Pricing Your Work

This is the biggest question I get from artists, constantly and all the time.  How do I price my work?

I wish I could say that there was one formula or one answer for every artists I met.  Then we’d be done with this discussion and no one would need to ask. I’ve seen articles written with formulas for pricing, based on the size of your work and the stage of your career – even measuring inch by inch (If you can believe that).  It’s just not that simple.

That said, I’m going to provide you with some pricing concepts for you to keep in mind. The most important thing you should take away from this post is that pricing is a form of marketing.  Especially Target Marketing.

Just to be clear, you should always Target your market.  Find out who would be interested in your work.  Demographically: Income, Gender, Location, Family Status, Hobbies, etc.  Thanks to Social Networking we have more of this information than ever.  This will help you determine what your market can bear – as far as pricing.  Yes this does apply to artists.

The first thing you need to know is that your prices must be absolutely, positively consistent.  I cannot stress this enough. Do Not Waiver!  Don’t sell a work of art to one buyer for one price and then charge another price to a buyer.  It effects your reputation and it’s highly unprofessional.  Remember, also, that if friends and family love you they will pay for your art.

Let me address the commonly perceived issue that artists will work for free.  Not true.  Please don’t ever work for free or charge less than your work is worth. If you do, you are not only undermining yourself but every artist who is trying to make an honest living out there.  Believe it or not, even Art Professionals (Administrators, Curators, Business People in the Arts) will also expect you to work for free. Don’t do that.  Always get paid for your work. Okay, now back to pricing.

Don’t over price your work.  Some artists will charge a lot of money for a piece because they don’t want to part with it. That’s unprofessional. If you don’t want to sell it, don’t display it.  This may seem funny to you.  You may have seen something called Not-for-Sale (or NFS) on the wall next to a piece.  In the case of painting, sculpture or art items that clearly should be for sale, it screams amateur from a mile away to me.  In most cases, this is because the gallery will need to be funded somehow and will usually take a commission and/or ask for a jurying fee up front. However, if your work is an installation, performance art or something clearly intended for an interactive experience (i.e. Public Art) then that is an exception.  There are still ways to get funded for that – grants and getting commissions for public art will be a subject I will address another time.

The basic premise, in business for pricing is your cost multiplied by 2 plus 10%.  Remember that your cost is not just your materials.  It involves labor – you are the labor.  How much are you worth an hour?  (We all want to be paid $100 an hour or more but it’s important to be realistic here).  You also have the cost of your studio or art making space – if it’s in your home.  Utilities, phone, transportation to and from the studio and, yes, materials. You will need to break that down, mathematically into what that is per hour. Then estimate how many hours you spent on the painting and consider what the market will bear and you should have a fair price.

Do note that there is a psychological price point or “Value Based Marketing” for art.  Art, in most cases, is perceived as a “Luxury Item”.  Understanding how your Target Market views value is important.  If you price your work higher, there may be a perceived higher value in it.  However if you price it too high, you may price yourself our of the market completely.

Understand that to the customer there is a perceived benefit to purchasing art.  It can be for enjoyment or as an investment.  The highest compliment someone can pay you is to pay for your art.  In most cases, they will have the means to take better care of it than you will.  They will enjoy it for years to come and perhaps maintain a relationship with you, the artist and turn into a collector.  They may even call you and tell you how much they love your work.

If you are in the beginning of your career, you will, of course not be able to charge as much as a middle or late career artist.  Go out there and network with other artists.  See what artists, using similar mediums in the same position in their career, are charging and doing with their work.  You can get ahead by charging slightly less than market rate.

Lastly, you can offer a solution of developing different kinds of art for different price ranges.  For example: a large canvas will have a higher price than a print on paper or a drawing.  You can also offer the original piece at one price, a Gicleé for another and a high quality print from your computer for another price.  You can offer print on demand.  Two places I recommend highly for doing that are:
www.zazzle.com/artists
www.canvaspress.com

Some of the artists I work with say that it’s too commercial.  I disagree.  Licensing – a major part of copyright – is something I will discuss in another post. Reproductions can help get the word out about your art.

No matter what you do in your art and your business practices remember to be professional always!  Hold yourself to the highest standards and if you do, the market will follow.  I guarantee it.

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3 thoughts on “Pricing Your Work

  1. I have been a working professional artist for over two decades and have sold many paintings during that time, both through the commercial gallery market, through art reps, as well as directly from my studio. I was in agreement with you up until you said that NFS is unprofessional. I agree that no commercial gallery would accept NFS, as they are in the business to make money. However, you are not taking into account, that not all art is created to sell and its worth and professional status should never be based on this alone. My current work is new media and installation based and as I move into an art practice that includes both activism and art, my work is often created to be seen by as many people as possible. For this reason, it might move from gallery to art center as an NFS piece. I have never met a curator that considers this unprofessional or amateur.

    • I am mostly addressing artists who are so attached to their work that they can’t part with it. I do believe that is ameture. Some art can’t be sold. You are 100% right. It is good, in cases like yours, to seek public art commissions and grants. Maybe even a residency or two. So I am agreeing 100% with you. There are also ways to make derivatives of your art so that you can sell them and make a living at it. It depends on your art and you. Do you want to do that?

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