Wednesday, November 09, 2011
One of the most challenging tasks as an artist running a business is to set the right price, whether it be for a service, or an item for sale. Let's take this from the top, shall we?
As an artist, you have the choice to either create work for the pure pleasure of it, or to create work for profit as well as the (hopefully) pure pleasure of it. Let's face it... in this day and age, we find ourselves short on time, so creating art for fun is something I for one can't find the time for... I have a hard enough time finding the time to do my paying work! I have dozens of projects just waiting in the wings for some free time to show up... projects that I know I would enjoy doing, but, with bills to pay, simply can't justify spending the time on. So I find artistic projects that I can enjoy doing and get paid for, from my freelancing work to my comics and artwork.
I've been fortunate enough to be able to brand myself as HappyGlyphs Comics, and somehow keep everything under one roof. This leads to trouble, though, since branding becomes a business and business comes with lots of paperwork. The good news is that if you truly have a business, many of your expenses are tax deductible, which helps justify doing that artwork we enjoy doing.
However, as I've discussed in an earlier post, you can't deduct the cost of your goods (artwork, books, etc) until you actually sell them. So, we have a couple of things to address: the initial price of goods, and a later discount on those goods.
First of all, you technically sell things to make a profit. Any artist out there who has tried this is smirking right now, because let's face it... to get anywhere in this biz, many of us have had to work for free, or give stuff away, to get our names out there. Once established, you can then try for that 'profit' stuff we've all heard about. Selling services is one thing we can do, and selling stuff is the other. But selling stuff usually involves an initial buying of stuff, such as paying for our art to be made as prints or into books or on t-shirts. "How hard can this be?" you ask me. "Just add a little extra to what you paid for the t-shirts, and that's your profit."
Not that easy. You have to remember that your audience has an idea of what things should cost. They are not going to pay ten dollars for your comic book, or thirty dollars for your t-shirt. You have to price competitively, which is why it is very difficult to run a small business using sites like Cafe Press or Lulu, two of the sites that I like, or the many other similar companies out there.
Your first problem is that, unless you are buying hundreds or thousands of items, you are going to be paying premium prices, prices that may already rival what your competition is selling. For example, have you priced out the cost of a color comic book? If you are going Print on Demand, the cost of a small comic can be 3 or 4 dollars, the price that Marvel sells Spiderman for. (and yes, Marvel is your competitor!) To make a profit, you are now asking your audience to pay more for your comic than they would for an established favorite like Spiderman. This can work if you have lots of people out there that love your work, but remember, they have to find it first, and if it's on the web, they may have to pay shipping on top of that. You're off to a rocky start already.
Now let's say that you've gone to a real printer, and printed a hundred comics all at a decent price so that you can make a profit and keep your audience happy. A year goes by and you have a box of 80 comics sitting around, and you can't even deduct the price of those books yet, since they haven't sold. Now you have to think about a sale.
At which point do you decide to sacrifice a profit just to reduce inventory and get that Cost of Goods Sold back? Well, that's up to you. If you have new books coming out, then selling the old one at discount may be a good way to build up an audience. If those books have been in your closet a few years now, then it's definitely time to reduce the price. It's painful, but that's reality. Even Disney has bargain bins, and remember... people love a bargain. You may go a long way to improving customer satisfaction if that customer feels good about getting a bargain from you.
If you're just starting out in a small business, or considering it, this post may be disturbing. And that's the best gift I can give you. I don't want to discourage anyone, and frankly, us artistic types do what we have to, not what people tell us, but I promise you that unless you are some kind of world wonder, you will not succeed if you don't work smart. Think before you act, and research, and most of all, start small. Build up that audience before you go and try selling stuff. Show us what you got, first, and if we like it, we'll ask for merchandise.
There's a lot more we can discuss on this topic, so if I haven't covered something, please ask. I'm always happy to answer (most) questions. :0)
And since we're on the subject, have I mentioned that I've upgraded the shop, and have many fine items for sale?
Take care, JOHN :0)