Be Smart About Art

Get yourself out of poverty mentality

written by: Susan Mumford March 9, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 3894 views

Get yourself out of poverty mentality

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Do you keep prices low because you don’t think people would buy your art or services otherwise? Do you offer big discounts to potential buyers before they even ask for a better price?

This, my dear, is living in poverty mentality. And many people across the creative industries are guilty of this, know it or not.

I often advise art consultants to charge a fee for initial consultation site visits (who might otherwise charge nothing). The point is not the money itself, but the resulting art sales, framing, installation, delivery and project management.

The simple rationale to charging for site visits applies to creative practices on a broad scale.

On a subconscious level, the potential client assigns value to your time and expertise. In the example, if you instead offered such consultations for free, they wouldn’t think your time (or more significantly, specialist knowledge) was valuable enough to charge. It’s not just an hour or two of your time they are receiving; they are getting months and years of knowledge that you have accumulated, neatly tailored to the specific collector’s needs. You can significantly shift clients’ thinking and plans during such one-off site visits, regardless of whether or not they hire you as the consultant for the entire job.

Even if you start by charging nominal fees (increasing over time), getting something for it will make you feel happy to invest the time during your busy week. In my own days as an art consultant, I was elated when I started charging a fee for such initial consultations. I didn’t hold a grudge to be spending valuable time and furthermore, was confident that the client was serious. If they weren’t really going to proceed with hiring a consultant, they would not have paid for the meeting in the first place.

It is astounding to experience the substantial increase in closing sales and projects (most often on the spot) once you start taking your own time seriously.  

In a wider sense, the poverty mentality impacts upon the way you price individual works of art, bespoke commissions, your hourly rate, talks that you are giving and more. It’s important that you become aware of this temptation, recognise it and act upon it.

For instance, one artist with whom I have worked is now successfully selling photographs as a result of moving out of poverty mentality. She had been exhibiting at group shows for awhile, however works weren’t priced at professional amounts. After doubling the amount of pieces from £150 to £300, she not only started to successfully sell, but is enjoying profitability at events. In her case, a longer-term likelihood is that with a new list of clients, she stands a good chance of selling more to them – including the more highly-priced originals.  

It is paramount to actively work on getting yourself out of poverty mentality, and consciously noticing when it presents its ugly self. If you are tempted to eagerly knock down your prices, not charge for your time, keep your prices too low and so forth, recognise this for what it is and do not succumb. You will enjoy more confidence, happiness and success as a result of valuing yourself as the professional you rightly are.    
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Photographs © Chris King.

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Hi Susan, great piece and a great reminder for all of us. We are usually attracted to the creative industries because we're passionate, we like art and usually on some level we like people. It's really tempting to undervalue what we do and try to please everyone by giving it away. You've given some real concrete reasons why this is a counterproductive practice. Thanks.