Covering costs…or….I thought you wanted business

Richard Charpentier Notes from Rich 1 Comment

I have to do one quick story about my studio business that happened this fall.  It’s been on my mind, but I’d never written about it as the client is a blog reader.  But at this point it doesn’t matter, so we can talk about this one and you tell me what you think.

I like your work, but…..

Almost two months ago I was contacted by a recent transplant to the Prescott area.  They were interested in me printing canvases for them.  Their former printer lived where they did in California, and it would be more convenient to work with me.

We spent more than a half hour talking about my process, color management, and materials used.  The client was enthused and ready to get to it.  That’s when I handed him my price list and things went downhill.

The client told me his “friend” was producing canvases for him at half the cost.  He kept referring to his former printer as his “friend.”  I finally asked him about the business relationship.  In fact, the printer was his friend first and printer second.  That was my “ah ha” moment.

The printer was literally charging this guy cost.  What he wanted from me was actually what it would cost me to produce his prints and nothing more.  I explained this to him and also told him that I could not operate just charging cost for a final product.  He was willing to pay for the canvas and ink, but nothing more so our discussion ended.

What was funny about the whole thing is the fact he came into the gallery a few weeks later and complained about me.  Apparently he felt that my stance (not working for cost) implied I didn’t want business.  Really?  It was explained to him that there was overhead (studio rent), electricity, skill, and my time.  And he still insisted that it sounded like I didn’t want his business.  If I had worked at cost for the four years I was operating I would have closed in the first 6 months.

If we all paid cost

Just imagine a world where we all paid cost.  You only pay for the building materials and the property for your new house.  The builders don’t charge you for their time and labor.  Man, housing prices would plummet.  And how about going to a car dealership and paying cost?  That would be sweet.

Unfortunately in the real world we all pay more than the cost of the resource.  A lump of Iron Ore must be processed.  Time, labor, and manufacturing go into that.  Energy for the plants that convert raw materials into usable products is consumed.  Overhead of production facilities.  And the skills of those putting all this together are a factor too.

Clearly there’s a disconnect out there when it comes to professional services (except for doctors and lawyers).  Folks devalue the final input.  It’s more than a little hurtful to people who’ve spent years and a lot of money learning their profession and to in the end be talked down to because they’re trying to make a living too.  That’s why I popped my favorite video up a few weeks ago.  It was a very honest picture of what I’ve been experiencing for years.

Now…..I’m going to go off and see if I can get a 27 foot Airstream at cost…..Somehow I think I’ll fail epically.

Comments 1

  1. Good to hear from you and nice to know that you reached your destination without a hitch (wrong pun). I had assumed you were going back to New England, but I am guessing now that you are in Ohio.

    When I was in Indiana years ago, I was taking Kodachrome slides (remember them?), particularly of old barns. One day a friend, from Kentucky, was with me. He asked “why don’t you ever take a picture of a new barn?

    Good luck, and I will look forward to pictures of your new digs in a few weeks.

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