My Top 2 "Will You Do It For Less" Stories

artist life mindset
My Top 2

So we've all been asked "will you do that for less" or had the comment "you'll get great exposure".  

So here are my top 2 memorable stories and how I responded. 

Use this Room as your Blank Canvas - Custom Room Mural

I am an avid gym-goer, and as a regular with regular hours and preferred classes you get to know your fellow regulars.  You learn about their families, their pets, their careers - all the things.  

As regulars we are always looking for ways to help each other, whether it is an awesome Keto friend recipe, or set up someone's "spot" or send thoughts and prayers for recovery.  And we also think about business networking opportunities.

And so the story begins...

One day, one of my fellow regulars said something like 'hey, you know I'm the assistant manager at XYZ hotel (one of the Hilton's in town), we are looking for an artist to come in and paint a mural - is that something you'd be interested in?' 

Well, heck yeah!  Even though I don't do murals, I can and have done them but I don't advertise it cause I don't enjoy it.  But this was a great opportunity to have my artwork showcased in a hotel!  Heck yeah!

So I said yes I'm interested.  'Let's meet up and view the space and talk about expectations and next steps. ' 

Great. Cool.  Actually, I'm beside myself excited! This is a large commission by a well-known Hotel in town!!!

On the day we are to meet, I drive to the Hotel, walk in the grand entrance that has beautiful accents of turquoise and silver, and sparkling chandeliers.  I'm getting even more excited. 

She introduces me to the hotel manager, we chat for a bit.  And then she says

'ok, let's go see the space'.  

We walk through a labyrinth of halls, chit-chatting about life, the gym, and what they'd like to do with the space.  I still have no idea where we are going - but I'm thinking,

Maybe  its the gym area or the pool area...we are walking deep into the hotel....then through the kitchen - my mind is starting to say 'where the f' are we going.."

We arrive at the space.  It is a 10x10' greyish, poorly lit, sad little breakroom for the employees. 

Ok...., I think 'I can work with this, pay me and I'm good...'

So she begins to explain that she'd like me to do - and I quote "paint it to a blank canvas, and then create the galaxy".  

Then the conversation begins: I ask questions to define where she wants painting - and she points about with grand gestures of the arms - she wanted the mural on the walls, the ceiling, the floor, the backsplash of the little kitchenette and the cabinets....

Now, as I said, I've done murals before, but not on the she is talking about the expectations I have 3 things going through my mind: 

1) this is going to take a minimum of 5 days - 8 hours each day - this is going to kill my shoulders, back and neck...

2) I'm calculating the costs and the materials I'll need (paint, a ladder that can go flat so I can lay and paint, etc....)

3) I'm thinking this is a dumb idea...why would you paint an already small area with bad lighting dark like the night sky.  This will enclose the space even more than it already is...and given the rest of the hotel is so grand, open, and sparkling....this is a dumb idea. But whatever, who am I to judge - let's keep going....

So I restate her expectations in my own words and then I ask,

'what timeline are you thinking?'

Oh 'I was hoping you can do it this weekend.' 

Ok - now comes the bring her back to reality and start talking about time, duration and cost. 

My response: 

"Oh this is going to be such a great project, but I do have to say that the scale of this is going to take longer than a weekend.  I estimate at least 5 full 8 hour days.  But before we can even get started on the room, I would need to provide you a sketch of the space with a proposed mural drawing to ensure we are on the same page before I ever put a paintbrush to space.  Are you good with this process?"


"Great! Generally, in order to proceed, I do a 50% upfront, non-refundable, and the remainder upon completion, but because we are doing a design first, I'll do 30% non-refundable upfront and the 20% upon approval of the sketch and the remainder upon completion. " 

Her response -

'oh well I was hoping we could give you a free weekend night stay for you and your husband and complimentary breakfast and dinner. '

My response -

'ah well I appreciate the offer, unfortunately, the value of your compensation package would not meet the value that I provide or the cost of materials.  The minimum fee I would charge for a project that is 5 days with 8 hours each day plus materials would be $10,000.   

'oh well, we can't do that.  Do you have someone you could recommend?'

'Honestly, I don't know any artist who would put this level of effort for that compensation.  I think you might be better off ordering peel and stick decals from Amazon because 1) this space is already dark and adding dark paint all over it will enclose the space even further and 2) your budget isn't reasonable for custom work that you are looking for.

I appreciate you thinking of me for this project but I'm going to have to pass. 

