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If People Say Your Art is Too Expensive,
Then It Just Might Be...
Q: I have trouble selling my art. I have a decent online following, don't show at galleries and what little art I do sell is usually directly from my studio, along with a few pieces online. 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 consistently liking your art and that's great, but they're balking at your prices and that's a problem.
You're basically hearing the same thing over and over again. It's not like some think your art is priced too low, others think it's fairly priced and 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 about, the more seriously you have to take them.
Unless you get your art out into the public-- at galleries or group shows, at alternative venues that show art, 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 in person 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. Having an online following is definitely good for exposure, but you want to do more than simply post images of your art. You want to show it actually on display in public places or in the homes or offices of collectors. That's one of the best ways to convince people you're a going concern.
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. If you lower your prices, start making sales on a regular basis and demand begins to increase, you'll eventually be able to sell for more. 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 find a magic buyer if you just keep banging away long enough, that some mythical gallery or collector will make it all better and give you everything you've ever asked for. Too many artists actually think there's a perfect situation or circumstance where their art will get shown or sell for whatever amount of money they want for it, and that all they have to do is keep the search going. Unfortunately that's not thinks work. Advancing in your career is an incremental process. Start reasonably and raise prices only when increased demand and a progression of significant career accomplishments warrant it.
The same holds true for social networking. No matter how large your audience gets, new fans and followers who like your art enough to ask prices will very likely have similar responses to those you've been hearing. Furthermore, 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. No matter what your prices are, it's still the exact same art and you're still the exact same artist. So maybe test the waters by having a sale that lasts for a certain period of time. Or offer a particular selection of work at significantly reduced prices in order to stimulate buying and get things going. Or make some 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. No matter what you decide or how you do it, the lower your prices, the more attractive owning your art becomes.
At some point, your fans will no longer be able to resist and will have to make those purchases. In case you still think you'll be doing yourself a disservice in some way, always remember that 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. The truth is that the large majority of buyers like to start slowly when they make first purchases 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 as well, think really seriously 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 needed 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 fans, followers, valuable art world experience and hopefully over time build a good solid collector base.
The moral of the story is that when it comes to pricing, you have to be flexible and responsive to your audience. You're only hurting yourself by being too rigid and 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.
(art by Eric White)