With Mike & Mickie Cooper

Editor's Note: Focus On Faux would like to introduce (or re-introduce, as many of you already know them personally or via their reputation in the mural industry) Mike & Mickie Cooper. They own Murals & More LLC in Franklin, Tenn. (20 minutes south of Nashville).

Michael has been painting murals professionally for more than 25 years, with hundreds of exterior and interior murals under his belt. We have brought him on board at Focus on Faux to provide lively commentary and also dispel any myths about the illustrious world of mural painting. Both he 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.)

Join us in welcoming them by sending 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.


This month's topic: 10 things to ensure a successful project *

* Of course, there are tons more, but Diane said that we have space limitations!

1) Price the project realistically. Don't worry about the competition.

MIKE: Don't price it based on what you think the client wants to hear.
MICKIE: Be fair times three. Be fair to the client. Be fair to yourself. Be fair to the market.

2) Your price is your price.

MIKE: If you are asked to "come down a little," then you have to adjust the project to take less time. Otherwise, you are simply devaluing your worth. I just did some nice boards for a client, who barely looked at them before asking if my price was "the best I could do." Yes, it was, actually. Might not hear from her, but if all she was looking for was the cheapest price, I wasn't her solution anyway.
MICKIE: You might also want to consider that if you reduce your price just to get the project that this client might not value your work and will become a difficult client to work with (which is not worth even the original higher price).

3) Know your time frame. Stick to it.

MIKE: Mickie is the best at time management. (Read: whip-wielder.) You wouldn't believe the scars on my back from her "encouragement" at making me stay within the time I had allowed for a particular project—her version of "incentives!" 
MICKIE: Stop whining, Mike (and every other artist/mural-
ist/decorative finisher who has quoted a timeframe and then not stuck to it). When we are the client for, let's say, a car repair, don't we like to know when we will be behind the steering wheel again? Set up a schedule for yourself and don't veer from it. (See what I did? Steering wheel and veer? I'm so clever.)

4) Schedule your time accordingly.

MIKE: If you have to go to an appointment during the project, be sure to let the client know. There is nothing worse than leaving a project for another project. But if you simply have to, don't just bail. Clients want to feel that they are the most important people on your agenda, and realistically, they should be!
MICKIE:  Keep it simple and give your client a time when you will be back. (REMEMBER: It is more important to give yourself an extra 30 minutes so you will look good coming in earlier!)

5) Make sure you have everything on a checklist that you need for the job before you get to the job site. Pack, utilizing this list.

MIKE:  Again, Mickie is the queen of organization. She made a list of all of my supplies, so that all I have to do is check off what I need, and it gets packed. Such a deal!
MICKIE: And, here's the caveat! You have to prepare the list as early as possible so you know you have all of the equipment/supplies at hand. We will get the project equipment/supplies out and put it all on a table or two so we can actually see everything and put our hands on it all. There's nothing like "thinking" you have enough product or supplies and there's nothing but an empty container back on the shelf. (Raise your hands if you've done this more than twice.)

6) Do exactly what you say you are going to do, when you say you are going to do it.

MIKE: There's nothing worse than sowing the seeds of distrust. I had an electrician estimate a job the other day for $200. When he was done, his price was $480! "Hey! It was in the ballpark!" he said. Yeah, if the ballpark was in another state! He cut his own throat. Not only did I write him a check for $200, I'll never call him again. Happens to people in our industry as well.
MICKIE: Yes, I agree with this one wholeheartedly! Make sure if you promise the moon—then you'd better be calling Neil Armstrong. Your reputation is at stake.

7) Show up on time, every time.

MIKE: Kinda goes hand-in-hand with No. 6.
MICKIE: I think the important thing here is "EVERY TIME." Even if the project is not going as you'd planned; make sure the one thing that happens is you are there exactly when you're supposed to be.

8) Make sure the space is prepared properly before you get to the site. Call and check to ensure the space is cleared and that the doors will be open for you. Have all contact numbers before you arrive.

MIKE: If there is any artwork to be moved, have the client be responsible for it. You're not a moving company! (I moved a couple of pieces early in my career only to find out that they were about $20K each. And, no, I didn't move them back.)
MICKIE: Call a week ahead to just "check in" on the project. We've actually gone to a job in Palm Springs, Calif. (we live in the Nashville area), and they were behind five days. We had called earlier, and they were on schedule. But we learned very quickly that we must also call even a day ahead to "check in" because the wall we were supposed to paint wasn't even built yet. (In all honesty, five days off in Palm Springs wasn't a bad thing!)
9) You are NOT a baby or pet sitter.

MIKE: Oh, the stories we could tell...
MICKIE: I think this has happened early in our career because we are such pet lovers, and the clients thought they were doing us a favor!

10) Leave the space in better shape than when you found it.

MIKE: I'm still trying to learn that one here at home. But nothing sours a good job more than a client having to clean and sweep up your crap after you're gone. Even that stupid electrician left a mess when he left. Made his attempt at gouging me feel even worse!
MICKIE: Also, remove your trash from the property unless they have dumpsters. The last thing a homeowner wants is to go to the trash bin and find it's full of your garbage. There should be no sign that you were there other than a fabulous work of art!

—Mike & Mickie Cooper
    Murals & More LLC