My First Sale And The Mistakes I Made Selling It

by May 4, 2016Art Versus Money, Make Money From Your Art, Sell What You Have, Systems6 comments

My First Sale And The Mistakes I Made Selling It

Let me tell you a story about one of the first piece I ever sold…

It was 1996, (yes 20 years ago) and it was degree show opening night at Glasgow School of Art – an energy-filled event of high emotions mixed with part dread and probably part alcohol!!

As every art graduate will know, you have spent the past year of your life building and making a collection of pieces for exhibiton and your final ‘exam’. What it really means is that over the previous few weeks you’ve been busting your balls trying to get all your work done with virtually no sleep and an overindulgence of coffee or whatever other ‘substances’ you’ve needed to get you through lol!!! For some you might have actually managed to produce an entire collection in this time as the months before may have been un-forthcoming with ‘finished’ or ‘resolved’ work.

I had made a series of pieces I was particularly proud off – in fact 20 years on I can tell you that any of these pieces were well enough made to be able to sit beside any of the highly skilled luxury work I make today.

So the race was on – who was going to be the first person to sell a piece – everything was priced, all we needed was people.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled when one of the girls from the year below me wanted to buy the neckpiece in the picture of this post. Her mum wanted her to have it as ‘an investment’ and a statement piece for her to wear. I can’t even remember now how much the piece cost but I was overjoyed beyond belief to have been one of the first of my class to actually sell something…wow!!

Fast forward to the next day when the excitement and the alcohol had worn off and what do you think I felt? – I wanted to ‘un-sell’ the piece and give her her money back!! I had become so attached to this series of work, they were my babies after all, they represented a period of my life and I just wanted to keep them all for myself. To be perfectly honest, I still feel that way about them. I didn’t ask for the piece back, but to this day I still regret selling it as I feel my ‘collection’ is incomplete and I have no idea where this particularly ‘baby’ is and what type of life it’s had.

So here’s how I view this scenario now and my attitude to the fact that I made BIG MISTAKES in HOW I sold this piece:

Selling Mistake 1: This piece was made from my heart, it’s creation was ego driven and its design came from within myself, my subconscious and my soul. I hadn’t made the piece to actually sell – instead I had made the piece for a degree show collection and to be exhibited! I couldn’t ‘let it go’! Today my mindset is different – I make pieces that are FOR SALE and are going TO BE WORN by my clients.

Selling Mistake 2: Probably the one mistake I regret most is that I didn’t have a ‘system’ in place to keep a record of who this purchaser was and how to contact them. Of course, at the time I knew the buyer as I went to college with her, but after I’d left and our paths didn’t cross anymore I didn’t have a contact for her. Now 20 odd years later I can’t actually remember her name and I have no idea where this piece is. So, keep a written or computer list of your clients, keep in contact & keep it up-to-date! This buyer could’ve been a client for life & could’ve been collecting my work and supporting me during the past 20 years – if I still had her details!!

Selling Mistake 3: Pricing, Pricing, Pricing. I totally guessed the price of the piece at the time. I think I recall at the time charging £350 – which to a student is a lot of money – but really, no one (including my tutors) gave us any help with pricing. The fact is, this piece will have taken at least 30 hours to make, it’s made in sterling silver and set with semi-precious stones and its unique, a one-off. Today I would be charging at least £1500 for a piece like this depending on the value of the materials used. So learn how to price your work or ask for help on how to price correctly!!

Selling Mistake 4: Photography! This is the only photo I have of this piece – we didn’t have digital cameras or mobiles back then lol!!! In fact this image is a digital scan from a slide – that’s how ancient I am!! So keep digital records with good, well lit, photography of all your work. Take process shots too as you make your pieces which can be used in social media and are a great record. In today’s digital age we really have no excuse!

#dontmakethismistake #sellyourart #makemoney #changeyourmindset #mentortip

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