To continue the conversation about what to do when you’re not getting paid for the sale of your art, let’s look at concrete steps to getting paid more quickly.
1. Start with an email message.
Most people respond best to email these days, so starting with this option is natural. You can send a gentle note: “Per the terms of our contract, I think I was supposed to be sent payment last week for the sale of my art in your gallery. Could you please check on that and get back to me?”
2. Use the phone.
I don’t trust the reliability of email, so don’t assume that you’re being ignored just because your email message wasn’t answered quickly. After a couple of days have passed, pick up the phone and repeat the conversation under #1 above. If you must leave a message with someone who isn’t in charge, ask when your call will be returned.
3. Use the phone again.
If you didn’t get action or the desired response, try making contact again the following week.
4. Send a hard copy letter.
If your gallerist is avoiding contact with you by phone and email, put your concerns in a letter. A letter is sure to reach him or her and looks very official. There is no need to be threatening or unkind. Just outline the details of situation–being clear about the answers you’re seeking.
You are not in a position to float loans to the gallery. It’s their responsibility to make sure they have the financial means to stay in business. But, if you want to maintain a good relationship with the gallery and don’t want them to go under, put them at ease.
At any or all points in your attempts to get paid, reassure the gallery. You don’t want to cause trouble, you just need to be paid for the sale of your art. Ask: “Is there anything I can do to help?” (While still being paid, of course.) Remember that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.