Deep Thought Thursday: “I can’t afford it.”

I know you've heard this from some of the potential art buyers you come across. Seth Godin gives you a little bit of advice  for how to respond to . . .

"I can't afford it."

That's not true.

At least it's not true almost all the time. Very few of your
prospects literally can't afford it. What they are really trying to say
is, "it's not worth it." As in, it's not worth reprioritizing my life,
not worth the risk, not worth what I'll have to give up to get this,
not worth being in debt for.

One response to repeated cries of "I can't afford it" is to lower
your prices. A better response is to tell a better, more accurate
story, and to tell it to the right people. The best response is to make
something worth paying for.

(This is the entire post from Seth's blog.)

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10 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: “I can’t afford it.””

  1. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Hmm. I just clicked and it’s working. Maybe try again. It’s the entire post from his blog. I’ll make that note addition.

  2. Anne Leuck Feldhaus

    How about the question I seem to get all the time: “I don’t have any more wall space”. My responses: -stats that show if you do not move your art around you stop seeing it, -I also tell them of my recent move and how rejuvenating it was to hang and rotate in new art work. Maybe they too are just saying it’s not worth it to replace the art they already have.

  3. “… and tell it to the right people.” There are two kinds of people who like my art: those who pull out their checkbook, and those who say “I wish I could afford it.” I see it as my job to find the former. I’d love to convince the “I can’t afford it” crowd that they’re wrong, but I have no idea how to do that. So I just try to reach “the right people.” Barbara J Carter

  4. When someone says to me “I can’t afford it”, and it’s someone who isn’t just making a flippant remark, but is sincerely showing interest, I offer them a payment plan. I have sold quite a bit of my work this way & it has worked out just fine. I think that often it may not occur to people that you might be willing to sell your work that way. I don’t agree that lowering your prices is really an option. (Unless they are unrealistically inflated) However, I will sometimes give someone a break on the price, especially if they are buying more than one piece. Christine

  5. By the way……..”affording it” isn’t the issue–what you choose to spend your money on is the issue. I think I would rather have someone say to me “I can’t afford it” rather than “I could buy this painting, but I’d rather have a giant screen TV instead”. It’s easier to take, even if it’s not true. Christine

  6. I also point out smaller works that may suit their budget. If after chatting I can tell they are very keen but clearly not able to afford the piece they love I will ask if they had a price in mind – many people I ask this DO, and they are out looking for art specifically but are limited by that budget. Then I can show them smaller works – sometimes even a set of small work to seem like ‘more’. 🙂

  7. A friend of mine, who also happens to be one of the most financially successful ceramic artists I know personally, has a poster in the back of her shop that shows a naked woman sipping tea on her couch. There is art everywhere. The poster reads “Who needs clothes when you can have art?” I’m not sure the poster is solely responsible for her financial success but it makes everyone laugh and most walk out with something in their hands.

  8. Barbara wrote: “I’d love to convince the ‘I can’t afford it’ crowd that they’re wrong, but I have no idea how to do that.” I think Seth’s point is that this crowd is simply the wrong audience. If they don’t value the story of your work enough, then they will not purchase it. Convincing them to is either a losing battle, or not cost-effective. Instead, our job is to find the people who respond so clearly to our stories that they cannot NOT afford it.

  9. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Christine: Careful on offering a payment plan. There are all kinds of legal issues surrounding ownership when you do that. Elizabeth T. Russell,, wrote about this issue in Art Calendar (December 2006). I do agree that “I can’t afford it” is much easier to take, although the philosophy behind Seth’s post is worth analyzing when you come up against this. Mary: How powerful if the poster featured the naked woman sipping tea surrounding by HER (the artist’s) art. Good mojo. Barbara and Daniel: Yep. Trying to convince the wrong people is just a waste of time. Spend that time trying to reach the right people with the right message.

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