Friday, December 26, 2014

Commission Tips part 3: Communication

Really this is a continuation of last Article Fridays post.  The topic of communication is so important it needs its own post.

JJ blogging, communication it is one of the best traits that differentiates us from the animals.  While animals communication tends to be more clear it can be somewhat simple.

Human communication has afforded us to not only literally take over the world but also destroy it.  We've accomplished, and will continue to accomplish, seemingly impossible tasks because of it.  The one little step for mankind phrase when stepping onto the moon could be metaphorical.  The physical act of transporting someone to another heavenly body would have never happened without the thousands of years of communication that lead to the inevitable act.

Think about communication for a moment.  Forget the primary way we communicate, body language.  Also forget about the second largest way we communicate, how we say something.  For this topic we need to focus on the smallest percentage of communication the words we choose.  We are ignoring 90%+ of communication in this topic because of the medium most commission artists will communicate with clients.  I'll cover communication when your talking in person with a client at the end.

You've received an email from someone that wants to give you money to paint toy soldiers.  Mother-fucker are you excited!  It is important to present and conduct yourself in a professional and upstanding manner.  This isn't a one time thing with communication.  It is constant.  From the first email to the last.  The only time I'd say it is ok to present yourself, and thus your business, in a more relaxed casual way is with a close buddy or friend that is hiring you.  Still need to be business like in those transactions.

Grammar is key.  Doesn't matter if the client can't spell the word 'minatur' you should communicate constantly with the same standard of grammar.  You alone are responsible for how you conduct yourself in your business.  Besides painting fun models you need to be professional so you can get the monies (see what I did there?).  If you're like me and have been told by many people on the internet that 8th graders utilize better grammar than I, it would be a great idea to have someone you know who possesses excellent grammar to proof read your stuff and make necessary changes.  Keeping your grammar up to a certain standard isn't just for those clients that want their 'modals' painted, is it for those clients who have fantastic grammar.  We live in an internet age where anything we do online can and will be held against us.  Doesn't matter if you do good or have precise grammar.  Someone will find some reason to think poorly of you.  As a commission artist communicating the first time with a potential client what you want to avoid is losing the client because of your grammar.  It doesn't matter if theirs isn't proper.  On the plus side if someone who uses excellent grammar and you respond back with excellent grammar you've won more than half the job right there.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.  How you communicate during the first several emails will determine if you're hired or not.  Here's possibly the most important thing I can say about commission work.

                                                   You're always being interviewed.

If you're lucky the interview never ends.  Why, if you're being interviewed you have work.  Not being interviewed, no work.  You must conduct and communicate properly the entire time.

Now for the majourity of communicating with a client.  Body language and how we say something.

If you're lucky to ever speak with a potential client face-to-face you'll need to be in your best interview mode the entire time.  There's a reason you have two ears and one mouth.  Use them in proportion.  Be engaged.  If they are looking at the model, also look at the model.  Maintain eye contact.  Focus on the power/business gaze.  The triangle between the eyes and top edges of the forehead.  The only time you should be looking at someones mouth is if you're going to be doing something with it.  Sit in the first third of the seat leaning forward.  Keep your hands visible at all times and back straight.  No slouching at this job interview.  Learn to mirror your potential client.  If they lean back, lean back also.  Not immediately but a little bit later.  The phrase: Birds of a feather flock together isn't meaningless.  People like each others because they are similar to them.  Hence friends tend to behave like each other.  The group essentially becomes one person.  You need to become one person with your client.  They need to know that you are worth their time and can do what you promise.  That was touched on in the last Article Friday post: Expectations.

Here are some points for meeting a client in person:

  • Smile.  When you walk in the building walk in like you own the place.  Smile is the best way to put anyone at ease.
  • Never put your hands in your pockets.  Always keep them visible.
  • Never cross your arms or hands.
  • Feet should be kept at shoulder width apart.  Closer together signals uncertainy, specifically insecurity.  Farther apart means I'm the boss, specifically arrogance.
  • If alcohol is involved. Never drink more than the client.  Yes its tasty.  You can have more when you're celebrating after the meeting is done.

Would probably be a good time to talk about communication when things turned bad with a client.

Something to keep in mind when things go bad for a commission: The internet doesn't forget.

The commission has gone to crap and the client doesn't want you to work on the models anymore.  Could be for any reason.  People aren't rational, static, logical machines.  People have feelings, instincts and aren't quantifiable.  If a client is pressed for a reason why the commission is stopped, do yourself a favour and don't expect the truth.  People are also very careful about hurting others feelings.  My suggestion, and this is a tough one to wrap one's head around.  Don't ask for the reason.  Just accept that the client doesn't want you to work on their models anymore.  Yeah it stinks.  How can we grow without feedback?  If the client is mean, bullying, insulting about your work when comparing you to someone else they hired, realize they are simply trying to get under your skin and want to inspire a reaction.  That behaviour is for children.  You're a professional, you have to be the adult.  Clients who fire you can act however they want because nothing is going to happen to them.  Realize that they were always going to end up acting that way.  Leaving the bully at grade school and work with other adults.  Some people never grow up.

Fortunately you have all the reasons and feedback you'll ever want and more.  If you know where to look for it.  Where can you find the reason and feedback for why the commission was stopped?  If you're good at putting one and one together and/or familiar with foreshadowing you've already figured it out.  So where can you find this info.  Remember the phrase: The internet doesn't forget?  Yep, the client has communicated with you already why the commission was stopped.  It is in your emails.  Time is great because of the distance it gives you to look at the past and see exactly why things turned out the way they did.  Immediately after being fired you're too close to the situation.  You want answers and possibly to save the commission.  If you're fortunate you'll sit back and relax.  Pack up the models, as long as you were given some money to paint them, and send them to the client.  Give it a couple of weeks or months and go through the emails with the former client and you'll be amazed what you find.  The reasons for the cancelled commission were read by you way back when.  Use those emails to make yourself better for future clients.

In closing as almost anyone who has communicated with others for a living, sales, customer service, phone work, etc, knows; You are in charge of your communication.  No one else.  You choose how to present yourself to clients and what words you use.  You need to keep this in mind everytime you're talking with a client.

Now go forth communicate effectively and earn that mad paper!

This post is a great lead into the fourth in this series.  It is about the word: whenever.

slainte mhath


  1. Really great advice! I really enjoy this articles. They are a wealth of information gathered through hard won experience!

    1. Thanks. Some lessons are harder than others.


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