I was wondering if you have any pointers or tips to give. I am an artist in Canada, and I am trying to start my own mural business. Any input would be helpful.
I frequently get inquiries from artists trying to get started in their own mural business if I can give them any advice. Here is my response.
Find at least 5 walls to paint. Your parents, siblings friends, and local coffee shop are all good candidates. The experience is so much more important than the payment. You will learn how to organize your stuff, learn a system that works for you so you don’t get paint anywhere except the wall, figure out what tools, brushes, and paints you like to use, and how to communicate with a client about your painting. You will learn if it is actually something you like doing. You will learn how long it takes for you to paint a mural. If it takes you two months to paint a small wall, you will have a hard time making a living as a mural artist.
Take pictures of each mural. Build a website and put the photos up. Make a business card. Make sure your voice mail is professional and says your business name. Define your niche through your first projects. People will be able to see what you do best, and that is what you should promote.
When you have the opportunity to talk about yourself with new people, tell them about the great service you offer: “I specialize in large landscape murals.” Don’t tell them, “Well, I am taking a pottery class, but thinking seriously about painting murals and also I am selling my jewelry at the craft faire next weekend.” If someone says to you, “I go to a gym that has a big dark basement that needs a mural”, thank them profusely for thinking of you! Then call -or better yet stop by-that gym the next business day and follow up. That is a lead! If the job pans out, let them know and recognize the “referrer” either with a thank you note or a gift of appreciation. Building your business through referrals and word of mouth is a great way to go. But you have to have the website and professional skills to really make it grow.
This is going to vary greatly based on where you live and your level of experience. After I had been painting murals for about 5 years, I moved to the bay area. A year or so in, I had to call an electrician out to install a light fixture. I realized he was charging double what I charged. I think initially your pricing needs to be relative to what other home services professionals charge in your area, based on how much skill and time is required to master that service. I currently base my prices on a price per square foot that includes all taxes, design and materials so that it is easy for the client to know exactly how much a project will cost. Never increase your price later if there are unforeseen expenses or it takes longer. That is your fault, not the clients. If a client has a major change or addition, then discuss the additional charges up front.
I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwells premise in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to begin to gain mastery in any particular skill. You should be painting almost every day. Show up to work every day and don’t let anything get in the way of your painting time. Paid, unpaid, just paint. I did not take classes, but if having a false deadline of an assignment helps you to spend time with your paints, then take a class. But experience is your greatest teacher, so give yourself lots of time to paint.
I often show up at jobs where the client will complain about their experience with a previous artist. Maybe the artist did not communicate about the timing or their schedule, or they were not thoughtful of the customer in some way. It is possible to be an artist and a professional. Being professional to me means that the client understands everything about the process, that everything is clear and consistent so that the client can relax and enjoy the experience. If you are going to price yourself like a professional, you need to operate like a professional person. If you were to call an electrician, and they called you back two days later, do you think you would hire that electrician? Art is a different skill set, but taking good care of customers seems appropriate to me no matter what business you are in.
Here are some books I have found helpful on my journey:
The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Talent is Overrated by Geoffrey Colvin
Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
Think of all the blank walls there are in the world just waiting for your time and vision! Have fun building your art business!
Best of luck to you,