Having a sale of your art might be unpalatable.
It feels as if you are cheapening the work you put so much effort into, and I get it.
In just the last episode of The Art Biz, I talked with Bri Larson about the mindset around raising prices and why it was important to do so.
There are, however, reasons for having a sale.
In this article and episode of The Art Biz I discuss the psychology and process around having a sale of your art or any products that you might sell. Products such as calendars, pillows, books, or reproductions.
I’ll share 6 options for having a sale, although, as you’ll see, promotion is probably a better word because not all of the options are about offering a discount.
You will have to decide which is best for original work and which is okay for other items—what feels right so that you don't regret taking the action.
I’m also going to give you additional steps to take around your sale.
Stick with me to the end and I'll share 3 mistakes you don’t want to make when having a sale of your art.
Before you do anything …
Count Your Inventory
Conduct a detailed account of what you have in stock or inventory. This is easy if you are using an inventory management system like Artwork Archive.
Don’t include everything! Limit what is available during this short window of time.
How many pieces of art do you have to sell? Or how many products?
Then, add up the retail sales prices of the inventory you want to find homes for. What is the total value of what you have available?
You want to know this number so that your expectations are realistic. If it feels right for you, set a goal for how much you would like to sell.
After you have done this, consider whether your promotion will be a discount or bonus.
that original art isn't discounted, however ...
Why [Infrequent] Discounts on Art Are Okay
I prefer that you use discounts for items other than original art, but there are a few reasons why I’m okay with offering infrequent discounts.
- We must acknowledge that there is a lot of art in the world that needs to find homes. It's not doing you any good taking up space. Even if you don’t need to make money from the sale of your art, it’s not fun to watch inventory pile up. If you’re lucky, you have space for that inventory, but, even if that’s the case, the energy of unsold art haunts many artists.
- Gallerists offer discounts all of the time to their top collectors. Why shouldn’t you have this same option?
- If you sell through another venue, they would be earning a commission, which eats into your profit margin. If your prices are proper, you won’t lose money.
[ See How to Price Your Art ]
Here are two options for discounts, whether it’s for originals or products …
2 Options for Discounts
1. Flat Discount
When you want to keep things simple, offering a flat discount is the way to go.
Marketers say that 30% off is a good motivator. Anything less doesn't move people to act as quickly.
Figure out the costs that were involved in making any products and see that you recoup as much of your investment as possible, but also find new homes for as much as you can.
2. Declining Discount
I haven’t seen this done in a while, so maybe it’s time to bring it back. A declining discount looks like something like this: 50% off the first day, 40% off the second day, and so forth.
Declining discounts encourage early buying and require frequent communication because the discounts are getting smaller.
Now let’s look at another option for promotions, bonuses.
4 Options for Bonuses
1. Bonus Add-ons
Buy 1 and get these bonuses …
This works great when you have digital products that can be downloaded, such as special reports, audio interviews, or a video lesson.
It could also work if you have reproductions or note cards that you could include with purchase of the original.
Buy 2 for the price of one …
Buy 2 for the price of 1 sounds like quite a bargain, but it has to be something that people want two of.
You must make the case that they can use or want 2 of something. If not, a two-fer isn't a motivator.
2. Bonus for Early Action
For the first <e.g. 5, 10, 15> buyers …
This promotion encourages fast action and rewards those who take it.
I've noticed my favorite baseball team does this but with much bigger numbers. “The first 15,000 fans receive …” It never dawned on me before why they did this, but I'm pretty sure it's so that people come to the stadium earlier and buy lots of food and beverages.
3. Free Shipping
Free shipping anywhere in the U.S. …
This seems to be a good incentive for many buyers, regardless of what you sell. Be clear on any parameters about where you will ship.
4. Free Frame
Free frame or pedestal included …
To make this cost-effective for you, you'd better buy in bulk. Specify whether or not assembly is required.
Get Clear On Your Offer
There are many variables within the options for discounts or bonuses—keeping in mind that what might work for products like pillows or reproductions might not be the best idea for a sale of your original work.
Of course, you can combine the options.
For example, merge the bonuses for early action with free shipping and your promotion looks like this: The first 10 buyers get free shipping.
Whatever direction you take, I urge you to keep it simple.
The worst sale results I've had were when I offered 3 different packages for buying my book.
Those bad results might also have been due to unclear messaging.
It hard to explain complicated options clearly enough that people can discern the value in each. When people have to make a decision based on too many variables, many of them will abandon the idea.
Make it easy for them to decide: Yes or No. Do they want it or not?
Trust me. Simple is best.
Stick to a Schedule
Decide on beginning and ending dates for your sale and stick with them. Long sales get tiresome and people (especially you) lose interest.
People need a reason to
People need a compelling reason to buy NOW, so the sale has to end within a relatively short period of time.
Make it no longer than 1 week and end it on a weekday when people are more likely to be checking email. With that time frame, you can concentrate your promotions and then get back to work when it ends.
Create a schedule for sending emails and posting to social media. You’ll need multiple emails and social posts that each convey a unique message about your offer.
I provide training for strategies around email marketing in my Art Biz Accelerator coaching group.
If you could benefit from support, accountability, and strategies while surrounding yourself with artists who seek the same, I invite you to join us.
Avoid These 3 Mistakes
I can't let you have a sale of your art without first cautioning you to avoid these three mistakes.
Don't. Do. This.
1. Not informing your gallerist.
In order to maintain your strong relationship, be forthright. Discuss how the sale will be handled with your gallerist.
2. Ignoring previous buyers.
Extend your offer to previous buyers first, perhaps even giving them a little bit extra (of something) because they purchased at a higher price.
Always keep in mind those who have been supporting you and make sure they get VIP treatment.
3. Having sales too frequently.
If you are discounting regularly, people will wait for the sale and there is nothing special about it.
Of course, much more goes into a sale, including email strategies, a page on your website, and marketing messaging.
This post was originally published in a very different form on January 21, 2013, and updated on June 27, 2019. It has been updated significantly with the addition of a podcast episode, but with all original comments intact.