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:

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.

Writing for Artists: The Resumé: Formatting

“I hope it is a benchmark for what the artist’s experience in the field of art might be. I don’t think it should matter to a gallery if the artist is self taught or has a Master in Art, but the length of time, making and creating should speak volumes. Art seems to be the field where length and breadth of experience is a very important aspect.” Cathy Hegman

Your Resume is the most important marker of your experience that you may have. Getting the grammar absolutely perfect is a mark of your professionalism. This post will show you how to outline your resume. What goes in what order. I will create a list and after each item there will be an explanation with tips.

You will start with your name, address, phone, email, website, blog and other web presences. This is a good time to create a letterhead for yourself. A logo representing your art and a format for every bit of correspondence you send out. There are even ways to add it to an email. If you aren’t ready to do that then I recommend at least putting a piece of your work that represents the majority of what you do. People will remember you first and foremost by your work. You want to get that image in front of them as much as possible.

The items of your achievement come next…

This means any galleries that represent you or that you have consigned with. You just need to put the name of the gallery, city and state. If it’s outside the United States then put city and country.
Laurel Gallery, Baltimore, MD
Shanghai Gallery, Shanghai, China

Museum Exhibitions
Any museum where you’ve had a solo or been part of a group exhibition. You’ll need the name of the exhibition (if any), the name of the museum, the city and the state, or city and country.
An Artist in Soho, New Museum, New York, NY.
American Artist in Asia, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, China.

(Tip: The name of the exhibition should be in either italics or quotation marks. Italics are preferred because it looks more sophisticated).

Solo Exhibitions
Any gallery where you’ve been the sole exhibitor. You can also add a category if you’ve been part of a two or three person exhibition. Any exhibition with more than 3 artists is considered a group exhibition.
For all gallery exhibitions this is how you will list them:
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.

This should also be listed under the year. Like this:
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.
Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.

Group Exhibitions
This is any exhibition that you’ve been a part of that includes more than one artist.
I’ve seen artists include the name of the juror because they think it’s prestigious. Leave it out. It’s not necessary and in most cases nobody will care.

Art Fairs
If you’ve been a part of an art fair such as the Affordable Art Fair.
i.e. Affordable Art Fair, New York, NY, March 2014.

Awards and Honors
If you’ve won a prestigious award or honor for your work. List it like this:
• Name of Award, Name of Exhibition (If any), Name of Organization that gave it to you, City and State, Date.

If a foundation or grant making organization has given you funding for your art, list it here. It’s important because if someone is willing to give you money to make your art, then how can you be refused by anyone else…? Right? This is your place to let them know about it.

List it like this:
• Name of Grant, Name of Grant Making Organization, City and State where grant making organization is listed, Date.

Any time that you’ve been given services or goods for a specific purpose. For example Women’s Studio Workshop gives a limited amount of subsidies to use their space for a Residency or if you’ve been given money or services that allow you to study or create your work.

List it like this: Name of Fellowship, Name of Fellowship Organization (i.e. Vermont Studio Center), City, State, Date.

Whether you’re paying for them or not they are usually juried so it is prestigious. For example:

• Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT, March-October, 2013
• Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA, September-December 2013.

This includes any part of the media that has included you or your work. Even newer media such as online media. (Tip: Create a Link on Your Website to the Article and Ask the Creator of the Blog or News Media to Link Back to your Website. This is known as Cross Linking and will boost the search engine traffic to your website). You can make separate sub-categories here as well. Such as: Print Media, Television and Radio, Online Media. Always list it like this:

Name of the Article by the author, Name of Publication, Vol. [Volume] No.[Number], Month, Day, City, State [City, Country], Page the Article Appeared on.

New York Artists Shows in Shanghai by Chin Me How, Shanghai Times, Vol. 3 No. 4, Beijing, China, April 29, 2014, Page 32.

This is where you’ve studied and with whom. If it’s your college degree, list it as follows:
• Bachelors of Fine Art, Long Island University, Southampton Campus, Southampton, NY 2002.

If you’ve studied with an artist or teacher of note you can list it like this
•Pablo Picasso, Art Student’s League, New York, NY, 2014.

These are organizations that you have current memberships with. Such as Allied Artists of America, National Sculpture Society, etc. Here’s how you’d list them:
• National Sculpture Society, New York, N.Y.
• National Association of Women Artists, New York, N.Y.
• American Association of Watercolorists, Philadelphia, N.Y.

These are private or public commissions (or public art) – where you’ve been paid to create a work of art for a specific location or reason. You’d list it like this:
• Skecher’s USA Inc., Orlando, F.L.

Public Collections
A place where your work is in the permanent collection of an institution or business. You’d list it like this
• Citigroup USA, Long Island City, N.Y.

Private Collections
The private individuals who have purchased your art and still hold your work in their possession. They haven’t resold it or given it away. You’d list it like this… (Notice the alphabetical order by last name):
• Leonard Baskin, New York, N.Y.
• Miriam Schwartz, New York, N.Y.
• Joan Zimmet, New York, N.Y.

Some artists are shy about listing name of the of their private collectors and this is a huge mistake. Remember that by purchasing your art they gave you the right to do that. It’s also extremely important to list individual buyers if you ever want to be represented or consigned by a gallery. They will not only want to see your art but that you have a following or a record of purchases. It gives you more credibility and that’s important.

If this is overwhelming for you, one of the services The Artists Objective offers is resume editing. Please contact us at: even if you just have a question. I’m here to help.