When having discussions around the strategy of pricing art, one question almost always comes up: What to do when people ask or hint that they want your art for free? I’m sure it’s happened to you: someone sees your art, loves it, but says she just can’t afford it right now… But boy, would she LOVE to own it! It wouldn’t make a big difference in your life, right? That piece has been lying around your studio for a while now, it would help declutter the room… It’s not like your making money anyway… So, why not? Why not? Here’s why…
#1 It’s not building your businessPeople asking for free art will not become buyers down the road. They just don’t get it and there’s no point investing time or money towards them. You have to focus on who your buyers and collectors are and make sure you are giving them the best value and attention there is.
#2 It’s not respectful for your present and future buyersWhy should someone get a freebie when the others have to pay? That doesn’t make any sense. Would you see that happening in an art gallery? What would your current or future buyers think if they knew you were giving your art away? They probably wouldn’t want to buy from you again and would also start worrying about the value of the work they already bought. I know I would.
#3 It’s sounds kind of desperateLook at any entrepreneur that you admire and who’s succeeded. What is their common denominator? You’ve got it: confidence. What does it say about you and your work when you’re ready to give away a piece that you’ve invested time and money to create? Not so sexy is it?
#4 It’s not helping your professionArtists need to stick together and share a common message with the world that the work they do is important and valuable. When you are lowering your prices and giving your art for free, you are not just hurting yourself, you are hurting the artist profession in general. You are part of this community and you too have a role to play. Ok, so what should you do with your work that’s not selling or when someone asks for a freebie? My answer: Be generous! How?
#1 Lend itOffer to lend one of your pieces for a set period of time and let that person know that if she wants to keep it, then she can buy it or simply return it. (Be sure to have insurance though.) Even if that person doesn't buy your piece at the end, maybe someone else you’ve never heard of will have seen it and show interest.
#2 Offer a payment planIf a person can’t afford your prices right away, maybe she would be interested in a payment plan. Try to find ways to make the sale interesting for you and for your client without having to reduce your prices.
#3 Give back to the communityThis one is my favorite. There are so many places in your community that would appreciate your work and show it proudly. Think about a local charity you’ve always wanted to volunteer for but never found the time or a NGO you’d like to make a donation to. Meet with them and see what their needs are and offer them your work either to decorate their space or to sell during a fundraising event. This is a win-win for them and for you because it will give your art new exposure. Those are just a few ways to get your art out of the studio and in front of potential buyers, without having to give it away. Learning to be generous in your art business is so important. But being generous doesn’t mean having to sell yourself short. That’s why I strongly encourage you to “give back”, not “give away”. Remember, if you want people to take your art seriously, start by taking your art business seriously.
Catherine Orer is a Business + PR Strategist for visual artists as well as a contemporary art aficionado. Her extensive experience as a PR professional in leading corporations and on the contemporary art market led her to found TheArtistEntrepreneur.co and The Artist Entrepreneur Network, where she empowers entrepreneurs and artists to get more visibility for their work by developing their own marketing and PR strategy.