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Sometimes it's better to not get the job

I was once approached by a potential client who was the curator of a local art gallery/museum. They had frequent openings and hosted parties and they needed several serving carts.

Being an art gallery, they naturally wanted "artistic" fixtures. I probably spent more time on the design for these carts than I had on any project to date. But when we finally arrived at something they were happy with and got down to the price, the paradigm shifted dramatically. My price was several times in excess of their budget.

One might suggest that I should have inquired as to the size of the budget before embarking on the design phase and one would be totally correct. But I was young and inexperienced and had assumed that, being an organization that was used to dealing with high priced art, they would have understood that my custom designed, handcrafted, fine furniture was not going to be cheap. As with most assumptions, this was not the case. In the end, they decided to go with a cheaper alternative. They apologized profusely and told me that they "really wanted me to do the work but the price was just too much."

A few months later I got a call from the curator who was literally in tears. I was told that they had been using one of their new serving carts during an opening and that it had been fully loaded when it collapsed, scattering broken glass and wine and food and silverware all over the gallery floor. They expressed great remorse at having paid for such poorly made pieces and told me that, if they had it to do over, they would have "come up with the money" to have me do the work. They also told me that they would be happy to share this experience with anyone who asked and that I should feel free to refer potential clients to them at any time in the future.

Ultimately they helped me secure far more work that what I lost by not getting their job.


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