Raising Your Prices: A Lesson for Breaking the News

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, Bursting Through
©2010 Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, Bursting Through. Oxidized and textured sterling silver with an 8mm faceted whisky quartz.

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin faithfully sends a tri-fold newsletter about her metalwork 8 times a year. I’ve been receiving them for some time now and have enjoyed watching them get better and better.

Her Winter 2011 edition caught my eye — not just for the gorgeous silver ring with “whiskey quartz” (who knew?!) on the front, but for this article.

Cost of Silver
The cost of silver – London PM Fix 1995-present (December 2010).

Don’t just tell them. Show them.

Wendy didn’t just tell her collectors that she needed to raise the prices on her metalwork, she showed them why in a very graphic way.

A quick glance at this graph shows that silver has gone from around $4.50 an ounce in December 2002 to $30 an ounce in December 2010!

Anyone can understand this.

Treating Your Collectors Well

Wendy didn’t just break the bad news about raising her prices. She offered a discount to her subscribers for a defined period.

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26 thoughts on “Raising Your Prices: A Lesson for Breaking the News”

  1. I’ve often wondered if it’s a good idea to announce you are about to up your prices. I raised mine a little over a year ago and didn’t announce it. Can’t really put my finger on why I didn’t want to announce it beforehand. In Wendy’s case it makes perfect sense since she is using materials that have really increased in price.
    While painter’s materials and expenses do go up it is not proportional to what precious metals are doing so I don’t know if that graph idea would work. It’s not so much the cost of the canvas and paint, its what the artist does with them that reflects the pricing…oh, and how well they can sell them 😉
    So if you are raising your prices because it’s time or you are really selling and NOT due to the rising cost of materials should you try and explain that or is it better left unsaid?
    I know Robert Genn raises his prices about 10% annually on the same day and posts this on his website. If nothing else it lets his collectors know his work WILL appreciate because he is going to increase his prices.
    I’d like to hear how other artists have handled announcing price increases.
    Thanks Alyson!

    1. Casey: You’re right. Raising prices on paintings isn’t the same thing. You don’t have the same reasons to use such a graph.
      BUT, if you can’t keep up with demand (you can’t paint fast enough to satisfy everyone who wants the work), you have good reason there to raise your prices. And you could create a graph that had, say, # of paintings sold and produced.
      I’ve always recommend telling previous buyers that you’re raising your prices and giving them the opportunity to purchase at the current prices for [random number inserted here] months.

    2. Good point Alyson, thanks!
      Think I will announce it next time with the opportunity to purchase at current prices for a limited time. While fortunately my sales have been great lately, I AM still able to keep up with demand. I do think artists should raise their prices periodically period, unless they aren’t selling at all. The price of EVERYTHING is going up and nobody is going to give us a raise.

  2. That was surely a creative way in which to get the point across. People will interpret it differently but I can see that the bottom line of her message is clear. It also allows her ot be very open and honest with her clients which can really be appreciated.
    Definitely like that she offered a discount, it shows that she’s about more than just making money, she’s showing concern for her clients too, a very effective form of marketing.
    But above everything else, I love how her newsletter is diverse, it talks about her art but in a broader sense and in conjunction with other things in the world. It’s not your typical “This month I completed 5 new paintings blah blah blah….”

  3. I’d also like to hear your thoughts on Casey’s question. I’ve been considering raising my custom work pricing because I feel I’ve been undervaluing my work. I can’t really come out and say this to customers, however, but I agree that raising prices without an explanation seems fishy to customers.

    1. I had the exact same problem of under pricing my Art..in fact Alyson had sent me a mail about that and yet another seasoned Artist mentioned that to me so I decided to increase my price…however I din’t want it to be a sudden change and so I was sending out my first Newsletter this Jan….I mentioned that my etsy shop which I opened 5 months ago was receiving a great response and that I was in the process of reworking my price. And they could expect a rise in price of my artworks from Jan 20th.
      However I din’t give any discounts…I think that would have been a great sales pitch…

  4. I am curious as to the reason Giesla “can’t really come out and say this,” if willing to share- I wondered if you meant couldn’t say that work was under-valued (as opposed to increasing of price). Alyson, is there a reason that one shouldn’t tell customers about an upcoming price change? Thank-you.

    1. What I meant was I can’t simply say “I have been undercharging for my time & efforts”. I have no problem raising prices and giving existing newsletter subscribers an extension on existing prices. People won’t blink at “the cost of materials went up”. People may balk at “the value of my time went up”. I don’t have an increase in work to relate this to, however I do have an increase in the number of customers asking for deals & discounts and then walking away when I say no. My price increase is a way to not only value my time more but to attract people who will also value it.

