More than Price: Pricing Art

Finance is complex but it is by far the easiest field for assessing one aspect of value. There are “logical” rules within the world of dollars and cents. BUT, because the world of finance is inhabited and controlled by humans, rationality is not always followed nor the driving force. The complexity can, and often does, become chaos. And that uncertainty yields a rightful sense of fear.

Probably one of the biggest fears is to confront the financial worth of our work. Does price really define my worth?

The simple answer is no. But let’s dig into price to understand why that can never be the true measure of our worth and success.

In the realm of economics price is the point at which transaction happens. Transaction is an exchange of value, often times currency/money FOR an object or service. Transaction requires two parties, it can not be done in isolation. Price is therefore never determined by a single party. This means that “price” is not necessarily the number printed with a dollar sign next to an object on the wall, nor is it the the number in the head of a potential customer. The number on the wall is the financial value assessed by the producer of the object and vice versa, the number in the head of a customer is their financial value for the product. Neither party is right or wrong, they are both true.

The challenge might be to get to place where exchange can happen.

The easiest experience is when the number in the head of a customer exceeds the number on the wall. Of course an exchange can happen, and possibly include more then what is stated (a bonus on your work; Wouldn’t that be nice!) As you progress in your work and build the value of your brand this is likely to happen. Think of how often you purchase an object or a service because you value what you are getting sometimes even before the object is produced for your inspection or the service is provided. You know it is worth it either from your own experiences in the past or the trusted guidance of a friend. You know that the brand carries a level of integrity that you trust and will deliver the dollar value, or even more, than what you are taking out of your wallet.

Things get more challenging for the exchange to occur when the reverse is true, the number on the wall exceeds the number in the head of the customer. There is a misalignment of assessed financial value. How do you get the numbers to match up? This is the art of sales and negotiation.

Often times our first inclination is to question our assessed value. This is an icky feeling situation! However, this makes sense as it is what is in our control and likely the easier move on our part. But… there is the possibility of increasing the assessed value in the head of your customer. How do we demonstrate that our number is more accurate for the value of the experience?

When it comes to art, we likely can not lean on objective financial value. The cost of materials and our labor is not likely where the number we put on the wall comes from, nor will those two things add up to what you have put on the wall for the customer. We therefore can not debate the physical value of the object or creation of the object with our customer. The caveat to this might be if we have the market (an “objective” valuation platform that is agreed upon by many) to support our number, but many of us do not have that for our work.

So we have to ask ourselves where did the number on the wall come from?