Pricing your artwork and how to do it in a way that positions your work to sell well is a hot topic for seasoned artists and emerging artists alike – you’ll get a different answer from every person you ask, so don’t feel bad that you get stuck on pricing.
Instead, first, understand how you feel about money in general and your beliefs around it. If you haven’t read last week’s post, 10 Ways To Go From Starving Artist to Thriving Artist, take a second and read through it, then come back and let’s walk through how to price your work in a way that feels great and works easily for you.
When you’re just starting out, we’ve all given work away – as gifts to family and friends, or ‘Here! Because you love it so much, it’s free!” If you want to sustain your ability to create art as your occupation, that practice has to change NOW. You can still choose when to ‘gift’ your work, but let’s focus on growing your longevity as an artist first.
It’s worth starting with your money mindset when you’re thinking about prices. Do you have any beliefs about money that are stopping you from sustaining your art? If you are putting your best work out there, then your work has value.
So, when you’re just beginning, avoid starting at zero and then moving to rock bottom pricing and up the ladder from there. Many pros will tell you to start cheap – I disagree. If you make a great piece, then you need to value your time and the quality of the work AND your goal to stick around as a working artist and build a collector base, just temper that with the fact you’re new. What that all means is to price fairly.
How? I hear you! There are a few ways to figure that out and we’ll get into that more below. If you still struggle with this after reading through, just post your question in the comments or email me.
Get out and about often.
See who is selling what and for how much. Visit galleries, open studios, artist friends who are selling work, check online – just enough searching to give you a feel of where your work might fit. Do this a few times a year to keep up-to-date.
What if you’re new, but fit in a high-end gallery?
If you picture your work and style fitting best in a high-end gallery (starting prices at 4 figures and up), then price at the lower end (mid to high 3 figures) while still covering your expenses. If your work is the quality that would truly hang easily beside this type of work and you are not yet represented by a gallery, then your lower pricing (still much higher than the usual $50 to $200 for early work) will still feel like a bargain to collector’s consistently looking at quality work in this higher price range.
Consider how well your work is selling – or not.
If your work isn’t selling, take a close look at what you’re offering. Are you only creating and pricing work that is $50 or $2,000? Making a shift in your pricing can shift the flow (energy of money) around your work and invite new buyers to look and purchase. For example, creating a $10,000 piece that’s worth that can bring in a buyer who only looks at larger works and higher price points. A more expensive piece will also help your mid and lower range works to seem more affordable.
Play with pricing, within reason.
For example – if you’re only pricing your work at $50, upgrade your best one to $100. Stagnant at $2,000? Review your prices and consider a limited discount or studio sale on work you want to move.
Take an honest look at what’s selling or not and price your work to move (studio sale or limited time discount) so you can create new work.
Don’t bow to the bully.
You will encounter people who love to negotiate and will not buy anything unless they feel they get a deal on it. It’s your choice to pass on this buyer and NOT sell to them. If you need food, like tonight, you might take the sale. If you’re selling okay and your life doesn’t hang by whether this one sells or not, then check in with how you feel. Choose a comfortable discount that will help you both win – the customer gets a little deal and you get the sale (A common practice is 10% off the retail). If it DOESN’T feel good and you feel bullied or threatened or criticized, politely decline.
Keep your prices the same for everyone.
Don’t price differently for different collectors or offer an ‘artist price’ behind the back of your gallery. With a gallery, your retail price is the same retail price that they should sell for and what your collectors will expect when they buy direct from you or buy from a gallery representing your work.
This doesn’t always happen and can get really messy. Worse, it can cause your collectors to feel foolish if they bought from the gallery at one price and you are offering a lower artist price. When your pricing is held with integrity, you support your gallery to sell well for you and build a better quality group of collectors and you’ll have more consistent sales and word-of-mouth referrals.
Not sure how to price?
Use a formula or retailer pricing as a starting point until you figure out your sweet spot.
Want to try a formula for pricing?
Formulas are an easy step that many artists take to eliminate the guesswork of putting a price on a finished piece. Pick one of the basic ones below to get you started:
- Original work like paintings, drawings, fine jewelry and sculpture:
- Take the cost of materials + hourly rate = price. If you don’t know what your hourly rate is, start with $20/hr for now).
- For retail pricing, double the cost of materials, add on any gallery fees to get your sales price.
- Price by the square inch (or centimeter) and that is a good starting point, however, you have to adjust it as small work may be priced too low and large work priced to high.
- For reproductions, use the retail pricing method above as a starting point. Limited editions hold more value, open editions – less.
- For Mural work and background sets the work is larger and often more project based. Price is determined by price-per-square-foot (or meter) or by a flat fee for the entire project.
- For animation painters (backgrounds, etc) pricing can be based on the project or on the time it takes OR by the number of backgrounds that are required. Work it out each way, understanding how long it takes you to do the required work and price from there.
- Illustration for editorial projects or online publishing can be project based too. Get extra careful on this one as licensing and rights are worth having professional to help you figure out if you are offered a contract for a publishing project. I’ll make a note to post on that in the future, so comment or email me if you have a specific question on this area and need quick help.
Make a price list
Choose a formula, make a price list and be confident when you talk about your prices. Remember, for any pricing structure you choose, that it’s a guideline and it’s not set in stone. Your price list should include the painting title, size, media, and price.
Make quality price tags
Sloppy tags can lead to your potential buyer feeling like your work is sloppy and unprofessional. Uniforms are good here and only here. Make your writing clear and structured so, for example, always put the title on the top and price on the bottom, then the rest of the information (size, media, and your name) can be in the order you want, just keep each tag in that same order once you decide on it. Better yet, print your tags onto business card sheets (products like Avery available at office supply stores) through your printer.
Keep aware of the market
Track pieces that you’re selling, or not selling, and adjust as you need to.
Download the Pricing Worksheet on the graphic above and give it a go!
Have a way to price that you love? Share it here in the comments.