If People Say Your Art is Too Expensive,
Then It Just Might Be...
Q: I have trouble selling my art. I don't show at galleries and what little art I do sell is usually sold directly from my studio. People like my work, but I have difficulty getting them to pay my prices. I put plenty of time and effort into my art and unless I get the prices I want, I'm not going to sell. How can I convince people that my art is worth what I'm asking?
A: As I read this, I'm thinking pretty much the opposite. How can I convince you to drop this line of reasoning and get more flexible about lowering your selling prices? If you expect to survive and prosper as an artist, you have to establish a livable income stream from selling your art. There's no way around that.
People are telling you the same thing over and over again. You're not hearing a variety of comments, like maybe some think your art is priced too low, others think it's fairly priced and yet others think it's priced too high. Practically all of them think it's too expensive. At this point, you have to ask yourself, "Am I right and is everybody else wrong or could it be the other way around?" The greater the number of people who make similar statements about your art, no matter what those statements are, the more seriously you should consider them.
Another point to keep in mind is that unless you get your art out into public spaces like galleries or group shows, or into alternative venues that show art (like restaurants, furniture showrooms, coffee shops or clothing boutiques), or into the homes or offices of collectors, you're not going to get anywhere fast in terms of name recognition. The fewer opportunities people outside of your immediate inner circle have to see your art and become familiar with who you are, the more difficult a time you'll have getting your career in gear, price-wise or in any other way. If you don't start moving your art out of your studio anytime soon, you'll either drown in it, start slowing down in your production or at worst, give up altogether. In order to gain any traction as an artist, the public has to see what you create and be presented with reasonable opportunities to own it. Once you start making sales on a regular basis and at reasonable prices, you'll be able to increase your prices, but in the meantime, know that making your prices affordable (and thereby making your art accessible) is the number one way to attract new collectors and make them feel comfortable taking a chance on you.
And don't think you can do this all through the Internet or that if you just keep banging away long enough, you'll find some mythical gallery or collector who'll make it all better and give you everything you ask for. Plenty of artists believe in this fairytale, by the way, and actually think there's a magical situation or circumstance where every artwork they make will sell for whatever amount of money they want for it, and that they'll live happily ever after. Three words on that one: AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN.
While we're on the subject of the Internet, people have to know who you are in order to find you through search engines. Secondly, those who do manage to find you and like your art enough to ask prices will very likely have similar responses to those you've already been getting. Thirdly, (at least in my experience) people who buy art online tend shop around more, compare prices more, and when they do buy, tend to pay comparatively less than those who buy in person at galleries or directly from artists.
The good news is that you don't have to compromise your integrity by lowering prices, assuming that's a concern of yours. For example, take a lesson from big business and do what they do in order to expand the client base-- have yourself a sale that lasts for a certain period of time. Offer a selection of pieces that are equivalent to what businesses call "loss leaders"-- art you are willing to sell at a modest profit in order to stimulate buying and get things going. The lower the price, the more attractive owning your art gets. At some point, buyers will no longer be able to resist. And this little tidbit: There's absolutely nothing wrong with giving someone a good deal. People who perceive themselves as having gotten good deals have only good things to say about you and your art-- free advertising of the best kind.
If the "loss leader" idea doesn't appeal to you, offer collectors several reasonably priced alternatives to your more expensive art-- works that still meet your quality standards, but that perhaps don't take as much time, effort or materials to create. The truth is that the large majority of buyers like to start slowly when they purchase first works from artists, so do what you can to satisfy them and hopefully and lay the groundwork for repeat purchases later. And if you can comfortably lower the prices on your more expensive art, think really long and hard about doing that as well.
Remember that plenty of people get started in other fields of employment by working at entry level positions or as interns for modest pay or even no pay at all just to get that proverbial foot in the door and gain much need exposure and experience. You'll be doing basically the same by moderating your prices, and starting out at a level where collectors come to view buying your art as a viable option. And along the way, you're certain to gain valuable art world experience and hopefully over time build a good solid collector base.
The moral of the story is that you have to be flexible. You're only hurting yourself by refusing to change. The way things stand now, people who really want your art are having to shop elsewhere when they could just as easily be buying from you.
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