Selling Yourself Short
Selling yourself short is easy for us artists. Our creations become a part of us. It is part of our super-ego. Thus, we are more likely to feed that super-ego than we are to think rationally.
To My Fellow Artists
You’re either in this to make money, or feed that super-ego. (And, I say super-ego because it, by definition, “reflects the internalization of cultural rules, mainly taught by parents applying their guidance and influence.”) While it is possible to do both, few can. The proof is when a celebrity asks you to do a portrait, and you do it for free because you believe it will boost your sales and popularity.
Here are a few ways we sell ourselves short…
- Setting our prices so low there is no way we can really make money. Any photographer in the United States charging less than about $200/hour is doing just that. Real life example: A local photographer who charges $60 for a 2 hour session, then gives them all the digital files.
- Offering too much of a discount in an attempt to close the sale. (See #1) Real life example: I once cut my rates in 1/3rd just to get the job. I was sorry in the end. It was a lot of work for no profit.
- Letting people disrespect you by allowing them to set your prices. (Example: “A thousand dollars! That’s way too much money. Would you do it for $200.”) Real life example: A photographer who told me it is better to lose money on a job that not do the job. (Huh? It doesn’t make sense now, nor did it then.)
- Mistaking fame for fortune. I gave one example already (doing a celebrity portrait for free). Another example would be the cover of a magazine without compensation. (The exception might be for charity and nonprofit publications.) Real life example: An agent once called me asking for a high-res digital copy of a client’s portrait. When I told him it would cost $1,000 he said claimed I should do it for free because it would make me famous.
- Taking the shot-gun approach. This is where you distribute so much of your work across stock houses and various sales outlets it is no longer an exclusive. Real life example: I saw a print for $1,200 on one site, and on another site, the same print was $600, and another site it was less depending on what size you purchased.
- Not being picky enough. You don’t have to accept every job. Feel free to say, “This isn’t a good match for my type of work.” Real life example: A call from a lady who wanted an 8×10 that night. Sorry, I don’t rush things. I suggested she contact Walmart.
Getting Out of the Rut
Getting out of this rut takes discipline to silence the super-ego. Here are alternatives to the above…
- Calculate your Cost of Doing Business, and establish an hourly rate that meets your CoDB AND pays you a liveable wage.
- Don’t offer any discount to close a sale. If you are going to offer a discount, make it up front. Make your discount based on a certain criteria. For example, if the client belongs to the same Chamber of Commerce as your business, you might say, “We offer a 10% discount to all Chamber members.” However, do not find yourself listening to the client’s hesitation and saying, ‘Well, if you’re undecided, how about I knock 10% off.’ In their mind, if you’ll do that, perhaps you’ll knock off more.
- Simple tell them, “These are my rates.” Selling yourself short doesn’t make you money.
- If they financially benefit or if they would pay if they go else where, then you too should be paid. In addition, you should be paid your rates (see #1). Can you do stuff for free? Of course, but do it because you are doing it for you, and not because they will save money.
- Pick one venue. Stick to it. Market the heck out of it. If it isn’t working, drop it and go to a different venue.
- If you don’t want to do the job, don’t take their money. Suggest they visit another studio, and give them the name and phone number of that studio.