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The most disastrous sales method I ever encountered was that of a painter whose work I really liked. There was no indication that any of the work was for sale or how much it cost. When challenged about this, the artist said that he would decide on the price by working out what he thought the person asking could afford! Asking the price of a piece of work is a statement of commitment that prospective purchasers hesitate to make without having any clue about the possible cost. You need to make it easy for people to know what is for sale and how much it costs. This will allow people to decide if they can afford your work, and whether they think the price is fair, before they have to approach you about it.

Lists and labels

Have plenty of price lists and a clear numbering system. Lists should include numbers of the works, titles, dates and prices. If you can make enough copies to allow visitors to take them away, make sure you put your name and address on them so people can contact you later. If a visitor has particularly liked a piece of work, mark it on the list before you give it to them. You can put one list on the wall and leave others on a table for people to pick up. Put red dots on the copy on the wall, to indicate which work is sold.

Labels can be typed or hand-written. Make sure they are large enough to be easy to read and that it is clear which piece of work each label refers to. Don't put price labels on the underside of pieces such as pots, figurines, glassware etc. as people will inevitably pick them up. Red dots can be stuck on the labels when work is bought. Classy London galleries usually cover the price with the dot!

Taking or collecting

You will have to decide whether or not to let purchasers take away work that they have bought, or whether you are going to ask them to leave the work until your open studio is finished.

If you let buyers remove their purchases immediately, you need to have enough work to replace what is taken away. If you sell almost everything at the beginning you could have the embarrassment of not having anything for later visitors to view (though it's the sort of embarrassment you might not mind!). You must not close even if you have sold out!

If you allow people to remove things as they buy them, make sure your red dotted list is prominently displayed or leave the labels (suitably red-dotted) on show. Customers tend to be encouraged by the feeling that they are not alone in liking your work! You can indicate that a work is reserved but not actually sold (i.e. it may become available again) by marking it with half a red dot.

Hanging on to sold items, complete with those telling red dots, will give later visitors a chance to commission similar work. However you can also encourage commissions by having lots of good photographs of your work to show and discuss

Occasionally you may not have a choice. Visitors who come a long way may not be willing to come back to collect work. Insisting on their leaving it could mean losing the sale or involve you in a long drive to deliver it. A purchaser may also be shopping for a last minute birthday present and only want the work if they can take it away with them. The trick is to be flexible

The mechanics

Have a receipt book ready - this is vital if you are going to hang on to purchases. If you are selling small items, such as postcards or greeting cards, have a cash float and keep plenty of change available.

Make sure that you have wrapping and packing materials available. if that is appropriate for your medium, and, of course, a packet of sticky red dots.


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