An artist completed a large painting for a potential customer who had “commissioned” the painting. When the painting was completed, the potential buyer turned around to the artist and told her that he no longer wanted to buy the painting. Unfortunately, the artist had not asked for a 50% deposit upfront and had to shoulder the burden of a R4,000 canvas alone.
The artist is not a newcomer to painting and has done many commissioned works. The problem here was that she was painting for someone she knew. What makes matters work is this has left a bad taste and has soured the relationship.
Another artist who has been “ripped off” by similar would-be customers now makes sure that she charges 50% upfront, another 25% when the painting is three-quarter way finished and the remaining 25% on handover. She has come to this arrangement after being taken for a ride by unscrupulous buyers.
It’s not just artists that are ripped off by potential customers in this way. It happens to small business owners. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s family, friends or strangers any of them can suddenly say they are unsatisfied with the work you’ve done for them, they are no longer interested in buying what you had to offer or they no longer want it. Simple as that. Isn’t it surprisingly that these so-called “decent” people will drop you without paying a cent?
Depending on the initial outlay of the small business owner, freelancer or solopreneur year, the initial work provided for a so-called customer can involve a lot of money. For the artist to recover the loss of the canvas and time involved in preparing the painting, which now sits in her gallery gathering dust, can take several sales before the lost money is recovered. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how people can get themselves off so lightly without feeling 1 ounce of guilt.
The solution to this problem of unscrupulous buyer behaviour is to ask for a deposit upfront. Yes, it sounds easy but it’s not. Especially so when you know people, think you can trust them and may even have done work for them in the past where they have paid. In these times when money is tight, it pays to be selective about customers you want to do work for. Asking for an upfront deposit, screens out the chances and opportunists.
It’s hard to turn business away. But there is a growing trend among small business owners where they would rather “repel” dubious “customers” who are out for freebies or to chisel you below cost and rather deal with customers who have a genuine need and are honest.