Sale of the Century

I’m always a bit worried by cultural stereotypes, trying to define people by nation or class always seems a bit ‘them and us’ to me. However, if there was ever a truth about me it’s that I am hopelessly English middle class when it comes to talking about money. I am overcoming this by blog therapy as those of you who read my blogs will have seen. I can be very brave behind a keyboard. This time it’s about discounts and cutting prices.

I do occasionally get asked to cut my prices by potential clients and this is an interesting one. Thanks to my absolute Englishness about haggling, I get all squirmy. Well, my toes hidden in shoes do: never, ever squirm visibly in front of the client. Below are my thoughts; not just or for those of us who also a) listen, however intermittently, to the Archers and b) like marmite (no really, knife from the jar, like it), but for all who struggle with being upfront about money with clients.

My best advice here is to think long and hard about this before you get into the situation and make your decisions in advance. Bit like writing ‘I do not want a rubbish time share apartment in Marbella’ on your hand in indelible ink before going to collect your amazing free gift, this gives you rules to follow which will save you getting flustered on top of the toe squirming.

My decision is to not give discounts on the whole. My work is priced very fairly for the labour and skill involved and it is priced the same wherever it sells, so that the client never has to worry they are losing out. I would also point out that for every one person who wants ‘a deal’ there are lots of people, including those who collect, who never have asked for or expected a discount. If those lovely people don’t get a deal, why should a stranger get a better price? What I will do, and to me this is one of the most pleasurable things about being an artist, is to occasionally give away a print. This takes people by surprise and I get to choose who gets one and what sort of print they get.

Rules, of course, are made to be broken, but I try never to be hassled into breaking mine. I will give a discount of 10% very occasionally for someone buying more than one expensive print if I think there is good reason, taking the loss on the frame and not the print. I also agree to allow galleries a bit of ‘wiggle’ room as they have to be a judge of when it is prudent to discount work slightly, though not across a sale of work by several artists where the only winner is the gallery.

My final comment is that the sort of people who hassle you for discounts on the ‘oh but we love your work and will buy lots more’ card almost never do. If they are an exception to this truth, regrettably there’s another disagreeable truth about them: they will always want a ‘deal’ on the basis that they are now your ‘special’ clients.

This is only my take on discounts. You may embrace a whole other system. The big point here is that you make the rules about your work and you’re allowed to do that. It may mean ignoring every fibre in your cultural soul, but firmness about pricing is best.

(Remember you can always have a nice hot cup of tea to soothe your nerves after they’ve gone)

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3 Responses to Sale of the Century

  1. Mother-in-Law says:

    There is nothing quite so satisfying – after an initial twinge of regret – as saying ‘No’, particularly when it can be done sweetly and firmly. When you have managed to accomplish this and you have remained calm and not lost your cool, then you know that you have really grown up and become a great deal larger than others around you.

  2. Monique says:

    My Da used to say, “I can go broke comfortably staying at home! Why would I want work at it!” He was in the construction business, but the reasoning is the same.

    I am just a relative baby in my Printmaking career and have received wildly different advice on pricing from both artists and galleries (not to mention friends & family). I really appreciate your point of view as I try to figure out what my efforts are worth.

  3. A. M. Y. says:

    Laura, I agree with you completely. If our work is priced reasonably we should not discount the price – especially not (as you say) for strangers rather than regular customers. There are industries and cultures where the list price is just a starting point and haggling is expected but I can’t see any value in starting with an inflated price simply because you know you will have to offer a reduction to secure a sale. I think being upfront with pricing and being consistent is good for the artist and the buyer. Though I agree that talking about money is quite difficult.

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