Bad Customers?

A thread on a popular art site recently reminded me of my first ever commission work.  A pen and ink portrait..

I was young and loved pen and ink drawing.  Mainly motorbikes and cars….. ok motorbikes mostly, as I had one and was smitten.  In fact I lost two jobs as I would rather be out on the bike than working inside.

I was asked by a very old lady if I would do a pen and ink drawing of her, from a very old, dirty and crumpled photograph (sepia)

My first commission!!!!  Very nervous I got on with it, creating an almost exact copy.

She saw it and hated it.  Said she was far prettier.  So I went back and re drew it.  I softened her chin and ever so slightly enlarged her eyes, which gave her a wistful, innocent look she had not actually had.

She had told me to do it properly and frame it for her, so I did….. I took to the framer and he asked who it was as he fell in love with her. (I was a kid, I knew no better)

Very proud I wrapped it lovingly and went to the club I was meeting her at.  She opened it and slammed it on the table, said she was not paying for it, and stormed out.,

I was young.  I promptly burst into tears and several people flew over to help.  One of the gentlemen bought the drawing off me there and then for double the amount she had been going to pay, and told me to never stop drawing.

So, now I ask for a 30% deposit, NON refundable, before doing any commission and NEVER do people unless pushed.

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So I wondered.

Have you had a nightmare customer?
What happened?
Do you ask for nonrefundable payments?
Have you lost money?. 

Please tell us in the comments below.

8 thoughts on “Bad Customers?

  1. Not with art , but I had a client who wanted a small piece of specialized software. He wrote the specs and signed off on the quick prototype I did. This was my first freelance project so I did not ask for deposit. I delivered a week early, and he refused to pay until I made a “small change” this happened 3 times. Had to take him to court a year latter I got my money and he had to pay my court cost so great learning experience.

  2. I photographed a family early in my career. Didn’t charge a sitting fee. Got some beautiful portraits of their children that I spent the time to turn into very artistic renderings (once again, it was early in my career).

    They loved them all but just wanted ‘proofs’ in a book for under $100. They were horrified I wouldn’t do it without a print order.

    So long ago. I learned so much. All of that could have been avoided had I had the confidence to set my prices and explain ahead of time. My bad.

    I also had a local company ‘borrow’ many images for a full size, glossy advertising magazine. I found the magazine by chance three years later. Copyrighting pays off. They wrote a big check.

      1. I ONLY got paid because they were copyrighted images!! Lawyers won’t touch photo theft without it. I learned that one early and have always copyrighted everything, thank goodness.

  3. My experience was one in humility – painful at the time but glad it was back in the 80’s 🙂

    I was auditing a painting class in Galveston, was a little older than most the students, so (looking back) must’ve got a little cocky, which let me “experiment” with my art more than I’d let myself before, and it was going along pretty nicely, nicely enough I got a small feature in the local paper.

    From there an older couple (lol, ‘bout my age now), contacted me to ask if I’d paint a copy of their family crest.

    Well of course I said yes! Ended up doing an awkward stilted version I wasn’t even happy with.

    They paid me anyway, saying they were a little disappointed but had asked I do the work.

    That’s a lesson in humility and integrity I still try to remember & live up to 🙂

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