“In business, you have to look at whether or not you are going to make a profit. There are two kinds of profit – monetary and emotional. First you have to determine if you will make any money. Then you need to look at whether the emotional cost is worth it. If it is something that is going to make you absolutely bat-shit crazy, choose the path of serenity.” – Ed Harris
“But … but … what if?” …
Over the last year or so, I have been in conversation with a potential client/family member about doing a commissioned painting that would be close to both our hearts. Although I was a bit nervous about doing it justice, I was excited about the prospect of doing something that would enrich my client’s life!
When the time came to talk about the contract, my (anonymous) family member insisted on sending his/her own, rather than using my standard form. I thought, no problem! We can negotiate and make changes as we go along. But guess what? I had made an assumption. Turned out I was wrong.
Two things that hadn’t occurred to me: a) he/she had no background in art law and b) he or she might not be interested in negotiating. (I often forget that not everyone operates the way I do.)
Taken unawares, I was shocked at the terms included in the contract – as well as what was left out. I was even more surprised when he/she refused to talk about wording that made no sense to me. I was told that if I didn’t like it, he/she would find another artist to work with.
At first I was taken aback. I had *both* of our best interests at heart, but I didn’t get the impression the family member felt I did. I was baffled when attempts to discuss the contract were rejected. I spent hours crafting and editing a response. That night was long and sleepless, tossing and turning as I tried to figure out how to get the point across: that all I wanted was a contract whose wording reflected the intent.
When I awoke I thought perhaps I should just let it go. Yet I worried … what if? What if she couldn’t find another artist to do it justice? (Arrogant, I know. And, this project *is* close to my heart.) What if he/she gets upset that I decline? What if this is the only path to making money as an artist, ever, and turning it down will leave me completely destitute for eternity? (Yes, my mind goes down dark tunnels like this sometimes. Thankfully, I know not to let it linger. Its scary and full of cobwebs.)
Luckily, that day I was having a social visit with an expert contract negotiator. Over coffee, I presented the dilemma and asked for advice. He offered suggestions that would help me move the negotiations forward.
About half way into the conversation, he furrowed his brow and began to question what the other party had been unwilling to change. Eventually he said, “If you are willing to, I would suggest just letting this one go.” Since that was exactly what I was thinking, I thanked him and walked away feeling confident in what I needed to do.
Due to the nature of the project and who I was going to be doing it for, declining the job wasn’t easy. But I felt that there was too much of a chance that even negotiating the contract could damage our relationship, so I chose to pass.
Since turning down the job, conversations between myself and said family member miraculously resumed their natural lightness – and my time has been freed up to continue laying a strong foundation for my business. It is likely the other path would have driven me “absolutely bat-shit crazy”. It wasn’t an easy choice … and I’m happy to have selected the path of serenity.
Is there anything now or in the past, that would have given you peace if you had just let go? Did you hold on for dear life anyway? Or did you chose to trust that all would be well and release it? What was the outcome? I’d love to hear your experiences.
© 2011 Amy Buchheit, All Rights Reserved.