Selling your work at your price

In most inherently creative fields – drawing or painting, sculpture, photography, video, game design, etc. – there’s a problem between what the creator (you) wants and what the consumer (your customers, shoppers, and fans) want.

On one side, you want to create.

In traditional fields, however, what you’re creating isn’t a necessity. Nobody has to have that Monet painting. Nobody has to buy a vase made of recycled newspaper, or a marble sculpture of Aphrodite. There’s certainly nobody who has to buy the latest music album from their favorite band.

Because nobody needs what you’re creating, they feel as though the cost of that thing should be minimal to nothing. And they’re not going to scour the Earth to find it either.

A movie for more than $20? That’s absurd. An app for my phone that costs a dollar or two? Is that really necessary? A painting from an artist in my neighborhood, for more than the price of the frame it’s in? Why?

The result of this landscape is that independent creators – small bands playing bar shows, the painter who hung her works up at a local cafe, a publishing business trying to get their first series of books out the door – are forced into charging less for their work than they invested into it.

This model doesn’t work.

You can’t succeed as a painter if you’re not selling your paintings at a price higher than what you paid for the materials and the time you put into creating the work. How will you afford to create another painting? But nobody wants to pay more than what they think a creative work is worth.

One way to resolve the issues is to get paid for the work in advance. Rather than creating and then letting customers tell you how much they want to pay (and risking failure), you could crowdfund the work. People show how much they’re willing to give you for your work. If it meets your costs, you win.

But that’s a temporary solution. You can’t crowdfund every single painting, every album, every sculpture.

The trick, then, is to convince your audience that the work is worth it. That the additional cost they’re paying is for the quality, the originality, the fact that what you’re selling is exactly worth what they’re paying. To convince your customers that the next photograph you take is the most beautiful, and worthwhile photo that will take place in the next ten years, is to show them that it’s worth the price you’re asking.

You can’t convince customers to buy your work by simply hanging it in a gallery, selling it on Amazon, or setting up shop once a year at the State Fair. You have to really sell the value of your work.

If you can do that, you can do practically anything for a living.

So if you want to live a creative life through your work, learn to sell. Here is a collection of books that will show you how to do just that.

Photo by Kevin Dooley.