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business of art / Murals

Painting a Wall Mural: Ten Ways to Please Your Client

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The secret of life is in art.”  Oscar Wilde

The one thing that I love about mural paintings is the sheer challenge of pulling it off.  It’s fascinating to watch the process go from imagination in the artist’s head to a sketch on a piece of paper and then watch as it comes to life on a huge surface.

Some angels, like Katie Staib, have changed the world by painting murals.  Katie has united orphans and the community in poor areas of Nicaragua with her mural projects.  By bringing everyone together, as a team, to beautify their surroundings, the act of painting a mural builds confidence and purpose.

For Drew and me, painting wall murals has been a great source of extra income.  Taking on a large project like a mural can bring in some big bucks, and you might even have a great time doing it.

Regardless of your motivation for painting murals, be it to earn a living or to make a difference in the world, in the end, your goal is to make the client happy.

We aren’t happy unless our client is. Our personal goal:  Make the painting so awesome and the process so smooth for the client that they are compelled to tell everyone they know.  (That’s how we get more business, without having to track it down.  It comes to us.)

In the last month, Drew has been commissioned to paint two large murals, and we’ve quoted on a third one.  Our first client, Yogurt Wave, was so happy with the end results that each partner took the time to call us and thank us profusely!  They were excited and overjoyed at how great the mural made their new store look!

Our second client, Fisherman Tom, is so appreciative of Drew’s work ethic that he keeps giving us freshly caught albacore tuna.  We’re cooking some up tonight…

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like the mural projects went off without any problems.  With every project, you run into things you didn’t expect.  These things can make your job as an artist very difficult.  As was the case with Yogurt Wave – when Drew went to seal it, he had some serious problems which almost ruined the mural.  It took him 2 extra days to complete the  mural due to this problem.  But in the end, the problem was solved and our guys were very happy.

Making your client is happy doesn’t just have to do with the artwork itself.  Sure, it has to look good.  But there are many other factors beside the artwork that are crucial to pleasing your client.

Ten Ways to Please Your Mural Client:

  1. Behave a like a professional:  Provide a written price quote.  Detail your payment requirements, what their price includes, what it doesn’t include.  That way, there are no surprises.  (People don’t like surprises when it comes to their money.)  Your client will take comfort in knowing that they are dealing with someone who knows what they are doing. (Read HOW TO PRICE A WALL MURAL for details on how to do this.)
  2. Be extremely organized:  Map out what you will accomplish each day of the mural painting.  Have all your supplies on hand before day 1.  Know before you even drive to the site exactly what you will get completed that day. You should be able to plan exactly how many days the mural will take to complete.  (It may not be exact, but close.)
  3. Be an excellent communicator: Each morning, give your client a rundown of what they can expect from you.  “Today we’ll be sketching the design on the wall and getting some of the background paint on.  We expect to be finished by 5:00.”  If your client is not on-site, take photos and at the end of each day, e-mail a progression photo.
  4. Show up on time everyday:  Believe it or not, this one little thing makes a huge difference in the confidence your client will have in your abilities. Be reliable and considerate of your client’s time and you’ll be appreciated.  If you say you’ll be there at 9:00 a.m., be there at 9:00 a.m.  Don’t be a flake.
  5. Stay on Track and be Efficient: Every day that you are in the space painting, you are holding up your client.  So many artists will drag out a project. They paint real slow, take cigarette breaks, talk on the phone, show up late, take a long lunch, etc.  These are all time wasters.  Stay on track with your plan and if you are running behind, get there earlier and stay later.
  6. Whistle while you work:  Be happy and embrace each working day.  Be a joy to have around.  Your clients will be happier with your painting if they enjoy your company.
  7. Keep your problems to yourself: Don’t complain to your client about bad traffic, about something that’s going wrong with your equipment, or anything else.  If there’s a problem, solve it yourself and don’t mention it to the client.  Their experience with you should be worry free. You want them to feel confident that they are dealing with a professional.
  8. Choose the right assistant: Do not hire a flake to help you.  It will hurt your reputation.  Be sure to have a helper that is reliable and has a good work ethic. This person will be a reflection on you.  For the Yogurt Wave mural, we knew it would be a tricky one so we flew artist Katie Staib down from Spokane, Washington to help.  She’s painted many challenging murals and we knew that we would benefit from her expertise and work ethic.  (Drew says “No assistant is better than a bad assistant.”)
  9. Do your best work but don’t take forever: There’s a fine line between doing quality work and not spending too much time on the painting.  Time is money, not just for you but for your client.  You want to be as efficient as possible.
  10. Remember to thank your client:  Show appreciation for the business.  Assuming they are pleased as punch with your work, ask for a reference that you can use in marketing materials or on your website.  Send a thank you card after the work is done – it’s a nice touch that they won’t forget.
  11. DON’T LEAVE A TRACE that you’ve been there:  (I’ve added #11 as an update to this post.)  Clean up after yourself, every day.  Don’t leave trash or drop clothes or anything else laying around in a sloppy fashion.  On your last day, you’re not finished until after you’ve tidied up the entire area, including sweeping the floor.  Trust me, this is one little detail that will thrill your client.

