With Mike & Mickie Cooper

 Editor's Note: Mike & Mickie Cooper own Murals & More LLC in Franklin, Tenn., 20 minutes south of Nashville. Mike has been painting murals professionally for more than 25 years, with hundreds of exterior and interior murals under his belt. Both Mike and his wife, Mickie, have been teaching mural classes all over the country as well as in their studio in Franklin. They make a unique team in that they are right- and left-brained. (We will let you figure out which one is which.) In this column for Focus on Faux, they are providing lively commentary and also hope to dispel any myths about the illustrious world of mural painting. Mike and Mickie invite you to send questions about the industry and try your best to stump them! Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and put "Fresh Perspective" in the subject line.


Worried About "the Other Guy"?

So...how many times have you heard something to the effect of, “Well, thanks for coming out and giving us a price, but Murals by Billy Bob said that they could do the project for much less than what you quoted. Can you match their price?” C’mon. Quick. Tell me. What did you do? Cave? Did you match or beat the price? Did you stammer, look sheepishly at your feet, and agree to do the project for less?

Yeah, I thought so. Rent’s due, and a check is a check, right? Well, maybe...but there’s more to it than just money. Let’s see if we can examine what happened and try to fix it so that it never happens again.

OK, “never” is a long time. But you get my drift.

Here’s my take: One of the cool things about painting murals is that everyone, for the most part, has their own style. And everyone has varying degrees of experience and training. Some artists paint kind of loose and free, some are tighter but more “cartoony,” some specialize in spraying “street art” in more of a graffiti style, while others use tight brushwork and are more realistic and detailed. And it’s rare that you'll have artists who have the same style and experience as you competing for the same project at the same time. There simply aren't that many of us out there!

My point being, everyone is different. What might take Billy Bob three days to paint, might take me three weeks to paint! It’s simply a matter of different styles, different degrees of
details and different experience. Trust me. Billy Bob might be a good artist in his own right, for the style of work that he does, but is it what the client wants? Of course not. He wants the good stuff. He wants you!

Bottom line is, your time is worth money. And it’s worth whatever you feel it’s worth. If you do quality work, if you’ve got tons of experience, if you’ve taken loads of classes, then you’re worth a lot. And you are worth it! Just remember: If you drop your price, then you are devaluing your worth.

For instance: Let’s say you price a project at $5,000, because you feel it will take you two weeks to paint, and you figure your time is worth $2,500 a week. Billy Bob says he will do the project for $3,000. But, in your opinion, Billy Bob does inferior work. Do you match his price? If you do, then what you are saying is that your work is worth only $1,500 a week. If you agree, then you just dropped your value 40 percent. And you are equating your work with an inferior artist. But in reality, you’re worth much more than that. You’re worth the $5,000. So what to do?

Well, you can cave, but that just sets you up for more headaches down the road. One, you lose money, and, two, the client knows he can always talk you down. You’re “overpriced.”
He just proved it. And word gets around fast.

Or you can tell the client that, yes, you can drop your price—but only if he takes out 40 percent of the mural. Otherwise, your price is actually a pretty good deal, based on your professionalism and the quality of your work. That way you still retain your worth—and your dignity.

Dignity. Such a fleeting character trait. Mine comes and goes. I’ll give you an example. I have a client that has used me on projects a number of times over the years. And I learned early on that he wouldn't hire me until he had “talked me down.” It really got funny—right out of a vaudeville routine. “Mike, you’re killing me!” “Mike, you gotta help me out here!” “Mike, I really want to do this, but I just can’t afford you!” “Mike, think of the publicity you’ll be getting! That’s gotta be worth something!” And so on and so on.

So, I learned to play his game. I intentionally overpriced the project, just so he could “talk me down” to where I would have priced it to begin with. He was happy, I was happy.  Everyone wins.

First and foremost, you’re artists, but you’re also in sales. Like it or not, it all boils down to quality, presentation and personality. Just show the client your portfolio, “wow” them with your past work, and prove you’re worth what you charge.

And you'll never have to worry about what the other guy is doing, ever again.

Unless we show up in your town...then you need to worry.