Faux Finishing Business Success: Part 4 of 4

This is the final post of a four part series.

  • The first post: It’s crucial to know what it costs to run your business, and how much to charge.
  • In part two I talked about the importance of building a high quality portfolio of finishes to get the best jobs.
  • Part three is all about how to make sure your customers keep coming back, and that they refer you to friends and associates.

Promotional work for faux finishing business success

Have you ever been asked to work for free? If you haven’t, it’s just a matter of time until you are. My first experience with this phenomenon was pretty bad.

A young designer working at a wallpaper and window coverings shop wanted a ragged finish on the wall behind the counter at the front of the shop, a project that partly met the criteria of a worthy promotional effort (more on those criteria, below). 

That project went okay. The same designer moved to a high end design firm and called me again for a “Street of Dreams” project. That’s when things got weird. 

Not so dreamy

Exposure The Oatmeal cartoon for faux finishing business success

Another great cartoon from The Oatmeal. As a graphic designer, he feels our pain.

In case you’re not familiar, “Street of Dreams” is where a development is created (or rebuilt) and all the builders, subcontractors (paint, flooring, cabinets, trim, lighting…) are largely paid in “exposure”. 

I don’t want to drag this story out too long. Suffice it to say that I agreed to do a LOT of work for very little money. 

I can hear their conversation now:

“This project needs some decorative finishes and I know a guy who’ll do it for FREE!”

They had me pegged.

And why did I agree to this? Well, once these projects are all finished up, they’re opened to the public for a couple of weeks. So lots of folks will see the great work performed by all the talented crafts people on the site and hire them for paid work. 

I don’t know how these projects usually go, but the one I worked on was a dumpster fire.

Due to massive budget cuts and broken promises by the builder and designer, the contractors involved were unable to do good work, let alone their best work. 

It was about a month of long, hard days in a poorly organized environment punctuated by distrust, anger and resentment. 

The big payout

You might be wondering how much work I got for all this “exposure”. In short, Zero. Not one job. Not a single phone call.

In case you’re thinking my work wasn’t up to par, let me assure you that I did great work on that project. How do I know it was good? read more

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Faux Finishing Business Success: Part 3 of 4

Back in the first post of this series, I talked about how important it is to know the cost of running a faux finishing business, and charging enough to be profitable.

In part two, I get into the nitty gritty of building a world class faux finishing sample portfolio. 

In this post I cover some secrets to fostering long term relationships with customers.


Customer Service for Faux Finishing Business Success

The words Marketing and Advertising are often confused, and confusing. So let’s start with some clarification:

Advertising is just one component, or subset, of marketing. Public relations, media planning, product pricing and distribution, sales strategy, customer support, market research and community involvement are all parts of comprehensive marketing efforts.” ~MarketingProfs.com

This is helpful for creating categories for organizing your marketing efforts. Though I believe the author missed the most important categorie: Customer service. 

This Art is Service

I believe that whether you’re selling tires, donuts, massages, insurance or faux finishes, all business is service. Assuming this is true…

Customer service and support should be the primary focus of your businessImage of ebooks of faux graining courses

Last week one of my graining students emailed about a technical issue she was having. In the most recent version of the course, I’d already addressed and resolved her problem. Looking in my records at her history with me, I saw that she did not have the most recent version of The Faux Wood Workshop eBook.  

I replied with some detailed solutions specific to her project as well as the link she needed to download the newer version of the course. 

What’s this got to do with marketing? Patience, Grasshopper… I’m getting to that. read more

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Faux Finishing Business Success: Part 2 of 4

This is part 2 of 4 of my series on Faux Finishing Business Success. Part one,  is here. It’s all about getting paid for your efforts. 


A quality portfolio of samples for faux finishing business success

4 color glaze sample panel for faux finish business success

A four color glaze sample measuring 32″ square. A consistent money maker, my portfolio includes three different color and intensity variations of this finish.

A Faux Finish Sample Panel is a physical, painted example of a decorative finish meant to display your work to potential clients, usually applied to rigid material. 

Your sample panels will be among your most powerful marketing tools.

In fact, they can be the deciding factor in landing the most profitable jobs.

Physical panels, vs digital or printed, are the true face of your business. 

This is not to say that your physical samples won’t end up on your web site, they likely will… but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll write about building a web presence later. 

A matter of size

Ever bought a gallon (or five!) of fresh paint based on a small color chip, only to find it too bright (dull, dark, shiny, intense…) after rolling it on the wall?

Why does this happen? Because the human eye needs to see a color over an area of at least 3 square feet before its impact can be felt. Paint company color samples are too small to achieve this. read more

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Faux Wood Car Paint Project: 1931 Buick

Partial Faux Wood Trim Restoration

The owner wanted to minimize changes to the original interior.  He removed the 5 pieces that were most damaged. Of course my advice was to do them all at once.

After my work was done and installed, I was fortunate to have full access to the car for shooting pictures. This car is so gorgeous that I decided to create a larger pictorial blog post. 

I shot video and images of the graining process for this project and added it to The Perfect Wood Grain Car Graining Course

Bill, a retired architect, bought this gem in 1989 in all original condition. He painted and re-chromed, had a new top installed and made other needed repairs, but mostly left it alone. For example, the upholstery is all original. 

1931 Buick Hood Ornament, Grill, Headlights, Radiator

The owner of the media blasting shop I use was concerned that his process might damage the old, thin metal. 

A low pressure sand blaster was used instead. This got the job done and gave us the light texture we needed for maximum primer adhesion. 

I followed my standard process of creating a sample panel with 4 variations on the original grain for the customer to choose from. Faux wood car paint project sample panel and trim

Base Coat Alternative

For the base coat, I used a spray can product called Montana Gold. Formulated for murals, this product offers a much wider range of colors than paint or hardware shops, and they had a nearly perfect match for this project.

I normally use and recommend 2 stage auto paint for any car color and clear coats because interior parts like dash boards are exposed to direct sunlight and high temps.   Click Here to Continue…

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Cash Register Faux Wood Paint Restoration

A Gift for Dad

National Cash Register Model 711

The NCR Model 711 before disassembly. A bit rough, to say the least.

In December, 2015 I was contacted by a fellow who’s restoring a 1920, model 711, single counter NCR Cash Register. 

There are many old mechanical cash registers in circulation. National Cash Register was a major manufacturer, and they decorated many steel machines (vs brass) in a Mahogany-like faux grain.

Due to heavy use, these machines tend to end up quite worn and in poor condition. 

The customer was restoring the register as a gift for his father. He found my site via Google and contacted me through my “services” page. He’s also working with a specialist to restore and assemble the mechanical aspects. 

Cost of Restoring an Antique NCR Cash Register

In calculating a bid for this cash register faux wood project, my first instinct was to search for values on line (antique dealers, auction sites, ebay…), I found present value to be below $300 for similar machines. 

I don’t know what the cost of the mechanical work would be, but I’m guessing it’s not inexpensive.

A project like this, due to several small parts, some with multiple sides/angles of view, takes about the same amount of time as a full dash and escutcheon set for an antique car.

I was once asked to grain a plastic Jaguar shift knob. Small projects like that don’t usually work out due to the realities of time and effort: Create a sample for the customers approval, prep the plastic, apply primer, base coat, plus multiple layers of grain technique and clear coats. And by the way, real and faux wood shift knobs are available for most cars, often under $100. 

Point is, on some projects, unless it results in a substantial increase in value of the object being grained, my minimum fees are often too high. 

All That Glitters (some business talk)

I decided to reduce my fees for this project. Here’s why…
Please click here to read more…

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