You may notice a recurring theme in the ten points above:  make it appear effortless to your client.  YOU are the professional, that’s why they hired you.  They’ve put this baby in your hands, and it’s up to you to make it happen.  Smooth and easy!

If you have anything to add to this list, please do so in the comments below.   As always, I appreciate you reading my blog.  I also invite you to ask me any questions or topics you’d like covered in a future post.

Maria xxoo

PS:  These points don’t just apply to murals, but to just about everything you do…

PPS:  Here’s a slide show of the mural that Drew painted for a client called LINKS in Costa Mesa.  You can see the progression from day 1 to finish:


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46 Comments Painting a Wall Mural: Ten Ways to Please Your Client

  1. Diane Hoeptner

    Spot on again, Maria! A mural, like a painting is the kind of purchase the buyer WANTS to talk about and show off. I love the list of ten, great reminders that will encourage a good buzz long after the work is done!

    Reply
  2. Jen A.

    One thing I do when I am quoting a mural is to under promise/over deliver. If I think the mural will take me a week, then I tell my client it’ll take ten days. This way, if I do run into an unforseen issue, I’ve given myself a little cushion of time. If I don’t then I’ve completed their project more quickly than they expected which is always perceived well.

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Excellent suggestion, Jen! Yes, tell them that it will take more days than you think – because you can expect that the unexpected will always happen! Thanks!

      Reply
      1. Andrew Sabori

        It is almost impossible to give an accurate date when painting exterior mural since you have to fight the weather.

  3. Karen Kearney/Artistic Environments

    Maria, This is incredibly good advise… Remember that your small client is just as important as your corporate client.. you never know!! I try to give exemplary service to everyone.. Jobs may come to you in the oddest ways.. I had a couple of hiccups in my last job, I didn’t panic..I stepped back , slept on it and came up with a plan that made it that much better.
    I love my job!

    Reply
  4. deni

    I went and looked at the photos on Drew’s site and loved the mural so much it makes me want to eat a lot of yogurt! 😉 Thank you as always for your great advice and sharing.

    Reply
  5. Maria

    I forgot to add #11: Keep the area clean. Once you’re finished, leave no trace that you’ve been there, other than the mural, of course!

    Reply
  6. Charles Kaufman

    Good information!

    How about #12: Try to get some local PR while one paints the mural. Have the wall owner (or do it yourself) contact the local newspaper, TV station to do a story on the making of the mural.

    PLUS make a video documenting the “Making of the Mural” to give to the wall owner, plus put on YouTube, your website and show to future potential clients to see how you do it. (Time-lapse videos of long art painting projects are always eye-catchers.)
    The “Making of the Mural” video can be great sales tools.

    Reply
  7. Maria Brophy

    Charles, Awesome suggestion! Yes, you’re right – videos and getting the media involved is a great way to market yourself as well…

    Reply
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  10. Joe Wagner

    I just started painting murals professionally two years ago. I make a deal with my clients that if they promote my work and I get a job from their recommendation, they get money back or put towards their next project. It has been working well for me. Try it out..

    Reply
  11. David Randall

    I paint in the studio alone most of the time. It’s just the way it is. On my first mural I found I was stopping every now and again to answer questions by those passing by while we were working. I never had an experience like it before. People want to know and, boy do they like to watch as it happens. Add to estimated time to completion in a public space for time it takes to answer questions. There are never too many murals.

    Reply
  12. jake

    hey my name i jake and i want it to kno i useing a projecter to draw on a wall is a good idea or a bad one and how may the clinet feel if i do use one if you can help me that would be great please email me at jake131755@gmail.com thank you

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Hey Jake, it’s totally okay to use a projector – that’s one commonly used method of doing it. Another method is by using grids. But do whatever works best for you. Your client won’t care as long as they get what they want. I hope this answer helps you!

      Reply
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  14. Michelle

    Thanks so much for sharing this information. I accidentally stumbled across it when I was looking up what products to use to seal the mural I painted on my recently adopted sons room.
    Such an awesomely detailed list of all the things to cover your ass with clients. If the responses when people see what I am painting in my sons room are any indication, I may soon be taking on some mural projects and your list will come in handy I am sure. Thanks again, I appreciate it so much!
    By the way, what do you seal your murals with…or do you?

