Layaway plans can be an incentive for people to buy our work. They may not have a chunk of money available, but a payment plan can really help.
The problem is, it can also mean a LOT of extra work on our end.
I purchased an expensive piece of artwork years ago, way more than I could afford. But the artist offered a layaway plan, and it worked.
Unfortunately, I learned first-hand about the downside. It was easy at first, but as the payments continued, I had doubts about my actions. The artist was extremely diligent, sending regular emails when my payments were due, with encouraging words about how I was “almost there!”, “on the home stretch”, etc. It was still annoying, as I felt embarrassed about having doubts, but it did help, a little. Without those slightly guilt-inducing emails, I probably would have bailed.
And I’ve had people bail halfway through a layaway plan, and had to refund their money. Even more embarrassing!
Then another artist shared their layaway plan with me, and it was a game-changer!
This was back in the day when we used credit card slips, and ran our sales through the processing machine at home. (No telephone service at the annual fair we exhibited at, and years before wifi!)
He asked them 1) How much did they want to put into each payment? 2) How often did they want to pay? Which led to 3) How many payments would that amount to? (Including tax on the first payment, and any shipping costs on the last payment.) ALL payments were non-refundable.
Then he asked them to write out the appropriate number of checks or credit card slips, with their perferred amount–and HE would keep the checks or slips in an envelope.
Over that time period, he deposited each check (or ran each credit card slip) on the buyer’s preferred date (e.g., the first of each month, every two weeks, etc.)
And when the final payment was processed, he would either ship the item, or they would pick it up.
Now, if things got hard, all they had to do was reach out and ask him to skip a month. Or if they were better off, they could tell him to deposit/process ALL the payments sooner.
No late payments. No refunds.
People loved it! And the hidden beauty of this arrangement?
Almost always, partway into the process of writing 6, or 10, or 15 checks/charge slips, the person would say, “Oh, gosh, I’ll just put it all on my credit card now and make my own payments!” (WOOT!!!)
I haven’t had anyone ask for layaway in years now, so I’m not sure how this would work with credit cards. It’s possible we could have a printed agreement template, with the blanks filled in as we agree on the timing, amount, etc. And it’s really important to add there are no refunds after the agreement is…um…agreed to. (Signed!)
It might be possible to do multiple payments through PayPal or Venmo, or even Square, once we have their credit card number and their signed approval for us to do repeat payments. I haven’t explored this yet, but it’s worth checking out.
So even just offering a layaway plan can help people get over the wall of how much they’re able to pay, without ever having to actually use this process. I don’t know of any stores that offer layaway anymore. It used to be a ‘thing’ and now it isn’t. (Except for cars and houses!)
But it can still be an incentive, and encourage people to consider completing that purchase. I have a sign letting people know I accept layaways, and I believe it’s helped to “lower the bar” for purchasing.
If you’ve had similar experience using today’s modern payment methods, let me know in the comments! I’ll add them into this article, and of course I will thank you and credit you with the insights.