Compelled to give friends huge discounts on art purchases?
from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)
You’re not the only one.
While both artists and dealers are both guilty of this, artists in particular often find it challenging to sell pieces or arrange commissions for family and close friends without offering enormous reductions. How much? The number one amount that artists tell me time and time again as the discount that they normally give to friends and family is 50%.
How should you handle this? How can you continue to sell works to loved ones – those who want to support you, yet ensure that feel okay about charging enough to continue making a living?
Before opening your mouth (or pressing “send” on an email / text) to say how much you’ll slash off the price, ask yourself: “What is this lovely individual’s intention?” Truth is, most of your closest contacts will want to do everything in their power to support you. Because let’s face it, by following your passion and pursuing a career in the arts, you haven’t chosen a straightforward path. It takes a lot of bloody hard work and many years of dedication, often saying “no” to other, tempting things, because you need to stay at home / studio / gallery building the business / body of work / you get the picture!
Take my Texan lawyer cousin for example. When he would visit my London gallery, he made a habit of buying works of art. Despite my temptation to offer discounts, he told me that he wanted to support me and had the financial wherewithal to do so. Therefore, he would happily pay the full amount, knowing that he was playing a role in supporting a family member’s enterprise.
If I had insisted on offering a discount, he would have felt obliged to accept it, but he wouldn’t have felt quite so good about the acquisition, because he would have been doing less than he could to help.
As for those circumstances in which you do feel it’s necessary to offer a discount, how can you go about this in a way that makes them feel comfortable and yet still make enough profit? Make it official and offer the ‘family & friends discount’. Once someone in this category has expressed interest, you can reply with something along the lines of, “Oh that’s excellent. Better yet, you receive the family & friends discount of 20%.” It’s stated as matter-of-fact, and the percentage is clear. There’s no umming and ahing, and nor are there any awkward pauses.
While the family & friend discount is not something you want to offer to all friends, do so for those who are so close they’re like family, for whom it feels weird to not offer something special. Artists and dealers alike can do this, noting that if you’re a dealer, then the discount should be taken out of your own commission.
As for people who are friends but not in the inner circle who ask you about receiving a discount, “since they’re a friend”? Don’t hesitate to reply with a simple, “no”. People can be cheeky, and your priority is making a living. You can say “no” with charm, offering other personalised services such as delivering the work to their home and enjoying an unveiling celebration.
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