Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pet Portrait Business Models

© Leigh Jackson
Today I want to talk about business models and give a quick shout out to someone who I admire as an artist and really respect as a business woman. Leigh Jackson with Noisy Dog Studios has been painting dogs for quite awhile. She has a call for photos going on right now for a special project she is doing in 09. Send her your pup pics and she might just choose them as one of her subjects to paint next year. It costs you nothing, and your pet might be chosen as her next subject. You can always purchase your artwork later if you wish. This is not a contest, and not a gimmick. It is just a brilliant idea and something she wants to do. Read more about it and visit her website to check out her artwork. A portion of her proceeds on this project will benefit A Place to Bark. It looks like she will be combining her blog and twitter feed to add an extra element of fun to the project... clever girl!

I love Leigh's regular terms on her portrait site. She takes a 50% deposit on her commissions, and shows her clients a final proof. If they love their portrait they pay the balance, if not they forfeit their deposit and she sells the painting on-line to her large fan base of dog lovers. I can not imagine anyone not falling in love with their portrait since she has a unique and wonderful style that gets right to the essence of her subjects. That is all there is to ordering with Leigh and it is so simple and so brilliant. She avoids the hassle of repainting, reproofing and jumping through other hoops to match her artistic vision to that of her clients. I am sure she probably quizzes them on favorite colors etc. but when it comes right down to it she just does her own thing and listens to her own instincts. It is pure and honest and I love it!

Here at Art Paw I try to stay true to my inner voice as well and yet my terms are a little different. I do offer a money back guarantee, and also find myself redesigning and reproofing occasionally. Of course with digital art that is so much easier to do. I point out our differences not because I think my way is the best way, but to show that there are many many ways to work, and the trick is finding a way that works well for you the artist and for your clients. One of my goals for 09 is to rethink and rework my own business model a bit. There are many things about it that work like a well oiled machine, but then there are things that I could improve on a lot. I do not know yet what changes I will be making. One thing I want to do is stop promising such fast turn-arounds. It makes me crazy and I often loose sleep worrying about deadlines. That is the nature of commercial art, but at some point you have to educate people about art and let them know that your fastest work does not always equal your best work, sometimes it actually does, but not always. This week I am really fortunate to be working with some of the most patient laid back clients on the planet so my stress level is pretty low.

There are so many ways to design a custom pet portrait business. If you are a commercial or fine artist working on demand please be generous if you have time and leave us a comment and share some insights you may have about what commission working terms you use that have or have not worked in the past. Another goal in 09 is to continue to support other artists on this blog, and to try to open up dialogues. I have some regular blogging art buddies that I love hearing from and yet I know there are other readers out there that have never even said hi yet. Don't be shy! To leave a comment just click on the text link below this post that has a number and the word "comments" next to it and a window will open up... it's very easy.


Kathy Weller said...

I am SO GLAD you chose to highlight LEigh and in particular her business model. For so long I've been perplexed by it and at the same time oh so envious. I love the way she works. It really takes DECISIVENESS and a huge amount of GUTS (well, what I really mean to say is B_LLS, but I was trying to keep this G-rated). I have saluted her in private for so long, but now it is great that you are saluting her in PUBLIC for it. Thanks again Beccs for a great post.

Rebecca said...

Thanks for the great comment. Yea, Leigh strikes me as an artist with a strong will and a lot of b_lls as you say. But then look at her breed of choice, with Boston Terriers ruling her roost she would have to sort of know herself and have a tad bit of determination. We are very lucky to know so many talented women.

Anonymous said...

Great post Rebecca. I do admire Leigh's Pet Portrait protocol and I think this calendar and book project will be amazing.

For me I'd never get the pet portrait done, I would obsess over 'was my client going to be happy with the final painting?' By offering a digital sketch, both the client and I know what the expectation is and I can paint away rest assured. (But honestly, I still stress a little on color and the digital hues vs my actual paint!)

Rebecca said...

I know what you mean on the color thing, that is why I tell everyone that colors may vary from monitor to monitor, to actual print. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

Daniel Sroka said...

I love that for whatever art you do, there's a whole network of people to learn from and work with.

Rebecca said...

So true and the web makes it very easy to find people you can really connect with. There is always that delicate tight rope to walk when it comes to networking with your competition, your casual associates, and yet when done well there are those true lasting friendships that can arise. Blogging can be a great tool for supporting others.

