Honesty in Marketing Your Artwork

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How many times have you seen an advertisement for a miracle pill that promises to magically cure, prevent or treat a serious condition?

Imagine paying $100 for this pill, expecting it to perform. Now, imagine how disappointed you would be if you took this magic $100 medicine and nothing happened.

Sadly, this scenario happens all too often. Customers are constantly bombarded with claims and cures, and that has made them wary.

You might think this issue is endemic to the diet pill industry, but it’s not—a  similar issue exists within our own handmade community. Even within our group, there have been some “artists” who openly admit to lying and deceiving potential buyers about the cost of their materials.

Let’s talk about a few ways to discuss price point with potential buyers, and why your honesty really, really matters.

Discussing Price

Unless you’re speaking with a consumer who knows the value of unique art, sadly, you’re probably going to get the “wow that’s really expensive” lecture.

  • Do explain your pricing. How you arrived at your price point doesn’t have to be a proprietary mystery. Your time, materials and creativity are worthy of compensation, and the right buyer will understand this.
  • Don’t embellish the cost of your materials to justify your overall price. If you’re using $0.59 craft paints and water, don’t throw around brand names and say you’re using ultra expensive pouring mediums and canvases. If you think that your time is worth $75 per hour and that’s what you’re charging, own that. Because if you try to justify an inflated price being a result of expensive materials, your customer probably won’t know the difference right away… but the proof will be in the pour so to speak when your painting chips, peels, yellows or fades three to five years down the road.

When you discuss the value of the piece with your buyer, think about your own experience in making it. Explain your process to them. What inspired the piece? How did you feel while you were painting it? Sometimes, your story can be an unexpected selling point. Recently, I shared a painting I had really struggled with. That same night, the painting sold. My openness about the frustration and anger I felt during the creative process simply resonated with the buyer and her own recent journey.

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The value of your piece isn’t all in the materials or time. It’s in the story and the feeling; after all, that’s what art is really about.

Negativity

Sometimes, it’s going to be a nearly impossible task to convince someone that your work is worth the price. Today’s consumer is all about coupons, BOGO, and discounts, which is why value is so hard to explain.

You may come across someone who flat out insults your work (the infamous, “my toddler could do that”) or you personally (“why do you charge so much? You’re not even a ‘real’ artist”).

The best advice I can give you is to stick with the pricing you believe is fair, but be prepared to explain it, especially if you have a more expensive piece. Most of all, be prepared to say, “I’m sorry we couldn’t come to an agreement on pricing. Thank you for your interest in my work.” You do not have to negotiate on your price if you believe it’s fair; but you do have to prepare for close-mindedness.

Final Thoughts

Embellishing your pieces with glitter is a solid yes. Embellishing your prices by saying said glitter is diamond powder hand-milled by fairy unicorns in the heart of downtown Atlantis is a solid no. If you lie about your supplies and pricing, it negatively impacts our whole industry if you’re caught. There is still a stigma surrounding handmade goods from people who automatically see it as too expensive when they could buy something similar at a discount store. Even if 99% of the artistic community is honest about their work, the 1% who misrepresents their pieces can sow a seed of doubt that cripples the industry. So, keep it honest, keep it fair, and sell some solid work!

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Comments

  1. I exibit both realistic/ representational and abstract art in my booth at art fairs. When I get a comment regarding my abstracts like, “That’s not real art” or “My kid could do that,” I point at one of my realistic paintings (often regarded as the “real” art) and say, “This is what I see” and point at the abstract piece and say, “This is what I feel” and describe how much time it took to do or re-do the abstract piece and the inspiration for it. If you do both abstract and realistic work (proving to some people that you are an artist), it can be a teachable moment. A lot of people still won’t buy the explanation or the piece and continue to disparage it. But it never hurts to share your thoughts. I find that young people are the more receptive to the abstract pieces. But they don’t have the money to buy the larger pieces of artwork. Having an inventory that includes items in the 25-35 dollar range helps with this group of people.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing the fact and truth in regards to the sale of one’s artwork. I think we all experience those times in our career. Some more than others. Your comments we well received and appreciated.
      Thanks again!
      I really like the comment about having on hand a good inventory of
      $25-$35 pieces of artwork.

  2. No way do I feel it is needed, or necessary to ‘justify the cost of time & materials’ that went into art. If they love it, they’ll buy it. Simple.

    Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Porsche, BMW..etc. .. Their products are exorbitantly priced. I can’t imagine a customer squabbling over the price, wanting to see a break-down of the costs to make the product.

    The comparison of pills to art is like comparing apples & oranges. With pills, you pay, not knowing exactly what the pill will or won’t do for you. With art… you know immediately when you look at it what it does for you. Either you love the piece or art, or you don’t.

    If someone is rudely asking for a breakdown in the cost of materials & your time… they don’t love the piece of art in question. If they don’t appreciate that piece of art, and are going to base their purchase on how much it cost to create it, … they don’t deserve to own that piece of art.

    If one perfume sells for $100 an ounce, and another sells for $10 an ounce, I’d buy the one I love. If it’s the one that is $100 an ounce, do I question if it really cost them 10 times more to make??? Am I going to ask the clerk for a breakdown in the cost to make it? If I love it, I’ll buy it… no need for the price to be justified. Simple.

    1. I think you misunderstood the article.

      I’m not saying that an artist needs to justify the price of their materials, although I think a customer is perfectly entitled to ask about the quality of materials used-especially if they are investing in a very expensive piece.

      The pill analogy works, and I will explain why. If someone who isn’t an artist walks up to buy a piece, and the artist says “this is made with 24k gold flake and crushed diamond”, that customer may not know any better and may assume that the artist is being honest, even if they aren’t. Just like the diet pills, this customer has now been sold something based on a lie.

      I’m sorry, but most people DO need a justification for spending a ton of money on something that is not essential. That’s just the customer climate, like it or not.

      Lastly, your comparison to designer brands is interesting but really doesn’t have anything to do with this-unless the seller has Gucci level brand recognition, yes, customers are going to want to know why the artist is charging $800 for a painting. That’s just how it works.

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