  5. Thanks for picking up on this topic, Alyson. Like you, I’ve subscribed to Wendy’s newsletter right from the beginning and enjoyed watching it grow and improve.
    But like Giesla, I feel that some of my work (particularly my production work) is undervalued. To that end, I’m seriously considering coming out and saying, in effect, “lookit, folks, my work is undervalued based on comparable work my peers are producing. I am therefore raising my prices as of ‘x’ date. However, for my loyal patrons, I am willing to hold the line on prices for the next ‘n’ days.”
    I will certainly say that in a more polite way, but that said: what do you folks think?

  6. I have this fantasy. I raise all my prices by, say, 50% (it is a fantasy) and suddenly, the next day, everything I have is sold. It’s a fantasy! (Like my Nobel Prize for Physics fantasy).
    Honestly? I’m uncertain about raising my prices. They are, already, higher than many people (usually hobbyists) and lower than others (better known). What I did do was to buy as much Argentium supplies as I could afford and then when prices go up I’ll not have to panic. That said, I do think that we need to consider rising costs not just of supplies but overhead as well. Everything is going up except our elders’ social security (and for some that has actually gone down).

  7. I would agree with your second-to-last point, Patricia. I’m not as concerned about rising costs of materials (in my case wood that I (mostly) cut/rescue myself) as I am with the ancillary costs associated with running a business: taxes, utilities, fees (e.g., PCI-DSS pass throughs) and other “incidentals.” The prime variable, of course, is what our patrons are willing to pay for our work. But to return to my earlier comment, I’ve run break-even analyzes on two scenarios. I could (a) keep my prices down and hope inventory turnover increases proportionally to cover my increased expenses or (b) increase prices in proportion to increased overhead and hope the volume remains constant. Making decisions like that are, I guess, why we get paid the “big bucks.”

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Patricia. Would you mind emailing me (brad@turningarts.com) a screen shot of any particular page that doesn’t load? Perhaps I can help. Thx.

    2. Thanks, Casey. Appreciate your feedback. With all the variables associated with the web, I like to know when there are problems and jump on them right away.

  8. I would not be comfortable using the term “undervalued”. Whether accurate or not there could be a perception that you aren’t professional about your work and how you determine its value. Perhaps just a straight forward I am raising my prices effective (insert date here) and then whatever continuation of old prices you want to honor. If you haven’t raised them in several years you might point that out.
    I think it’s a slippery slope when we start trying too hard to justify why our prices are going up. For some it is just because they can. Artwork of any kind whether it’s one of a kind jewelry or paintings or beautiful woodworks are original hand crafted pieces and are valuable and the artists should be compensated for their work AND their talent not just their overhead.
    That’s my 2 cents anyway 🙂

  9. I have done a similar approach. On January 1, 2010, I raised my prices on my silver jewelry by a couple to a few dollars a piece (they are silver charms). I had one customer complain to me that she was going to buy one, but didn’t want to pay the additional $2 now for the piece. Seriously.
    As 2010 was coming to a close, and I realized I needed to raise prices again, I took the proactive approach. I let my customer list know that the price of silver was up significantly (with a link to a similar chart as shown above) and let them know, without uncertainty, the prices would be going up January 1, 2011. A few more bought than usual. I don’t regret “sharing” one bit, and I think the customers appreciated my forthright email.

  10. Very clever – love it! Maybe a fun graph about the rising cost of shipping/gas. Or cotton?
    I think raising your prices every year is just good business. It doesn’t have to be huge, but keep up with the cost of living as much as you can.

  11. I’ve decided not to raise my prices yet. I don’t have droves of people buying my work yet and I’m not sure that raising my prices would encourage sales. The point of the original post, however, wasn’t whether or not to raise prices, but how to effectively justify it to one’s clients. And given the automatic human response to raising prices of anything, this may actually be necessary no matter the circumstances.

  12. Being a jeweler, my price rises are more noticeable than other media, but most people understand the reasons. Honestly, for those of you working in other media, I really don’t think your customers will even notice! Everything is going up. But unless you have customers who buy the same thing from you on a regular basis, they probably won’t even KNOW you’ve raised your prices. Rising prices are, unfortunately, a given in today’s economy. I don’t think it is incumbent upon you to even notify customers of an impending rise. The only reason I can see to do so, would be to urge “fence sitters” to make a move before the increase.

  13. To be successful after raising your prices requires great sacrifices and efforts in your part. I agree with your post and have been applying what you wrote ever since I began my business. It’s a bit hard but the satisfaction that you get when you have done all your best to make the best business strategies is worth the effort. Here’s something I want to share with regards to price raising: http://marieforleo.com/2011/12/should-you-raise-prices/

  14. Pingback: 12 Tips for Pricing Your Art — Art Biz Blog

  15. Alyson,
    Thanks for sharing this article. And Grace, thanks for the link to Marie’s website. I’ve learned so much from both Alyson and Marie, and I am so grateful. 🙂

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