Maria Brophy


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10 Success Principles for Artists / business of art

Integrity gets the Art Commission – Success Principle Number Two

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Photo:  Flying Fish Painted Surfboard by Drew Brophy

Photo: Flying Fish Painted Surfboard by Drew Brophy



Local artist Joe Tilly* came into our studio asking us to refer him out should any surfboard painting commissions come up.  His art sales are down, and he desperately needs the money.

In this surfing town of San Clemente, an artist could make a good living just by painting surfboards.  People will pay big bucks to have their surfboards personalized.

My husband Drew is known for pioneering a certain technique of painting surfboards many years ago.  It’s common for people to ask him to paint their surfboards, and when Drew has time in between other painting projects, he’ll do it.

Drew has taught his surfboard painting techniques to many artists, one being Joe Tilly.  Joe is talented and his work is very good.

So when a potential client asked to commission Drew for a surfboard painting that he wanted done right away, Drew said “I’m leaving town for vacation tomorrow.  But give Joe Tilly a call – he’s very good.”

The client said “I’d rather give you the work.”

But I won’t be able to start it for two more weeks” Drew said.

That’s okay, I’ll wait.  The last time I hired Joe Tilly for artwork, he let me down.”

Integrity is what builds your reputation.  Having integrity means that you:


It also means BEING HONEST and UPFRONT about your limitations.

You only have one chance to impress a potential client.  That impression will stay with them forever, and they’ll tell others about you.

We have always been upfront with a customer if we can’t meet their deadline.  But once we agree to a deadline, Drew will stay up for three nights straight if that’s what it takes to get the job done.

Integrity has been one of the things that keeps our clients coming back year after year.

On the other hand, once you don’t meet a deadline, or tell a client that you can do it in a timeframe that you can’t, or just flake altogether, you’ve lost a lifetime customer.

Maria xxoo

*Joe Tilly is not the person’s real name, but is a real person.

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18 Comments Integrity gets the Art Commission – Success Principle Number Two

  1. Ginny

    Hi Maria,

    I’m really enjoying your posts – and so appreciate your generosity and great advice.

    This was a great post – but do have any adive for someone (me) who has failed to meet deadlines, even for good reasons, but as you say, have compromised my integrity – is there any way to redeem oneself and restore a damaged reputation (other than of course keeping committments in the future!)

    Thanks again,

    1. Maria Brophy

      Ginny, thanks for your comment and kind words!

      To answer your question: For someone who has failed to meet deadlines, how do you redeem your self?

      First, the moment you realize that you won’t meet your deadline, call or e-mail the client and give them an update and an apology. Give them the date or time that it will be completed, and then meet that new deadline.

      For past clients that you’ve dropped the ball on, and maybe damaged the relationship, there’s only one way I can think of to fix it:
      With Honesty and Humility.

      Call the client and let them know that you’re available for future work, and be honest that you regret that you didn’t meet their deadline, expectation, etc., but that you’d like a chance to prove yourself.

      Most people respond well to honesty and humility. And if they give you a second chance, thrill them with going above and beyond!

  2. aileen

    I usually pad my projected deadlines a little in case something comes up. If I get the work in before the deadline, it makes my clients extra happy!

    1. Maria Brophy

      Aileen, I agree, it’s a great feeling to give your client the completed piece before it’s due. They are sure to know that they can trust you for future projects.

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  4. Patrick Parker

    Excellent short blog, gets the point across. A bad client is like a weed, it only takes one seed to ruin a whole garden over time. On the other hand, a good client will recommend you to their friends and talk your work and talents up, just like a good agent. I feel real bad if I don’t meet a deadline and will do about anything to get it done right and on time, even for the smallest of commission pieces for a close friend.

  5. kyle

    Another way to mend a relationship with a client…..FREE stuff!!
    I’ve had to delay some things(I sometimes have to wait on components from others), or had things get destroyed(I work with glass) and I add a couple small items to make up for the delay. If’s that not an option offer a discount on the next purchase.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Yes, Kyle, you’re right- free stuff as a consolation always helps to make someone feel better! I agree. Giving a discount on future work is a great plan, too.

  6. Archan Mehta

    Great post, Maria, once again, you are right on the money. Thanks.

    Credibility comes from being able to “walk your talk” on a daily basis.

    It takes a long time to earn credibility in a tough-as-nails business world. However, the funny thing is: one wrong move, and you can lose your credibility in a jiffy. And people will talk about you behind your back too. And a dis-satisfied client can say mean, nasty things too.

    You don’t want a disgruntled customer or client, not even one. So, we all have to be careful. That’s because of word-of-mouth advertising. In other words, one disillusioned customer can easily talk to a few friends, and they in turn can talk to others…pretty soon, your business suffers and you may even have to close shop.

    Over the years, this has happened to small business owners as well as huge conglomerates and multi-national corporations. Look at the crooks on Wall Street who took us to the cleaners and laughed all the way to the bank. Some of them are languishing in prison, while others have migrated to exotic locales around the world.

    In the end, it is helpful to maintain a diary and jot things down.
    Under promise and over deliver to your clients or customers, so they leave you with a smile on the face. A satisfied customer is more likely to tell his/her friends and can even become your repeat customer.

    If you have promised a deadline, make sure you write that down in your calendar, so you don’t forget. And learn how to manage time.
    We are frequently interrupted and can easily lose focus, that’s why.
    When you are working on a project/assignment, try to keep yourself free from all distractions. Lock yourself up in a room, hang a “do not disturb sign” on your door, and keep on plugging away at your work.

  7. Rick Davis

    Maria, I couldnt agree more.
    I have had clients ask me to write in my proposal for a discounted price, or penalty, if I exceed the estimated time frame. Ironiclly, they object to a credit if I beat the deadline.
    Any experience with this?

  8. Maria

    Wow, Rick, I’ve never had a client ask for a discounted price if we don’t hit the deadline. Gotta admit, that’s pretty clever of them! If someone asked, I suppose I would include it and just be sure to meet the deadline. We usually meet deadlines anyway. I’ll have to give this one some thought…..

  9. aileen

    I’ve gotten asked for a discount because I was charging an hourly rate and I couldn’t make the client happy after many, many rounds of changes. They were very pleasant, paid timely, and normally were happy with other projects so I gave them a “one time deal” in this case… Sometimes ya gotta make compromises.

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