I’m not sure what it is about painting and drawing that makes people think them wanting your work for free should be flattering to you somehow. Or thinking that an original painting should cost the same as a poster. I seriously had someone who wanted to spend about $20 for a super detailed and complicated 24×36″ painting. It puts us in a horribly awkward position to say no. Its normal to feel torn between “should I feel insulted or embarrassed right now for saying no?”
Here is what I do when I encounter this problem and some things you can do to avoid that horribly uncomfortable situation.
Someone asks for something for free
In the case of free requests the answer is ALWAYS no for me (except for my mom). That’s not to say I don’t do free work for people, but when I do I offer, they don’t ask. That’s my personal line in the sand. If they ask I laugh like it’s a joke we’re both in on. This can help them not feel too dumb about having asked without you having to be rude. People seem to think we create simply for the love of art. While that’s part of it, we also have bills to pay, supplies to buy, and the same crap economy that everyone else is dealing with. People don’t expect other professions to work for free, it’s kind of insane how many expect artists to do so though. Do not feel embarrassed about saying no. If anything the person begging for freebies should feel ashamed for asking.
You want HOW MUCH!?!
Next are those who don’t want to pay what you’re asking. Sure, sometimes artists overvalue their work, but more often than not the opposite is true. Most artists don’t ask for enough. If you’re trying to make a living on your work, figure out how much you need each month to pay your bills. How many paintings or drawings do you need to sell to create that? Selling something that took you 10 hours for $50 is not going to pay the bills! Or buy eggs at this rate. Don’t let someone make you feel bad for your prices. Art is a luxury item. You’re not overcharging someone for a basic necessity. There is NOTHING for you to feel guilty about in charging more than someone can afford. Everyone will have a different budget and it’s not up to you to short yourself to fit someone else’s wants.
This one is actually quite easy to avoid awkward conversations over though. Have a website with your prices clearly listed. When someone asks how much you charge for something custom, link them to the page with that break down (usually by size/medium). If someone wants something you already have for sale, send them to the item on your site (or etsy if that’s what you have). I never give people a verbal quote (or typed in chat), I always send them to my site with my prices. From there they can buy or not and no one needs to feel awkward if it’s not in their budget.
Keep in mind, if you’ve been selling work at your asking price, your price does not need to be lowered just because someone complained. That’s a them problem, not a you problem. You put years into learning your skills. They’re not paying for 10 hours of work, they’re paying for a lifetime of experience. Don’t devalue yourself.
We all need to be reminded “Don’t drink the paint water” and other fun artist sayings.
Why not wear it on our clothes or coffee mugs to make sure we don’t forget? LachriMerch.com
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