Maria Brophy


  • and make good money doing it!

    ‘Strategies for a Successful Art Business!’
Art Marketing / business of art

What to do when you are turned down for a project or job

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Drew Brophy Christmas Card

When a customer tells you “No” it doesn’t mean “no” it just means “no for now.”

Recently I had a great rapport going with a potential Drew Brophy licensee.

They were going to print Drew’s art on various automotive products, such as stickers, floormats and seat covers.

Drew and I were very excited, because we had a similar deal with a company in Australia and it was very successful (meaning we made a lot of $ off of it!).

For six months the woman at the company and I exchanged phone calls, emails and ideas.  Finally she was ready to move forward with a contract.  Yippee!

I sent her a Deal Memo, laying out the basics of the deal.

BUT, instead of receiving an email from her saying “let’s move to the contract phase” she said these dreaded words:  “I met with my team and we aren’t willing to make a commitment to this right now.”


My response?  Of course, I was greatly disappointed, but I have been doing this long enough to know that sometimes the timing is just off.  A company isn’t ready for you, or your art or whatever you are selling.

But that doesn’t mean that they won’t need you in the future.  Which is why my email back to her was friendly and understanding:

Thank you for your honesty, and please let’s keep in touch!  Maybe this will work for you later down the road.  I’ll check in with you from time to time.  Thank you for the consideration.

I left the door open to the possibility, for later, when the stars all align perfectly and they are ready to sign that contract.

Her response to my gracious email?  She was pleasantly surprised.  She promised to keep in touch.  And I feel that we now have a very friendly, rapport going.

There have been many times over the years when I have gotten a “no” response.  I try not to hear the word “No” but rather interpret it to mean “No for now.”

Take, for example, Leanin Tree, maker of greeting cards.  Drew’s first rejection letter came in 2005.  We kept trying, and finally, last year, we got a deal for six Drew Brophy greeting cards!

If you hang in there long enough, if you continue to communicate with a potential client, eventually they will say yes and sign on the dotted line.

The next time you feel rejected by a potential client, or gallery, or licensee, look at it this way:

“No” doesn’t mean “no”, it usually means “not now, but maybe later.”

And a “maybe” is an open door!

Continue communicating with them from time to time, keep in touch, and eventually they will say YES!




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16 Comments What to do when you are turned down for a project or job

  1. linda

    Great advice! I love your response to no, because it always keeps the dialogue going. I’ve also experienced the same situation, no for now… but then one day it comes back because the stars are aligned. Fabulous!

  2. Dolores Marie

    I love your advice, it really is helpful for a beginner in the art business.

    However, what do you recommend, when one has been asked to submit a few sketches to be considered for a book along with a contract of terms for payment and then never hears back from the person who requested the sketches and contract? I know they received the materials. So starting with a “I’m just checking to see if you got my work” as a starting point isn’t possible.

    Also, what would you recommend one does when an opportunity of some free advertising comes up and the few sketches would be helpful to put in the advertising?

    1. Maria Brophy

      Dolores, thanks for landing on my blog! To answer your question: I would recommend you call the person up and ask them for feedback on your sketches. Even if they decided not to use your work, feedback is essential for you to understand why so you will know next time.

      Your second question: Use the sketches for an ad! It’s your art, you own it, so use it to your advantage!

  3. Phil

    …….keep knocking on the door and it will open…..shazaam! Merry Xmas or as we now have to say here in the uk ‘ winter festival holiday’

  4. Jaime Haney

    This is great advice, in fact I’ve copied your answer and kept in a folder I’ve created for responses, I hope you don’t mind. Sometimes I just don’t know what to say, so I say nothing and that isn’t good either.

    I also love the answer and tip you gave Delores. Very helpful advice! Thank you!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. Maria Brophy

      Jaime, thanks for the comment! I am flattered and so happy to hear that my writings are of value, so much that you keep it in folders! Thanks for sharing that with me. Merry Christmas to you, too! 🙂

  5. Garrick Marchena

    Hi Maria,

    Great advise again!
    I understand your point, especially if the clients response is a genuine one.
    But what if the client asked specifically for you and you met with him and during our conversation you ask him if he has a budget and he says “One can’t really put a price on art”,…and after recieving your quote, he mails you telling you your price is too expensive!
    Part of me wants to send him a mail thanking him for being “honest”, but the other part of me is now really confused and dissapointed.
    I guess there are times we have to swallow our pride in order to grow, and mayde this is one of those times.

    In any case, I always appreciate your advice!
    Thank you Maria, and God bless!


    1. Maria Brophy


      First, don’t give up on this client. If they don’t have the budget for what they need, come up with a second price quote that lessens the scope of the work, and thus lessens the price a little.

      Often a client will want a “Lexus” but can’t afford it, so we offer him a “Honda” instead!

      Get creative – offer to give him less art (smaller piece, less work, etc.) for a lower price. See if that works.

      There are a lot of tire-kickers out there – that’s another explanation for a guy who would take your time up like that and then not buy.

      Don’t let it discourage you!

  6. Dolores Marie

    Hi Maria, Thank you so much for your reply and advice. It really gives me the confidence to stand strong for myself and my art. However, I find it really difficult to call people on the phone. While everyone is wanting more minutes for their cell phones I want my husband to cancel the cell phone that he bought for me as a gift. Would it be OK to e-mail them? They contacted me originally by e-mail through the Society of Childrens’s Book Writers and Illustrators and gave me references that I checked to know that they were honest in their inquiry. How do I get over the phone issue? I’m OK if someone phones me but when I have to make the call I get all tongue twisted. Like another poster said -he sometimes doesn’t know what to say and doesn’t say anything. I get really nervous and that’s not good either. And related to this I made a new friend who does logo design work and she helped me fine tune my first ever commission contract which I wrote using your information that you provided. Thank you for sharing that. I would not have known what to do without your information. ( I also got the deal for the commission so I am so pleased and can’t thank you enough for your great advice.) While we worked on the contract I also shared my artwork with her and she said it was super marketable and that I should license it. I know she is right but now I have the question if I wanted to approach you or some other agent how do I get you or them interested in representing me? I’m afraid to call and I don’t know what to say. Am I supposed to have product ideas all figured out and put together a package that has the images of original art work and also prototypes or sketches of how the artwork could be used before I call? Is there a script that works best at getting someone to look at my work? Thanks so much for great web site!! Sincerely, Dolores


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