I'll put some feelers out on my community to see if anyone else would be interested.'

 And that was that...she ended up finding a guy on who was a wall painter and had the space painted a lighter color.  He gladly accepted the 2 days for him and his wife. 

You'll get great exposure in my accounting office

I belonged BNI group, Business Networking International, to meet other businesses in the area and generate referrals.  

Surprisingly, I did get plenty of good referrals and I did get some dumb ones like "she has a cat and it died - here is her phone number' to which I called, and turned out the lady didn't even have a picture of her cat! 

AND I did get from it was the drive to meet sales and increase my ability to have conversations on a superficial level and consider other aspects of my art business. 


In the business networking group, you had a goal each week to meet, one-on-one, with a fellow business owner and discuss what we each do in our respective businesses and then who our ideal customer was with the purpose of getting to know, like and trust each other so you can refer people who need their service. 

In this particular story, I am meeting with Sven the accountant(changed the name to protect the dumb).

And so the story begins:

I drove to Sven's place of work.  It was in the Five Points area of town.  Five Points is an old place in our town that is filled with older historic homes that were once Mill homes. 

I pulled up to a quaint little shotgun, mill home (that's the type of home that has a front door and backdoor that you could shoot straight through).  His office had a little sign on the door with something to the effect of, don't let the cat out.  

I thought: Cool, he has a cat in his office.  Maybe this will be more interesting than just talking about accounting. 

I walk in, there is a pleasant receptionist to the right of the door, I couldn't help but notice the wall was slightly leaning.  To the left of the door was a college-level-stained couch with a blank wall above it. 

This place reminded me of my husband's frat house...ewe....try not to judge...try not to judge...

Sven comes and greets me and takes me to the conference room.  Much nicer, decent chairs, standard office type round table.  And he begins to try and sell me on his accounting services. 

Yep, I have zero interest in hiring an accountant.  The last 2 I fired because they didn't do it right.  My brother had 4, 2 of which are in jail and the 3rd disappeared - no clue where he went. I can't remember what happened to the 4th...but fired I'm sure... 

So I begin to explain to Sven that I'm not looking for an accountant and that (and I actually said this)

"accounting is not rocket science, you literally just have to fill out QuickBooks properly and file your taxes every month.  My business doesn't have employees so I don't have to worry about 1099s, payroll taxes etc.  One day, if I get that complicated, I may hire an accountant.  But at least now I understand what you are offering!' 

and his sales pitch is closed down. 

So then it was my turn to talk about my business and what I do.  My business isn't rocket science either - I paint pretty things for nice people. :).   I tell him about the process and pricing and who my ideal client is. 

He then begins with

"hey, maybe you can put some of your paintings in my office, I'll lease you the wall space and I can sell them for you for a commission! I can get you some great exposure!"

'That's a neat thought!  How many people do you have come through your office each week?" 

' Maybe 5 to 10 people' 

'And would you be responsible for insuring my work while it hangs here?'

'Well probably not, but it would be great exposure for you and your work would really make the office inviting!'  

I'm thinking, maybe I could just sell him a few pieces instead of leasing a space and all that'.  My response:

'So I actually wouldn't recommend to businesses leasing space like that to artists because what will happen is the artist will hang pieces that you may or may not like for the particular size of the area or they'll put multiple holes in your walls to get it to look just right.  

What I would recommend is purchasing art that you like and let that become the conversation piece of your office.  Would you like to see some paintings that would fit the space perfectly?'

"Yes, that does sound like a good idea."

"K great, here is my portfolio of paintings that would be a 24x36" which would look good above the couch....'

The portfolio also shows the prices along with the size.

'Are you sure you wouldn't want to hang your work for the exposure? ' 

'There are only 5-10 people that come through your office each week, I can get greater exposure for no cost on social media.  If you'd like to help me get greater exposure, I'd love the likes, comments, and shares on my posts!  And I also have to say that if I were to put my work in here without it being insured it puts my assets at risk.  I hope you understand, but if you ever want me to paint your cat on the couch - that would make a fabulous talking piece to hang above your couch let me know and I'll be happy to provide a quote.'





So while none of the above resulted in actual sales, even though I tried, sometimes people just want quality work for free.  I stood my ground and knew my value and never regretted not doing the job.

What are your stories?  Leave a comment below, we'd love to know!

BTW- Check out this article: 8 Classy Ways To Respond To “Will You Take Less?” so you can prepare for the next time it happens to you (and it will :), don't take it personally it just means you are in demand).




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