The Price of a Picasso Painting

I read this on Absolute Write today:

A friend once told me the story of Picasso:

Picasso was sitting in a restaurant when a fellow diner spotted him and gushed.”Oh my God, you’re Picasso. I’d be honoured if you would paint my portrait for me.”  Being the dedicated artist that he was, Picasso had his brushes and canvas with him and quickly whipped up a Picasso masterpiece. The women was delighted. “Oooh, it is your best work ever,” she gushed. “How much for this beautiful painting?”

“That will be 200,000 dollars, please,” Picasso announced to the gushing diner.

“200,000 dollars!”  She was shocked. “But it only took you half an hour.”

“Yes,” said Picasso, “but it took me a lifetime to learn how to paint like that in half an hour.”

There’s a similar story involving factory equipment that stopped working, losing the company money, and an engineer who, upon being asked to solve the problem, hit his hammer in a very specific spot, which fixed the equipment. Upon submitting the large invoice (this is a very old story) of $250, the factory manager sputtered about the price. “But all you did was hit it with the hammer. Draw up a new invoice!” So the man did. He charged the factory manager $1 for hitting the equipment with the hammer and $249 for knowing where to hit it.

With writing, there are some differences, the first being that pretty much everyone who’s literate thinks that they can write. Well, sure, that’s true. To an extent. But do they know which words would be the best ones to use to set the best tone and get the best response from the readers? That, my friends, takes practice. Experience.

One dollar for writing down the words. Two hundred and forty nine for knowing which ones to use.

Author: LMAshton

4 thoughts on “The Price of a Picasso Painting

  1. My favorite Picasso quote is: My mother wanted me to become a doctor. Instead, I became Picasso.

    Damn! I love that quote.

    There’s another discussion on AW about SEO writing and how some writers accept $3 for 250 words. It’s not something I would do, but I understand why other people do.

  2. Auria, thanks for the quote. It’s luverly. 😀

    Yeah, I’ve read that discussion. I understand the point of view of those who take the low-paying jobs, but I don’t exactly agree with them. What they’re not getting, IMO, is that when they accept low-paying work, they drive the price down for all us and contribute to it being more difficult for the rest of us to earn a living wage at writing. Same as those who will write for free because they need the experience.

    When I started out as a self-employed accountant, I didn’t do anyone’s books for free. Sure, the rates I charged were at the lower end of the spectrum for acceptable charge-out rates, but they were withing that spectrum. I didn’t charge anyone $3 an hour because I was starting out. As I gained experience, of course I raised my rates. But I never worked for free, I never undercharged, and I always charged within the range of industry standard. And I had more work than I could handle.

    Why should writing be any different?

  3. I started my business when I was twenty four and my prices matched that of firms with solid track records. People said I was nuts. That my prices should be lower. But I didn’t agree.

    The reason is because I needed to make a living to support myself. Fast forward, I’ve been in business for ten years.

    It seems that those on the AW board writing for low wages aren’t supporting themselves. They are supplementing their spouses income with a few bucks.

    There is a big difference between the two. And a different mind-set.

    Should they find themselves having to pay all of the household bills (as I must), surely they won’t accept low wages.

    I don’t agree that those who write for low wages drive the price down for the rest of us. Since you’ve been in business for yourself, you understand that the pricing structure of another company carries little weight on your bottom line. Especially when what you are selling is a service.

    It’s not the same as a product where prices vary for the same product. So it makes sense for the consumer to buy XYZ toaster at Kmart as opposed to Macy’s.

    When hiring someone for a service, it’s a different story. Two writers will produce different results. And if the client has the budget, she will pay for quality. If she doesn’t, she’ll settle for crap. There is room in the market for both types of business models because there are two sets of consumers.

  4. I understand what you’re saying, and I’ve seen this argument before. I just don’t happen to agree with it. 🙂

    The more common the lower prices become, the more everyone else in the market wants those lower prices. Even if it’s in a different niche within the same industry.

    It’s been my experience that a lot of clients/potential clients need to be educated about why they should pay the higher prices, why they should hire someone with a certain expertise, why the skills involved in doing one type of activity are not exactly the same as another related activity, why it’s important to do things a certain way, why I have skills to offer that some other writers don’t (especially in this region), and so on. The more of a perceived disparity in rates, the more these questions come up, especially ones relating to why I can’t charge less. And the less clients are willing to pay the higher rates.

    I’ve had clients try to negotiate my fees lower based on lower fees being charged in a different niche within the industry. Some have tried it after the fact when they’re staring the invoice in the face. Never mind that they want a certain quality which they can’t get from the specific writers whose rates they’re comparing ours to.

    They want the highest quality of writing but are only willing to pay the lowest rates.

    I’m sorry, but no, from my experience, I have no choice but to disagree.

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