“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Andy Warhol
Inevitably, as a creative type, you run into the uncomfortable situation where you are forced to enter into a negotiation on your pricing.
It’s common for artists to be approached by someone who loves their work, only to be asked for it for cheap, or for trade (sometimes, for FREE).
This is a tough position to be in, because you are flattered that someone loves your work. But, on the other hand, you are a professional, and you need to pay your bills. And I don’t know about you, but my studio’s landlord doesn’t accept anything but Legal Tender.
In the surf industry, we have an ugly system called “The Bro Deal.” It’s where if you work in the surf industry, you feel that you should be hooked-up with a special deal, mostly meaning, free. And in turn, you are expected to hook-up other surf industry people up as well.
It’s so ingrained in the industry that surf industry people just expect it. When I go to buy a new surfboard, the surfboard maker, trained after years of not making money at his trade, automatically says “Oh, I can give you a good deal. I’ll give it to you at cost.” And I say, “No, I want you to make money. Charge me the fair amount.”
And when surf industry folks come to us for artwork, there’s an expectation of hooking them up with cheap artwork. (That’s why we focus most of our work outside the industry)
It seems crazy, this notion that anyone would expect to not have to pay for something they want. But it’s prevalent, not just in the surf world, but in the art world as well.
There are a couple tools you can use to counteract the problem of a client expecting cheap pricing:
1.) Use a price sheet. A price sheet will list all the possible options and their pricing. It can be difficult to create at first, because artwork depends on so many different factors – size, complexity, medium, etc. It may take time to create a price sheet, but it’s worth it.
Photographers always use price sheets, which detail the usage fees for their photos. I think artists need to get in the habit of doing the same.
We use five (5) different price sheets; one for high-end surfboard paintings (which range from $3,500 to $20,000, depending on size, complexity.); One for small surfboard tattoos (prices range from $60 to $500); One for large murals; one for paintings (this was the hardest and it’s still not perfect!); and one for usage fees and one-time licensing (I used the photographer’s sheet as a template and plugged our own numbers in there.)
2.) Use a Deal Memo or Proposal, which you present to them after you’ve had time to calculate what the cost will be. (You can find samples of both of these online or in artist books.)
We use Deal Memos and Proposals for everything else that doesn’t seem to fit on a price sheet; those one-off deals that are unusual.
When you hand a price sheet, proposal or deal memo to someone, it tells them two things:
A.) You are a professional who knows your worth; and
B.) This is what everyone pays (like when you go to the grocery store – one price for everyone.)
You may still get someone trying to talk you down in price. You could counteract that by:
- Padding your prices by 10% to leave wiggle room in there for a 10% discount;
- Offer discounts only for multiple projects
- Offer discounts only for returning clients
- Offer discounts only for people who pay by cash or check.
There are many creative ways to charge the right price and at the same time make your client happy.
That way, you can pay your landlord the rent with green stuff!