There’s this awful moment when you tell someone how much your art costs, inwardly cringing, and they say, “Whoa! That’s really expensive.”
EVERY ARTIST SEES THIS REACTION AT SOME POINT.
And it can make you question your pricing methods, the value of your artwork, and – for some of us – even your own self worth.
It’s like a sucker punch to the gut.
You’ve spent so much time making those prices perfect, trying to make it affordable for your customers but also profitable for you, and now someone is telling you it’s completely wrong.
What do you do?
When I ask artists what they do in this scenario, most of them either apologize for the price and feel guilty or they offer a lower price instead.
You should do neither of these.
There are several approaches you can take that would be polite, good for your business, and even potentially turn this into a customer. Knowing which one to use gets easier the more you are seeing someone’s reaction to your price.
But the very first step is to keep yourself from getting defensive. It’s so easy to feel upset by the comment, but you have to remember that they may be innocently unaware of typical art pricing or they may truly have meant “I can’t afford it.” (which would be a comment reflecting on their financial situation, not your artwork).
Always try to be polite despite feeling offended. Be calm and open with the potential customer in hopes that you’ll turn them into a real customer or a friend, and at least you’ll maintain a good reputation for your business manners.
CUT THE EMOTION DOWN, AND THEN GO INTO SCIENTIST MODE.
Assess based on the conversation thus far, their tone of voice, their level of aggressiveness, etc. why they think it’s too expensive.
…not see value in this piece (or potentially in art in general)
…not be an ‘art buyer’ so they just don’t know what art costs
…have bought only inexpensive art in the past
…view you as a beginner who “shouldn’t” get paid as much
…think that the artwork was easy to make
…have a tight budget that puts this piece solidly out of their price range
And if you can figure out why they aren’t comfortable with the price, you can figure out what to say to them.
For instance, if they don’t see the value in this artwork you could talk to them about any awards it has gotten, give statistics on the way art increases in monetary value over time, or explain why your customers feel emotional value in seeing your art on a daily basis.
IF YOU’RE NOT SURE WHY THEY DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THE PRICE, YOU CAN ALWAYS ASK THEM.
A good sentence to keep in mind is, “How much do you usually spend on art?” because it allows you to find out if the piece is in their price range (or near it) and something else is going on or if budget really is the problem.
Then, if you can turn the conversation around because it isn’t really about budget, you might be able to make this sale (or at least walk away without feeling worried about your prices).
But let’s assume it totally is about the price.
Here are my favorite phrases for responding to someone telling you your prices are too high:
“Well did you know I actually have that piece available as a print for only $X?” Offering them a lower-priced option could be just what they need.
“I’m sorry this piece isn’t a good fit for you, have you seen my smaller works?” That’s another variation on offering a lower-priced option.
You can also preface the above two with “It would be unfair to my collectors if I were to discount the price for you.” Sometimes when you direct them to something lower-priced, they poke around a bit and then return to the higher-priced piece because they love it more and can finally see the worth in comparison.
“What were you looking to spend today?” And then offer them a commission at that price if they put down a 50% deposit today. This method is great because you make a sale right away or they say no again and you know they’re really not interested.
“When you buy a one-of-a-kind piece of art, you are not just purchasing something to cover your wall. You’re also purchasing the soul of the painting and the history of the artist. My pricing is a compilation of X years learning to paint, the money I spent in materials and tools, and the soul and spirit behind the piece that creates endless value that is passed down for generations.” Appealing to their emotion can often get them on the same page with you so that they realize this is your job and those prices are necessary.
“Let me explain how I get to that price. First I…” (and then walk them through your pricing process if it’s a fairly concrete process) A lot of people don’t understand what is involved in creating the piece. But once you detail how the price came to be, it makes much more sense to them.
“If you really love this piece, I could work out a payment plan with you. Maybe splitting it up over 6 months?” This is two things – first it lowers the risk because they don’t have to come up with all that money right away, and second it shows that you’re caring and willing to adapt to create a situation that works for them, a very appealing quality that will make them feel closer to you and more ready to buy.
“Artists have to eat too.” If you feel your potential customer would respond well to a joke and you can deliver it without it sounding defensive, then this playful response can disarm the awkward situation and leave room for the potential customer to explain why they’re uncomfortable with the price.
“Is there a piece you’re particularly drawn to that you would buy if it were less expensive?” This will start an actual conversation if it’s someone who may buy from you. And anyone else will typically say no and you can just move on.
“I’m sorry this is outside your budget right now! I’ve been there myself. Why don’t you get on my email list so you know where to find me if things change in the future and in the meantime you’ll get to see all my newest works for free.” Or a simpler variation:
“Ok, thank you for your interest. Have a great rest of your day!” You should never feel obligated to explain yourself or your prices. You run a business. Your prices are your prices. But you also don’t need to be aggressive about it. It can be better to avoid both defending and offending with a lot of potential customers.
You should watch yourself before you say phrases like:
“You could get something closer to your price range at Target.”
“It’s not that the art is too expensive; it’s that you can’t afford it.”
“Then don’t buy it.”
This snark can turn off someone who actually might have been a customer in disguise. Remember all those reasons they could have said your art was too expensive and remind yourself that this person may actually want to buy from you and be able to if you just chat with them a little more and get to the heart of it.
The most important thing is still that you don’t get defensive.
Remember, lions are not bothered by the opinions of sheep. If this isn’t someone likely to buy your artwork, then it doesn’t really matter what their opinion of your pricing is.
If you’re not confident with your prices to begin with, you might want to check out my free video series on pricing your art perfectly so you can remain calm in these situations in the future, knowing your price is right. Sign up below!