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Money: The "I Ain't Got No $$ Blues"

I love people who are motivated by passion. Artists especially.

What I don't love is people who try to take advantage of those of us trying to build a career on doing what we are passionate about. It seems that some people assume that since we're motivated by passion, not money, we are willing to work for free.

Poor PuppyI've fallen prey to this, perhaps you have too. Their approach includes the "I Ain't Got No $$ Blues," and they have lots of reasons why you should discount your work, or give it to them for free.

Sure, the economy isn't swell. Lots of us are short on cash, doing without, and finding creative ways to run our lives and our businesses more economically. Yet, some people feel this means they are entitled to products and services on the cheap, or for free.

One thing I've learned is that when you discount your work or give it away people will come to expect it and feel entitled to it. They won't value you or what you've given them, won't refer others to you, and they'll get angry when you stop giving it. Sad, but true. It's epidemic and I'd like it to stop please.

Many artists are discounting their work, making exceptions, and falling prey to the "I Ain't Got No $$ Blues."  I'm here to tell you that you are only responsible for your own problems, not theirs. You don't have to work like that, and it's really not helping you build a sustainable art career.

I'm learning to set stronger boundaries, I now realize that I don't owe anyone any explanation other than "I'm sorry, these are my prices" or even just a straightforward "No, I can't do that."  I've learned that there are plenty of people in the world who appreciate my work and will pay a fair price for it. The same goes for you my creative and passionate friend.

Remember, we get what we focus on, so let's focus on building relationships that support and nourish us (and that includes financially) so we can continue to be motivated by passion.

All my best to you and yours!

Robin Signature Image  

P.S.  Here's something I DO give away and love doing it: You can have a complimentary 15-minute conversation (if you haven't already had one with me). This isn't a replacement for coaching or a longer consultation, but perhaps I can help point you in the right direction or figure out what it is that you need to help build your art business.


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Reader Comments (6)

Thanks for the great article Robin. This is definitely something I, as I'm sure others do, struggle with. I'm not sure what the sulution is for me. Of course I've been struggling with the whole pricing thing for a while.

When I had a studio last summer I dove head first into painting for the nth time while I was between jobs. I decided to attempt pet portaits again. Needless to say I have yet to get a commission. Or even a job or freelance design work for that matter. It's a complete mystery to me.

I did notice an interesting trend during the shows though. Women were more than ready to commission a portrait until their husbands found out how much I charged. Then poof I never heard from them again. The same happened with my other artwork also. Strange huh?

I think I'm at my wits end in trying to figure this sales thing out. I can't tell you how much free advice I've given to others and it works. But my own advice won't work for me. Hmm. I may need to seek help at this point.



June 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Sneed

Hi Robert: Thanks for your kind comments and for sharing your experiences. You're not alone, many artists find pricing to be difficult and are not sure how to go about it. I do think you would benefit from some help at this point. You might consider doing what I do when I'm stuck and struggling with an issue, I hire Aletta de Wal to coach me. She's brilliant at strategy that works great. You can request a free 15-minute conversation with her here: Thanks again! -Robin

June 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobin Sagara

Lucilda Dassardo-Cooper wrote me and said, "The other thing that gets me too is the donations to hep non-profits. I refuse to donate unless the artist gets a percentage - even if it's only enough to replace the materials." She also commented, "With so many hobbyists out there thrilled for someone to take what they are giving away, the field , like journalism today, is becoming so over run with amateurs that industry standards are not in line with the reality of doing business as an artist. I was cheering this morning when I saw your post in my email. Good work getting the word out."

Thanks Lucilda! I agree with you and hear many stories about artists donating work and it leading to all kinds of trouble. I don't remember where I read it, but one artist had the raffle winners of his work offer to sell it back to him for half the retail price! Another artist had the winners bring the artwork back and complain that they didn't like the frame, and wanted him to re-frame it and ship it to them at his expense. Neither artist made any money, the winners didn't refer any work to him, and they were unhappy/angry because the artist would not accommodate their wishes.

Yes, there are a lot of amateurs out there and people have become used to freebies or cheapies. It's up to us to take responsibility for our part is perpetuating that trend and present ourselves professionally and attract the serious, and paying, clients/collectors.They're there, albeit a bit harder to find these days!

June 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobin Sagara

Thanks for the article Robin, it is refreshing to read and I agree with all you have written. I won't discount my work any more, I wonder if those people would do the same with their dentist, doctor etc. Like you said lots of us are short on cash...I would like it to stop too!

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Thanks Karen. Aletta de Wal reminded me that I CAN take care of my paying clients/customers with free shipping and other goodies, which I do. My dentist does that also, every year he sends out birthday cards to patients with a $50 gift card for future services, and every year I save $50 on a checkup!

July 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobin Sagara

Here's a link to a very amusing video about this topic, really great:

July 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobin Sagara

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