Hidden Costs

Every artist deserves to be paid for work of the heart and hands. No artist should have to hear “I’ll offer you half that because it’s the end of the day,” or “I can get something just like that and a lot cheaper at Wal-Mart.” That’s just insulting.

Artists are sometimes afraid to ask for the full price, so they begin to add small extra charges to their work. This week I had a transaction that got tarnished by those charges when it didn’t need to.

mousetrapI ordered an item on Etsy that said that the writing shown was simply an example and you could have anything you wanted engraved on the piece. Great. I asked for the words I wanted. Oh, well, that would be extra, because it was custom work. I had also mentioned that I did not need the included chain. The price remained the same.

If I used a credit card, it was one price. But I prefer PayPal, as it protects my credit card numbers. Oh, well, that would be a few dollars more.

And, well, shipping would be extra, too. I understand that. Distance makes a difference. But this was something else. I could get it “regular” mail, with no tracking number. It’s an overseas shipment, so a tracking order is really important. “Regular” mail, it turns out, will take four weeks. I could get it in two weeks for double the shipping amount. And in one week for four times the shipping amount.

And then there was a packing charge, an automatic one for all items shipped overseas. Surprise!


It’s not honest to keep shifting shipping and handling charges. They should be simple for the client to understand.

When the transaction started, I liked the artist and the designs and was willing to pay for quality work. I would have happily paid a higher price. But inching up the price in ways that were not mentioned bothered me. It made me start to doubt the quality of the work, although it had nothing to do with quality.

It had to do with integrity and honesty. Inching up a price doesn’t feel like integrity. Hiding the price to make the reader click through three more pages of advertising doesn’t feel honest.

If you are worried about your prices, change them. Being honest with your prices and posting them where they can be seen is a sure way for your clients to know what you charge. If they can’t afford it, they will not contact you. If they do, and ask you to lower your prices, you can say that your prices are firm. But adding 30 percent to the price of a piece in tiny increments seems, somehow, unworthy of an artist.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, creativity coach, and writing instructor.