How do I handle the “can I get a discount on your art” question?

I’ve covered the “can I get a discount on your art” question before, but it’s apparent that it still haunts too many desperate artists so it’s worth covering again.

When a potential patron asks if you will offer them a discount you should say “no” or some form of “no.”

I can hear it now. “Well they are a good friend.” or “They are a repeat collector.” Yes. That’s nice. Shoot yourself in the foot, if you like.

“Good friends” don’t ask for discounts.

And if they are a repeat customer and you want to acknowledge your appreciation, fine. But do it in some other value added way, like complimentary shipping, framing, or installation.

Why do I put such a fine point on this? Because it is costing you money.

And collectors are already confused about what amount they are paying for art and why. Your lack of confidence can undermine theirs and that can compromise or squash the sale.

So have a price sheet of your art at the ready. A written price is not as easy to negotiate as the one you speak.

Art is a luxury good. Don’t forget it. During the recent economic downturn a number of luxury brands threw themselves under the bus when they desperately discounted to stay a float.

The Hermès Group, founded in 1837, didn’t dare. They took the long view. What happened to them? They’ve maintained the luxury market’s respect and they’ve gained significant market share.

An art consultant I know, who has dealt with hundreds of artists over the years, confirmed that those artists that allowed her to discount their art sold significantly less work than those who maintained a policy to never discount.

Take the long view. Build your brand. Don’t discount your art. In the end, it will be worth it because you’ll sell more art.

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  1. says

    People will ask for what they think they can get.

    If you position yourself as valuable and exclusive they are less likely to ask for a barter.

    Bartering can be a great way to access goods and services that you need or would like but that don’t have the budget for.

  2. says

    I have had a big problem with people wanting to barter, especially horse people. They are notorious for wanting my portraits for riding lessons, etc. The think they are doing me a “favor” and I have fallen into that trap for years. Thank you so much for your insight…just say NO! After trying to make a living at this for over 35 years I am starting today! I can do this!

  3. says

    Thank you for this. For me, I get the question from 90% of people and I was very frustrated, but now I see why… I need to stop acquiescing to such requests. I will work on eliminating discounts from my life. However I have a question. Is it ok to do a special day that you get something like 10% off if you order during a certain time, or other promotions like that? I do a newsletter with special deals, do you have advice about what kind of deals I can do without cheapening my product?

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