way to get the message across, it is your job to relay that message. I love emails for this. It gives me a chance to word the idea so that no feelings are damaged. Take every opportunity to compliment your clients on their good taste. It reminds them that they have made the right decision hiring you, and will be more likely to allow you to do your job.

2. Work quickly while retaining quality. Deadlines are crucial to most clients. One of the quickest ways to lose a client is to be late on a project or over budget. It usually takes more time at the beginning of a project, so be ready to put a bit extra in to assure quality doesn't suffer.

3. Be a part of the team. Even if you work remote and never see your clients. There is a lot of pressure in some companies, and good team skills will reflect a happy and productive group.

Being a team player means:

Sharing: Don't be stingy with ideas. The more the better.
Be on time for meetings.
Listen.
Research ahead.
Compliment.
Show confidence, not arrogance.
Be helpful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Downsizing Your Art Studio or Office

Moving into a new environment can be taxing and exhilarating at the same time. Creating a new studio space with half the size can make you nuts. Don't let it. There are ways to maximize storage and consolidate supplies for the ultimate efficient working area.

In this economy, many are having to down size to stay in the field they love, or move closer to the city for more or better jobs. This may mean having to give up that nice open room for a dinky dim lit office or even sharing with bedroom space. Here are some ideas to make the move less painful.



Take inventory of furniture.
Art files can be huge and take up half of a small room. But for me, it is one of the top 5 items in my studio. It also doubles as a table. If your drawing table has not been used in years due to your move to digital work, now may be the time to store it or even just turn the table on end and put it in an accessible closet for when you need it. My drawing table is used for about 1/3 of my work, so it is another  important piece. Then there is the computer, scanner, printer, and fax. My small printer/scanner is something that I use everyday along with the computer. The large format scanner can be stored until I have some larger paintings to scan and the fax can even be set up under the desk or on the floor. Some overhead cupboards can be some of the most space efficient items in your studio. They can be at arms length away, yet leave room for table top workspace. Don't forget about the file cabinet with all those wonderful contracts and invoices. I have one word for those of you moving to a smaller studio. Purge. Are there old receipts and documents that can be shredded? This leads us into the next item on my list.

Let go of old supplies. 
When was the last time you used those oil paints? I kept a set of paints for 20 years thinking that I would surely use them again. Of course I knew that they would no longer be good, but I finally realized I was afraid that if I didn't keep them, I was never going to paint in oils again. Well guess what, I didn't anyway. What I didn't realize was that by letting go of them, I freed up my psyche and my studio to try a new medium. Since photography and computers have changed drastically over the the years, there is no need to keep those old supplies and books.

Decide on what medium is most used and maximize the area to accomodate the space accordingly.
Most of my work is either digital or watercolors, or a combination of the two. Keep those areas stocked with supplies that are at your fingertips. Take special care in giving the most attention to your money makers.

Good lighting is crucial.
Painting with watercolors dictates lots of light. A bright area near natural light is crucial. If natural light is limited, investing in some corrective lighting fixtures may be important for your work. Just the opposite is true for digital work done on the computer. Keep the screen facing away from windows, as the glare can make it

Are you a slop artist or a neat freak?
Do you need a space for spilling and splattering, or does your work come alive in a tidy atmosphere? Flooring may matter if you are dripping acrylic or oil paint, so keep this in mind when choosing the room and your flooring.

Sounds good?
Keep phone conversations professional. A quiet area lets clients know you mean business and can get the job done. Many of my clients pay me by the hour and rely on you to be able to concentrate on the task at hand. This could be questioned if there are crying children or a blaring TV in the background. Even a temporary and movable standing screen that acts as a wall can remove you from the rest of the house if a separate room is out of the question.

Where do you want to put your money?
As I said before, choose the art medium that is most important and structure your studio to maximize the efficiency in that small space. Phone, computer, invoices and the things you use everyday should be kept at arms length. Put your money into making it comfortable to be productive. It will pay off. 

I found a great website that helped me plan out the arrangement of my small studio. There are lots of different websites you can use, but here is the link to the one I found helpful:

http://planyourroom.com/