By Nicole Tinkham
The biggest dilemma many artists face when selling their artwork is how much to price it at. There are numerous scenarios that can take place based on this decision alone. Overpriced work won’t sell and believe it or not, neither will underpriced work. Art that’s priced too low can risk looking cheap even when it’s a quality piece. To properly price your artwork, you must consider your personality, your skill level, and at what point you are in your art career. You’ll also have to take a look at the piece itself considering materials used, the size of the piece, and the time it took to create it. And you thought the hard part was done when you completed your masterpiece! Luckily once you have a pricing system in place, you can keep it consistent across the board. However, this means you need a solid system to make it work. Keep reading for the 6 questions you need to be asking yourself in order to price your artwork to sell.
1. Why are you an artist and why do you want to sell your work? This is a loaded question and the most difficult one (we promise) in this whole blog. We ask this because you need to be considering your purpose in everything you do. And we mean EVERYTHING. This is what drives you in the right direction. So… Do you create for yourself without the expectation to sell? Are you selling just to make a little extra cash on the side or is this your main source of income? What are some of your goals when selling a piece? Would you like to pay off your debt? Or simply show the world your beautiful creations? Determining WHY you create and why you want to sell your artwork will tell you how important pricing is for you. You’ll quickly realize whether it’s time to get serious about the business side of things or if you’re able to be more laid back about pricing.
2. How experienced of an artist are you? In a typical job, as you gain more experience you often get a pay raise that goes along with your advancement. You should follow this same system in your art career. The only difference is that you’ll be giving yourself a raise which could be a strange feeling. Look at it this way, the longer you’ve been an artist the longer you’ve had to work on your skill, learn new techniques, explore different styles, experiment with various mediums, and discover who you are as an artist. A lot of work went into becoming the artist you are today. Do you honestly think you deserve the same pay you received during your first year? No way! You are worth so much more than that with all of your years of experience. Whatever you do, do NOT undersell yourself! Consider how much you’ve put in throughout the years to discover your worth as an artist.
3. What point are you in your art career? This question is a follow up to the previous experience level question but we’re going to take it a step further. Now we want you to take a look at how far you’ve come in your art journey and dream about how far you’d like this journey to take you. Trust us, we do have reasoning behind this question and it does relate to the pricing of your artwork. Let’s say you’re a beginner artist and have a long road ahead of you in your art career. Your goal is to get your name out there and to be recognized. To do this, you can sell your artwork for less (remember not to undersell!) than you would if you were getting toward the end of your career. Why? Because collectors don’t know your name yet. Once you pick up momentum you can raise your price but in the beginning, focus on gaining respect as an artist. If on the other hand, if you’re getting ready to retire your art career you are able to raise pricing. Soon collectors won’t be able to buy new pieces from you which make them more valuable.
4. What kind of materials do you use? It’s no secret that quality art supplies can add up and the amount spent on them varies depending on what type of medium you work with. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and purchase a bunch of supplies, immediately busting them out, trashing the receipt and getting to work as soon as you get home. While that’s fine to do, we strongly recommend keeping track of every single thing you purchase for the project. To do that, make a list of everything you’ll need ahead of time before running out to the store. While at the store, look for discounted and sale items that are on your list to save some money. Be sure to keep your store receipts! Also take into consideration the gas used to get to the store. And if you’re renting out an art studio, that expense should also be considered. More goes into pricing a piece of artwork than just the amount of money spent on supplies. Once you’re ready to create your pricing system, get out those receipts and to a little math to find out the initial cost of the project. You’ll also have to calculate the amount of time that went into a piece but we’ll get into that next.
5. How much time did you spend creating the piece? Your time is valuable. Your time is MONEY! When it comes to creating art for profit, this is a tough concept to grasp since it’s most likely something you enjoy doing. You can probably spend endless nights working on a project and it won’t feel like work at all. Just because love what you do doesn’t mean you can skimp when it comes to charging for your time. Would you spend 8 hours a day in the office and not worry about getting paid? Of course not! That’s a huge chunk of your time that you won’t ever get back. Trust us when we say that we understand how artists can sometimes get a little side tracked during a project. You may not be able to find what you’re looking for in the art studio, you may be lacking creative inspiration, or you may pick up an old piece you found and start working on that instead. Regardless, these types of distractions can make calculating your time difficult. We recommend using a stopwatch (your smartphone most likely has one in the clock settings) at the beginning of a project. You can pause it as you take breaks and continue when you begin working again. We find that people tend to get more focused when consciously measuring time this way. Once you know how long a particular project took to complete, How much is my time worth? is the next question you should ask yourself. How much would you like to get paid by the hour?
6. How large is the artwork? Typically, larger works of art are priced higher than smaller ones but you shouldn’t solely base pricing on this factor alone. Here’s why. A small detailed painting could take 5 times longer to complete than a very simple large painting. Or a small painting costs more in materials than a large drawing. In these cases, it wouldn’t make sense to price based on size. However, if your collection is similar in the medium used and subject matter, it may be smart to price according to size.
You’ve asked yourself the 6 important questions to determine a pricing strategy to sell your artwork. Now what? Before you get started we have some additional pricing tips that will really help you out in the steps ahead.
• Be consistent. Go through the questions above and create a system for pricing your artwork. You don’t have to go through this whole process every time you want to sell a piece if you put forth the effort now to create a good system. And you can use this system every single time.
• Stick to your price. Don’t let buyers talk you down in price if you’re not comfortable with it. Remember that you’ve done the calculations on the time and cost that went into creating the piece so back yourself up. Don’t be afraid to explain your pricing.
• Remain positive. You’re super excited to get started selling your artwork. You’ve got some fantastic pieces ready to go and you couldn’t be more pumped. When you don’t sell anything right away, it could be a huge bummer. You may even consider getting a desk job just to survive. Before you go and do that, remember that every artist struggles and that things will get better. Maybe buyers are simply not ready for what you’re offering but will be later on. Stick with it and keep getting back up when faced with obstacles. You got this!
• Your price is too high when… Someone likes your work enough to ask about the price but ultimately turns it down.
• A price increase is needed when… There’s demand for your work.
• Look to other artists for inspiration. If you’re at a loss, check out how artist friends of yours are pricing their artwork. If they have similar pieces to your own, choose a price in range with theirs. Or ask them what they would price your artwork at.
We admit, pricing isn’t the most exciting aspect of selling your artwork but a good pricing strategy is KEY to becoming a success. Remember the big three: Consider who you are as an artist, how much you’re spending on materials, and how much time you’re investing. Once you get your system down, use it consistently. Despite what the doubters and negative Nancy’s may say, you CAN make a living as an artist. Use the tips in this blog to help you get there. And be sure to share with us your success story either in the comments or on our Facebook page.