Discounting Your Art? Think Again

by Carolyn Edlund

Cutting prices might be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to increase your sales. But it could be your worst move.



Have you noticed how many large retailers have sales going on pretty much all the time? And take note of all the emails you open that offer discounts: 30% off, half price, major reductions, and so on. Discounting seems to be a way of life for many sellers.

But is this the right move for artists? Discounting frequently sends a message to shoppers. It can devalue your work, creating the perception that your art or handmade items aren’t really worth their original prices. People may wonder if your regular prices are artificially high, and you’re playing the same game as the big retailers. Collectors who purchased your art at full price might not be very happy to see that you are regularly giving lower prices to others.

One artist’s experience

An artist with a very popular line of fun jewelry complained that customers were only buying when she offered discounts on her work. It turned out that she runs sales so often, repeat collectors have learned they don’t have to pay full price. Some have told her directly that they always wait for a sale before they will make any purchase. The result? She has inadvertently given herself a wage decrease. Now she has to work harder for each dollar she earns.

Rather than discount your work, consider these alternatives:

  1. Add value to what you sell. Rather than drop the price, add something extra. Cosmetic brands have been doing this for ages by giving a sampling of their other products with each purchase. The extra may be a small piece of art with the purchase of a large one, a baker’s dozen with the purchase of 12, or even a box of notecards that feature the art they bought on the front (this also becomes a great way to get referral business.)
  2. Consider offering a bundle instead of just one item. This is a great strategy for gifts or selling collectibles, and will bump up the ticket on each sale. Make this offer time-sensitive to add urgency to the purchase.
  3.  Free shipping is a very popular benefit that you can offer without discounting your work. In fact, you can permanently lower shipping costs by writing them into your pricing formula. Consider offering free shipping only if the customer hits a certain dollar threshold, which provides incentive to add more items to the shopping cart. You might also include a coupon with your shipment that offers free shipping on the next purchase. Increase referrals by also including a coupon for free shipping for a friend, too.
  4. Services such as gift wrapping can be included as a complimentary extra during the holiday season. Include a personalized note to the gift recipient on behalf of the purchaser if you are sending the item directly.
  5. Introduce limited edition versions of your work. Create a sense of exclusivity and scarcity by producing a small number of pieces with unique features or variations. This can generate excitement among collectors and prompt them to make a purchase sooner, fearing they might miss out.
  6. Offer customized art pieces tailored to individual customers’ preferences. Commission work commands a higher price, and personalization adds perceived value as well.
  7. Reward loyal collectors by giving them exclusive previews of your new work before it’s publicly released. This makes them feel valued and can lead to early purchases at full price. Quite a few artists have sold out a limited release of new work to raving fans this way.

By focusing on adding value and services, and maintaining the perceived worth of your art, you can create a sustainable art business without resorting to discounting.


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