Transparency is something I try my best to implement into my business. It can get tricky in some situations. For example, deciding to NOT hide where I am from and where my business is based is good and can make customers feel more connected, but risks a part of my safety.
I would like to bring to you an experience that I had with my business about a collaboration with another fashion brand. Sharing my experience is meant to educate other aspiring artists/business owners as well as provide transparency through my business. This is no way meant to focus on drama, so specific names and details will be left out.
I started working on my portion of this collaboration in July (writing this in September). We planned to release this design in October for Halloween, one of my favorite times of the year! My painting was finished and ready to go in July. We just had to figure out specifics like: who’s website would it be on, who’s going to fulfill orders, what will the money split look like, etc. We briefly talked about specifics within the 2 months after I finished the painting. We agreed on a 70/30 split + labor cost for the painting within this time. I would be getting 70% and he would be getting 30%. The 70% of my work was: coming up with the idea for the art, painting the art piece, formatting it to be a digital copy, editing it, adding all items with that piece to my website, adverting, making clothing pieces with that art piece, fulfilling orders, and shipping them to customers. His 30% of work was: getting models, photographing people wearing the art piece, and advertising it on his page. I would NOT recommend accepting a deal like this. The only reason I accepted this deal was because he is barley starting out and I wanted to be nice and help. It was more about the experience for me, not the money.
September comes around and we are very close to the planned release date. We didn’t have much figured out and I started to get worried. Then he says he is going to be doing all of the orders and making the clothing (I told him how I made my clothing and where to get the materials). This raises many questions for me: Will we be ready for the release date? Will all the needed experience be learned to provide customers with a good product? How will this represent my business? Is this fair to our customers? Like I said, it isn’t just about money to me. We talk about this and I explain we need a new profit split agreement since things are changing. To make a long story short, we couldn’t come to an agreement, he called off the collaboration, and requested to be refunded for the labor cost (I did).
As an artist, turning ideas and visions into reality is something special and priceless. As a businesswoman, not many customers see it like that so meeting in the middle is the answer. I combine my artist side with my businesswoman side and make decisions I feel are for the best and fair. In this situation things weren’t fair. An artist shouldn’t have to undermine their work just to work with others. I give myself credit for starting early on this collaboration, organizing my part, staying on track, meeting the deadline, and helping someone else with their business EVEN if they don’t see all of that. I give the other person credit for wanting to work with other people, create content with other people, and grow their business. This just wasn’t done in the best way and it was a learning experience for us both.
My advice for aspiring artists/business owners when planning a collaboration is to get ALL of the details first before starting. I would even suggest creating a plan B & C to make sure things run smooth. Also, go with YOUR gut. You know your work best so standup for what you think is right in a deal. And if something isn’t fair then don’t go through with it. There will be so many more people looking to collaborate. You will eventually find someone who agrees with your viewpoints and respects not only your work, but also YOU.
Deciding What to Do After:
Now that the collaboration was no longer happening, I was left with a painting that I spent hours on, even made a shirt, and took photos in it for social media/my website. Remember how I said that was his part of the 70/30 deal? Yea, I was afraid something like this was going to happen so I made my own plan B without him knowing (thanks to the businesswoman side of me). Of course many questions went through my head during this decision process of what to do with the painting and I later decided to release this art piece and share my story.
Hopefully reading about my experience can help you look at what went wrong, how to not make the same mistakes, and to overall have a better experience when collaborating with someone else.
Thanks for reading! :)