Manon Doyle said...

Great post Rebecca! I love what Leigh's doing! Thanks for sharing both Leah's and your business model. Good info!

Kimberly Kelly Santini said...

Leigh is onto a great thing. For 3 years now I've been doing a pet portrait a day, and it's been an amazing journey. My clients book a day, no strings attached (or deposit). I paint their animal, share it with them, blog about it for my readers, and donate proceeds to shelters and animal rescues. Total win-win - if the client wants the portrait they get it, if not, it's adoptable to another household. And homeless pets come out ahead. Another perk - daily work FORCES artistic growth, so I always win too.,

Rebecca said...

Hey Manon, thanks for dropping by.

Kimberly, love the phrase "adoptable to another household". I like that not just because it is doggy, but because our artwork often feels like part of us and it can be like parting with a family member when we place our work in new hands. Thanks so much for commenting.

Susan Donley said...

Hi Rebecca!

Count me as one of the lurkers checking in! Thanks for the invitation. You are right that it feels funny at first to consort with the "competition," but when I do dare to do it, it has always been rewarding and heartwarming! What's there to fear from folks who love both art and animals? We've got a head start on connecting!

Speaking of that, I "met" Leigh on Twitter when I decided to follow some other pet portraitists. We've chatted about how great it is that with art, there's such a variety of expressive styles, that true competition seldom exists. Her new project is inspired!

My business model has been evolving, as I learn more about what makes both me and my customer comfortable. A portrait commission definitely results in a relationship, not just a sale, by the time you work with the client to select photos, send proofs back and forth, and have looked into their beloved pet's eyes for more than 10 hours.

For me to feel comfortable to initiate the relationship, I need a commitment in the form of a deposit and a signed commission agreement. For them to feel comfortable dealing with an artist they found on the web (where 50% of my clients come from), they need some kind of guarantee that they won't end up hating the portrait or losing their money, so I offer a 100% satisfaction or you even get your deposit back and I retain the portrait to sell to someone else (they can't return it after delivery unless it has been damaged in transit -- then insurance covers it). I tell them I can make that guarantee because I intend to work on it until they are happy with it. Admittedly, with my realistic style it's less risky to judge "success" than some of the more expressive styles with subjective color use, etc.

I've only had to refund a deposit once and that was because the client lost their job before I even had a chance to begin work. Though I wasn't obligated to return her deposit, I did out of basic human decency and the chance to make her a customer later. But having the deposit refund policy ("100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back") puts people at ease and fits with everything the pundits say about building trust doing business online.

Now that I've protected my customers, where I feel like I need more protection is in the quality of reference photos I get to work from (the bane of all portraitists who work from photos!). I often spend 1-2 hours in Photoshop doctoring photos and researching breeds and anatomy to make up for flash-lit, glowing-eyed, postage-stamp-sized photos. I wish I could levy a Terrible Photo Surcharge, but can't picture myself being able to implement it without caving! ;-) Maybe a Great Photo Discount would work better! I offer a lot of tips on taking suitable photos, but that only works with living pets.

I better get back to the drawing board! Thanks for the invitation to de-lurk! I appreciate your effort to open the dialog on business practices. There are enough beloved pets and unique artistic styles to go around for all of us, I think!

Sue Donley

Rebecca said...

Sue thanks so much for the well thought out comment. YAY! I got a lurker to post.

On bad pics: I agree it would be hard to slap folks with a terrible photo fee although I have thought of it. You are right, the better approach would of course be to set your prices to assume the pics will be bad and then maybe offer a rebate of sorts for folks that actually can submit a great photo that follow your guidelines. Bad pics are 2nd on my list of headaches right after quick turn-around needs.

On refunds: in 10 years I have refunded on one canceled project due to the financial hardship of the client and have had one client cancel prior to printing. So the money back offer is a very good one for me.
Ok now off to follow you on twitter.

Gwen Rosewater said...

Sue Donley speaks for me when she talks about those darned bad photos. I am sure it is the top gripe from most of us, and very difficult to address. I rather like the idea of some kind of discount for good photos- it might motivate people without making them feel penalized for poor photos. Does anyone one here actually do that?

Gwen Rosewater

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.