How do you respond when people say they can’t afford your artwork?

Kelly Borsheim wrote months ago with a terrific question. I still don’t have a good answer for it, so I thought I’d throw it out for anyone who can help.

What do you way when someone loves your work, praises it, and then, basically says, “I sure hope I win the lottery someday so I can afford it”?

In my business, I’m able to offer more affordable classes and e-books for those who can’t afford individual assistance.

But, what do you do?

To yourself, you might realize that they’re not your best customers, but what do you say out loud to respond to their comments?

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10 thoughts on “How do you respond when people say they can’t afford your artwork?”

  1. Offer a time payment plan. I don’t sell work myself, but one of my galleries frequently sells on time and I receive my percentage with each monthly payment. I’ve never tried bartering but I’ve known artists who have successfully traded for services as well as merchandise. As to what to say, remind them that it’s usually a matter of priorities and would they like to try out a painting for a few days. KJ

  2. Hello, quick note…Inherent to that comment-remember this- this is important…Is the underlying assumption that they LIKE your work…In their minds they have progressed from the question, do I like this? to, Can I afford this? In order to get to the second question, they have to have answered the first question with a yes…Thus, what you have in front of you is a fan…(uless they are lying).. Find out who they are, get their email address, mailing address, put them on your guest list, newsletter list, make friends with them – fans will support you when you are down, help you put up shows, give you advice for free, fans are gallery owners, friends of powerful people…fans are few and far between…Fans will keep you going…remember, they like your work…that is the best advertising…word of mouth by a fan… BTW- I only work with gallery owners who are fans…Can’t always afford to buy my work, but love it and support it- and will sell for me to those who can afford it…

  3. People can afford anything they want, just not everything they want. If someone is very interested in your work, you can set up a rent to own package or you can encourage them to become a part-time salesman for you. Encourage them to tell someone else who can easily afford your art about it. If they can get you a sale, give them a discount on a piece for themselves.

  4. I am a little pessimistic on this… most of the people that tell me this… I know can afford it…I know them personally… They just want a discount or even for me to give it to them for FREE. I think it is a way for people to politely say NO Thanks…If they dont know me.

  5. Since I do the whole matting and framing process myself, including cutting the glass and chopping/staining moulding, I let people know that taking one of these one-of-a-kind painted feathers and paying such-and-such framers-chainstore and framing it in a similar fashion would run. It is then that they realize what I’m offering is indeed a bargain. I also really like art shows that do “quick draws”. If people tell me they really like my work but they just can’t pay this, I tell them, “Stick around! There’s going to be a quick-draw and live auction later this afternoon. You can see me pulling my hair out trying to paint one of these in an hour, and then the completed work will go to live auction.” I’ve found that almost always keeps them around. If they are outbid, quite often I see them come back for that one piece they really liked in the first place. I wish more multi-artist exhibitions did quick-draws. People love to watch artists work, and then bid on the pieces they watched being created.

  6. I guess I wanted to make a point, but wasn’t quite clear…Art, making art, is NOT about money…Many highly intellectual, creative, interesting, powerful people with influence are…broke…If you only talk to people who can afford your work, well, you will a very lonely artist…There is much to learn, and gain from all sorts of people…If you have 25 people who like your work but cannot afford it- those 25 will make your opening party look busy and well attended- then when the one wealthy collector walks in- you look very desirable…Make a point of inviting those 25…You never know who they know…

  7. Hi again…I just received an invitation to participate in the Florence Biennale of Contemporary Art in Dec. of 2007…Does anyone know anything about this?

  8. I am not only an artist but a collector. ALL of my pieces (with the exception of my most recent purchase)that I own were bought on payment plans. teri

  9. Great post , You absolutely hit the
    nail on the head, I just don’t understand why people quite get it.
    I’m not for sure how many people I’ve talked to about this very
    thing in the past month, and they just can’t get it.

    I similar to you am involved with cleaning carpets and it is
    a very good thing to see other people this industry with like mentalities and thoughts
    Never the less, Excellent post!

  10. The best way to avoid this issue is to have smaller pieces available where you have used a similar technique/colours/scaling …yadayada, so that they CAN afford an art piece of yours… just maybe not the big one they’d like. (A kind of bait and switch if you like…). It affords them a way to become a collector of your works, so that some day they MAY be able to afford the ‘big one’. It also makes your works more flexible for gallery showings. As artists, we deserve to earn a fair wage for our work. You don’t have to work harder, just work smarter!

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