Faux Finishing Income Lessons from “The Scream” Auction

Or how to earn 120 Million Dollars for one piece of art.

You might also find my series on Faux Finishing Business Success valuable

I’m going to share a business secret of mine. It has to do with how I relate to and communicate with customers regarding the fees I charge for my work, and how I comfortably charge what I feel it’s worth.

Do not be alarmed

Sometimes, when they ask that unavoidable question; “how much does it cost?”, my answer causes facial expressions and sounds resembling “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, the famous painting that just sold at Sotheby’s auction house in London for a record setting 119.9 million dollars.

Faux Finishing Income much "the scream"
The Scream by Edvard Munch

Of course that question is going to come up and when it does, you need to be prepared with an answer that will help your customer feel confident in the value of your work, while getting you a fair price for your work.

Be glad they asked, it’s good for your faux finishing income

It’s an issue that won’t come up unless they love your work and they’re seriously thinking about buying it, so don’t shy away from it, be grateful it’s happening.

This conversation tends to start with the customer seeing your work at a friends house, online, in a portfolio, at a show… Then, they inevitably say something like, “I LOVE what you do!”

So again, stage one is, “I love your work”. Stage two is “How much does it cost?”. And as I mentioned above, stage three is sometimes “Oh my gosh! That’s a lot”.

To this I respond in a very specific and valuable way, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Honey, look what I bought!

First, lets give some thought to the psychology behind why people spend big bucks on art. This is a complicated and multi-layered topic that has gotten a bunch of recent attention due to the auction of “The Scream” from some very respected and brilliant people. Your faux finishing income is directly impacted by this psychology. 

When a wealthy homemaker commissions a mural for her formal dining room, or a car collector hires you to faux wood grain a 1939 Packard, they’re thinking about how it will look, for sure, but often overlooked are the social implications of the buying decision.

The Joneses are gonna freak out!

Of course she’s thinking about how the dining room will feel and look when the mural’s done, or how the Packard will have the glow of rich wood inside… But as a business person, it’s crucial to understand that, perhaps even more-so, she’s imagining what her friends, family and associates will think of her new acquisition and her ability to afford it.

To put it crudely, she wants to show off. I don’t really think of it like that, because I don’t begrudge or judge people for their wealth, for the most part. I consider it crucial to my faux finishing income to assist people in acquiring beautiful things (my art) as a way of sharing that wealth with others.

My job is not to be concerned about what others can or cannot afford, it’s to decide what my effort, talent and skill is worth, then to be totally clear and confident when communicating the value. The confidence I project helps them feel confident about their purchase.

So when she puts both hands on her face like “The Scream” and declares, “That’s a lot!” I don’t react or apologize and I certainly don’t lower the price. I smile and say calmly and confidently-

“That’s what I have to charge in order to do what you love.”Faux finishing income faux oak panel frame

Then I gently change the subject back to what got us talking in the first place: Their project.  The car or the mural or the hand painted sign or the kitchen cabinet doors… This helps her remember all those social and personal reasons she wanted the work done in the first place.

Your invitation, please 

One crucial aspect of this (a topic worthy of a separate series of posts), is that you need to be having this conversation with the right people. Do you think Sotheby’s lets just anyone in for record breaking auction events? No way.

They make sure that the right people from the right segments of society are present.

Just like Sotheby’s, you need to be sure that your work is being seen by people who can afford to pay top dollar for the privilege of owning it.

Did you catch that?

Your work is not a financial burden, it’s a privilege…

that’s afforded to a few fortunate people; people who will benefit by owning it, not feel burdened by its cost.

This is a crucial mindset of wealthy people and those who serve them in business. I’m guessing that the Sotheby’s auctioneers aren’t embarrassed when they take bids in the tens of millions of dollars. They understand that they’re providing a valuable service to their customer base.

Do the folks at Sotheby’s make price concessions when the winning bidders come to pay the bill? No way. Will those buyers hesitate to make final payment? Not at all. They’re too excited about showing their new treasure to family and friends.


  • Communicate the value of your work with confidence.
  • Gently keep your customer focused on what they love about your work and how it’s going to fill their needs.
  • Your work is a privilege for buyers, not a burden. Cultivate this internal confidence and belief .
  • Charge what you feel your work is worth (while paying close attention to market forces) without apology for earning a good faux finishing income. 

Got a client relations story, tip or question? Post it in the comments, please. 

Norman Petersen



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5 Responses

  1. Amanda
    | Reply

    Wow, great suggestions for dealing with price concerns and building confidence and self-belief. Can’t wait to use that line, “That’s what I have to charge in order to do what you love”. Thanks, Norman!

  2. Norman
    | Reply

    Thanks, Amanda. Let us know how your new-found belief in the value of your work goes, please.

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