    Reply
  15. Nadz

    Hi! Maria,i wanna to appreciate ur work,it’s really awesome and ur way of guideline step by step is too nice ,i learnt 4m ur site lots of things sply pricing & deal with clients etc…plz explain sm more regarding wall colors,what type of wall base colors ,which is good for mural wall painting and how to secure it for a long time?

    Reply
  16. MS. CAROLYN

    I am an art teacher at a public elem school in the USVI.
    I would like info on mural painting I.e kinds of paint used, is it necessary for sealing (what kind) and does one supply their own scaffolding etc.
    Just starting out n hoping for response to some small inquiries to local real estate agents on our island.

    great. blog. I’m enjoying the info!!

    Reply
  17. Pear Whitefield

    So happy I have come across your blog it is so helpful! I am about to enter a competition to paint my 4th mural, I have never charged before because I have always thought I needed more experience. How many murals would you think you would need to paint before you would call your self a mural painter and charge for your designs and work?

    Reply
    1. maria brophy

      Pear, thanks for the comment and the question. If you have successfully painted a mural, even just ONE, you are a mural painter. You should ALWAYS charge for your work. How many house painters show up and paint your house for free? None!

      Reply
      1. TurboBenson

        Just came across your articles. Great stuff, Maria. One thing to add: Painting murals for clients (especially very particular ones with bad taste) can sometimes become grueling. The look the client wants can be a far cry from the kind of art you really enjoy doing. However once work starts it makes a big difference to appear enthusiastic and excited about the mural whether you think this is your greatest masterpiece or just another pay check to get you to the project you are REALLY looking forward to.

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  19. Luke

    Thankyou so much for taking the time to share such valuable information. You are truly an inspiration. I couldnt sleep and kept tossing and turning and my mind was racing with all these questions regarding mural painting. I finally got up and googled my questions and stumbled onto your blog. You answered everything! Thankyou. May God bless you. – Luke

    Reply
  20. georgia campbell

    Before I leave this planet I would like to paint a mural. I’ve been drawing and painting most of my life but I haven’t had the chance or opportunity to express my skills. Please let me work for you. Thank you , georgia

    Reply
  21. Lauren

    Hey Maria!

    I’m so glad I came across this site! It’s had to find good info out there about the ins and outs of mural painting! I had a question for you. The last few murals i’ve done, i’ve used a projector screen to project the image on the wall, traced the basic shapes and then started painting, adding all the details and such. Do you/people perceive that as unprofessional or cheating? Im a very artistic creative person but don’t see how people accurately draw large scale images on the wall w/out that kind of help! Hmm…thanks for ur time!!

    Reply
  22. Jeni Singleton

    Wow! This is a great website! I am an artist who has painted a few murals and am getting into the business. I found this site to be extremely helpful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom.

    Reply
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  24. Amanda Jones

    I was doing some research about starting a new mural painting business when i came across your blog. Thank you for the info. I’m just getting started and would like some info on what kind of paints to use. I have painted with both acrylic and oils on canvas but not sure about Whats best for walls. Any info will be helpful. Thanks

    Reply
  25. SeanArcher

    This is a wonderful article and really set my brain on fire with possibilities. One thing I was wondering. Do you think it’s something that an agent could help with, in terms of procuring big clients? Or is it better to partner up with a interior design firm or architect? Just thinking as someone who would be starting out from scratch and only having done a few things for friends and for my own home.

    Reply
  26. leroy neiman prints

    Thank you for sharing,this is a very beautiful mural paintings,You will certainly get a lot of love! In contrast, I prefer print painting, I think it is more flexible and can be changed at any time home decor I love it!

    Reply
  27. Maura

    One more thing I would add is to type up and send to all involved parties a follow up to each meeting- especially when design changes are asked by the client, so there is a paper trail for what changes you were asked to make. That way when you spend hours re-drawing something, and then client says “but that’s now what I asked for” and doesn’t want to pay for the design edit, you can refer to those notes taken during the meeting (and sent out immediately afterwards) and insist that those changes were asked for.

    Reply
  28. Adriana

    I really enjoyed reading this, thank you! I had a question for you and Drew (funny my boyfriends name is also Drew and we both paint murals), how do you usually pitch a mural idea to a client? Do you call in advanced or do you do door to door type stuff, I read that you’ve got clinets coming to you, but how soon after you started painting did this begin to happen?

    Great work! Thanks again for sharing.

    Best,
    Adriana

    Reply
  29. Gladys Teo-Simpson

    Thank you Maria for this. I’ve been in the design/art industry since 1991 and was asked to quote for a mural design, first time ever. Am very grateful for all this info. Planned out my own quote based on yours. So useful. God bless you for doing this.

    Reply
  30. Amy

    I have been painting murals and set pieces for churches for about 5 years. I have always volunteered my time, but now I am looking to start a small business. Your articles have been very helpful in figuring everything out! Thank you for the valuable information!!!

    Reply

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