Follow these steps to price your art

HOW TO PRICE YOUR ART

Earth Day 2016
Happy Earth Day from M.A and Beechhouse Media!

Last week I wrote about the problems facing local and independent artists. Then last weekend I went out to support local artists by visiting two local galleries. At one of the galleries I was fortunate enough to meet a fellow artist, and we had a great conversation around pricing art.

I have covered this topic before, but this time I have so much more clarity. You see the problem for artists is rarely that they overcharge for their work, but many do the complete opposite and vastly undercharge for their work.

Then there are those who I described last week, who undercharge to the extent that they don’t actually charge at all. Seriously, you are an artist, you are entitled to charge at least the cost of materials. If you keep doing this then the profit on $0 will forever be $0 and you will need to start spending from an alternative income. Also, you need some kind of intervention.

Whilst you won’t be able to immediately command high prices when you are starting out, the cost should cover the essentials such as materials, canvases, brushes, paints, frames if needed, and you need to consider any shipping charges that might apply.

But you also need to consider just how much time you have spent creating the piece. If your creations are made within minutes then obviously there is a case to charge less, but many artists spend hours on a piece of work, and even digital artists need to factor in the above, replacing paint with software, technology, printing, and of course the time it takes to produce.

I am now going to give you an insight into the feelings I experienced when I sold my first piece of art many years ago. I remember working for hours on my fist commercial artwork, in fact it took me over 70-hours to complete. I had produced it digitally, and it went through many incarnations prior to being pronounced completed. When I sold it, I received a commission of $5.84.

I was of course elated that my first artwork had sold. Previously I had been painting and drawing and producing digital art for friends and family, it was just a hobby. Then I became a published artist. Then after a while those thoughts of elation turned in to something else. Thoughts of if that was what I had to do to earn $5.84 then it probably wouldn’t be worth continuing. That first sale was very nearly my last.

The elation moved away once I had realised just how much I had actually spent to create the art in the first place. OK, I did have the computer, I also already had the software, but totalled together the software and the computer totalled almost $3,000 at the time. Even if I had charged $5 per hour to produce it, which in itself would have meant that it had cost $350 in time alone. I suddenly realised that I would then need to sell another 573 prints to get anywhere close to breaking even had I have given up at the first sale.

I decided not to give up, I was now committed, I had to recoup the initial investment in the technology and software in order to continue living a peaceful life with my wife. I never resented the fact that I only earned $5.84, I would have resented it had I have not carried on though. But resentment is a good indicator that your prices are way too low.

Then I started taking the odd commission, and in the early days I would just pick out a price that I felt was fair, it covered the use of the equipment and software, and it covered my time at a reasonable living wage. Then one day I had a customer come back to me to say that they had found another piece of art that was much cheaper, although they liked my art much more, they felt that they could not justify spending an additional $100.

At this point I had a decision to make, either reduce the price or be bold. I told them that if they felt that they didn’t want to pay what I charge then by all means go out and buy the other work, but if you want to purchase my art, this is the price I have to charge to cover costs and time. I suddenly realised that when someone challenges your pricing, the immediate response could have been to start justifying everything to the client. But then I took a view that if a customer didn’t value my work, then would I really want them to own it anyway and have to lose out for the privilege? This is the exact same situation that my fellow artist had also found himself in during his early days of commercially selling art, and it seems the two of us are not alone. At some point, almost every artist has come across the exact same thing.

There is also a thought that charging by the hour detracts from the value of the art. If a customer likes a piece of your work, the reality is that they are not bothered if it took you 2-hours, 20-hours, or 70-hours, to create. The right people who like what you do will pay what you want. I now charge a flat fee per project, and it balances out eventually. I can say that by doing this it has made no difference to sales, people buy what they like. The only time I charge by the hour these days if it is a commercial entity who like to have a breakdown, and in all honesty, commercial entities can be really picky when it comes to commissioning logo’s, book covers, and album art. I have to cover additional costs of travel too in the most part when working on commercial designs.

I think one of the best lessons I learned in my early art days was that if you charge a higher price, you can always reduce it incrementally when things are not selling, or you can run an offer. If you start off at the lowest point, the only real opportunity to then raise prices is when you suddenly become the next Warhol.

YOU NEED TO BE CONSISTENT

Regardless of whether you are a digital artist, sculptor, or painter, you need to have some consistency in your pricing. If an 8 inch by 8 inch work took you 20-hours to complete, and a 16 inch by 16 inch work only took you ten hours to complete, it looks inconsistent when you charge more for the smaller work.

Inconsistency causes doubt and confusion. This is in pretty much every business book ever written, and it is a lesson for us artists too. Inconsistency and doubt turn off customers from making the purchase. Do not let them have any doubt in your ability as an artist.

If you are a traditional painter, then it can make sense to look at size based pricing. But you do need to be consistent. Pricing by the square inch (height x width) is a good place to start. This makes it easy for customers to understand. Pricing by the linear inch, (height plus width) also needs to be explored, otherwise the difference in pricing for a very large painting can become far too expensive, no matter how good you are.

Mark Taylor Artist
Http://10-Mark-Taylor.pixels.com

Although the following are not representative of my prices, they do serve as a good example of the above.

Let’s suppose that you charge a multiplier of 5.0 ($5.0) per square inch.

8x8 inches = 16 square inches, x 5.0 = $80

16x16 inches = 256 square inches, x 5.0 = $1280

32x32 inches =1,024 square inches, x 5.0 = $5,120

This becomes an issue in that someone who charges so little for an 8x8 can then charge over $5,000 for a painting that is 32x32 inches.

But if we apply linear pricing, the difference seems less out of line.

8x8 inches = 16 Linear Inches x 40 ($40 per linear inch) = $640

16x16 inches = 32 Linear Inches x 40 = $1280

32x32 Linear Inches = 64 Linear Inches x 40 = $2,560

Now it makes much more sense for the larger pieces so you might want to have a mix of linear and square inches. One word of advice, never ever suggest to the client that there is an upper limit that you charge for your work. I did this once too, I ended up creating a piece of work that took in excess of 100-hours, cost me a fortune in new software, and I only just managed to break even. So now I don’t discuss upper limits at all, if you do, most people will pick the price point in the middle and you will rarely sell a higher priced piece of work.

The other possible way to modify size based pricing structure is to charge for premium media. Less of an issue for digital artists, but if you are painting in watercolour, then painting on board is generally more expensive than painting on paper.

RESEARCH

Whilst it can be a useful exercise to look at what other artists charge for their work, you need to remember that those prices are set for their work and won’t always carry across to your work. There are so many variables such as:

• Artist experience

• Artists reputation

• Media

• Is the work framed/unframed

• Who is the target audience for the other artist

One of the most important considerations is your target demographic. Do you want to produce art that is affordable to everyone, in which case you will be competing with IKEA and other chain stores when selling prints, or do you want to target high-end art buyers with lots of disposable income, or somewhere in the middle.

Depending on your subject matter, location, and medium, some of these markets may already be saturated making it a difficult market to break in to. Sometimes to make it easier to enter a market, you need to either do things differently, or try a different market. Remember though that there is a market out there somewhere for everything.

My market is relatively diverse because I also create book covers, logo’s, and carry out commissions generally for corporate environments. With this in mind I do have numerous pricing decisions to make, but that’s the cost of feeding in to so many varied markets. The easiest market for me is Print on Demand, and that is really my bread and butter, but even then, I work at different price points in relation to size and product. Prices for some sizes will go up across the board each year, but it is this that allows me to offer some works at rock bottom artist commission prices, also I tend to only run offers on pieces that have sold reasonably well, very rarely on new works.

Being a print on demand artist also affords me certain luxuries in that I am in control of the art that is listed, and have from time to time retired a piece of work that has perhaps sold either well or not so well. By doing this I am able to set up a last chance offer, and I make some of the earlier pieces a little rarer. Knowing that the art can no longer be purchased after a specific date gives buyers a sense of urgency, and they are safe in the knowledge that it will remain unavailable and therefore more exclusive.

MY SOCIAL EXPERIMENT

I am currently working on a new piece of artwork and it has taken me the best part of a year in spits and starts of trying to complete it. It still needs some work, but it is a piece of work that I am creating to run a little experiment. I intend to sell it at a much higher than normal cost.

Am I completely crazy? Yes and no. The reason is that many of the search engines on print on demand sites have filters such as refine by low to high prices, refine by high to low prices. Actually in many instances, people like to look at high value art and chose this as an option. If I charge much more than most, in theory I should be at or near the top of the search results. Will the art be worth what I am asking? You bet it will be. It will be titled, “Covering an Artists Costs”. The title has a powerful message that will eventually be picked up by someone.

IN SUMMARY

There are no real rules around pricing art. If someone likes your art and can afford it they will buy it. I think there is a misconception with so many artists that in order to make a sale they need to beat every other artists pricing. This really isn’t the case. People buy what they like, what they want, you just need to find the right people. Now that is a challenge that is way bigger than learning how to price your art!

 

Next week will be one of my biggest posts of the year! I will be taking an in-depth look at the world of metadata and how using the correct keywords and metadata tags can seriously improve your art sales! Be sure to bookmark this page!

For those who have yet to discover my artwork, why not take a look at my new page on this blog or visit http://10-Mark-Taylor.pixels.com

 

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