How Much Should I Charge for my Art

How Much Should I Charge for My Art?


how much should I charge for my art

Never undervalue what the market values...

I’m not too sure why we artists have so little confidence at times. I’ve written about it, spoken about it, and yet from time to time we become less confident of our own abilities. When it comes to pricing our work we become even less confident.

It’s a thing with artists and always has been but this week I spoke to a few artists and a gallerist who all had differing opinions on how our own art should be valued, because when you’re not confident you run the risk of undervaluing your work and selling yourself short. 

Now this isn’t going to be a post telling you that you should go with the square inch methodology for art pricing and neither will I be giving you a magic number that generates lots of sales. The reason for that is because I truly cannot tell you how much your art is worth until I know at least fifty things about you and a hundred things about your art and the things you have done on your way, and I really don’t think many others could tell you either.

I will be telling you what you need to consider when arriving at a price point for your art and reminding you that your creations take a lot more than simply buying some art supplies. If you are not too confident in asking for any price then this article is definitely for you, today we will go through how to justify what you charge and how to make sure those justifications stand up in the market place. 

If you are unrepresented, pricing your art is one of the hardest things you need to do, if you are represented, a gallery might determine your pricing but you still have to agree, and you have to justify the price just as much as the gallery has to. 

I can also tell you that many of you are way underselling yourselves and I’ve been told I do that with my own work too. We all do it to an extent, and sometimes we apply whatever random price we think of because pricing or rather valuing your own art is so difficult to do.

Over the past year especially I have received a number of emails from artists asking what a particular piece of their art is worth. I usually put the question back to the artist and ask them what their market thinks it is worth and I am usually met with that rabbit in the headlights look. Market, what market, why does everything have to be so complicated?

Not for a moment am I suggesting either that everyone should read this post and go and push up their prices to triple what they were a few minutes ago, you have to justify a price increase and telling people that whoops I mispriced my work yesterday but you can have it for twice the price today doesn’t sit well unless you can truly and honestly justify raising it, whenever you sell anything you have to be able to justify any price you charge whether it is $3 or $3000, or three million dollars.

A justification might be that you did make the mistake of thinking that your art was worth less than it is but there are other reasons too which are much more palatable to buyers. 

A few of the artists who reached out to me last year had definitely made a mistake with pricing their work and it was one of the reasons why their work wasn’t selling at all. They had made the decision that they needed to create affordable art, but what they hadn’t realised was that in doing so they had put themselves directly in competition with the big boys and box stores who sell “affordable” low quality discount décor/disposable art, and they sell it better than anyone else. It also wasn’t where the market for their art was at.

The word affordable though is itself subjective. A billionaire might think that a brand new Rolls Royce is affordable but someone working a 9 to 5 and struggling to make their pay check stretch to the end of the month might find that a second hand Skoda is out of their league. In fact when I swapped my car last year a pre-owned Skoda was way out of my league.

Whenever I hear the words “I make affordable art” I feel like saying no, don’t do that, just stop and think about it for a minute please. It tells me that you are undervaluing your art and it is just another word for I am not confident about my pricing or my work, and unless you are selling in enough volume to make a living from it without relying on a second or even third job, it is a totally unsustainable strategy if you think that affordable art fits into any given price range, and especially if you eventually want to focus on your art full time. 

Let the market decide if your work is affordable. What’s affordable to you or I might not be affordable to someone else and what’s affordable to someone else might not be affordable for me or you. Affordable doesn’t really say anything at all. An original Picasso will be pocket change to some, a 6x4 postcard will be just about affordable to others and others will find even that a struggle. 

Two artists I spoke to last year hadn’t sold a work in almost a year until they upped their marketing game and started to understand their market and how their prices fitted in with those markets. Understanding these factors crucially was the key to unlocking success, and now I sound like one of those $99 online marketing webinars. Please note that I do not offer any webinars for any price.

After figuring out the market thing, one of those artists went from a $50 price tag to $300 and the other from $125 to $500 but they didn’t just randomly pick a figure out of the air, they spent a whole month researching and comparing and working on targeting their marketing to the right audience. 

Both of them created art which was both appealing and sellable, although as I have often said before if you have the right buyer in front of the right piece of art at the right time, serendipity plays a role and you can sell anything. I mean look at those dead animals from Hirst! Having said that, if anyone lesser than Hirst had come up with the same piece of art chances are it wouldn’t have made anywhere near the same impact. Like those pieces or not, they appealed to a certain market and that market belonged to Hirst and he understood that. You might not like it, but you have to respect what he did at least from a business perspective.

The big question…

Wherever you look online there are plenty of guides and formulas to help you decide on a figure but I have to say that I personally think many are just way too generalised to be of any use for everyone. Square inch or time formulas will work for some artists but they just won’t work for everyone. The best piece of work in the history of ever can remain unsold because you didn’t put it in front of the right people. 

Most who talk about pricing art will point out that it depends on where you are in your career, which school of Fine Art you attended, and how many solo shows and awards you have under your belt and yes this can all absolutely make a difference. What some forget to mention is that your art is only ever worth what the market will pay and it all comes down to how confident you are in asking for that price and then deciding if that price makes it worthwhile.

Some artists just don’t have the confidence when asking for a price for which their art is worth and fear if they ask for a more realistic art market price then they will lose the sale. However, if you know exactly who your art market is there should be no reason to be afraid of asking. Buyers will either buy or they won’t but having a comparable market price will ensure that your work isn’t undervalued or indeed overvalued.

The per square inch, hours worked, materials used, and even the genre subject and medium all have a role in the pricing process but I just wish that every artist who starts out selling art would stop with the “how much do I charge for my art” question, and instead ask “how do I really work out what my art is worth”. 

An artist has to know who they are selling their art to and that means understanding the market, finding out what they will pay for your particular style, genre, medium and any other number of variables. It could even just come down to your name.

Asking the usual question on Facebook as a text post looks something like this:

How much should I charge for my art?

And then nothing, nada, zilch. Not even a link to a piece of the artist’s work or a photograph which might narrow the answer down to only a couple of million possible responses. Just take a look back at that question for a moment and you will see exactly what’s wrong with it, yet it is a question that at one point or another we have all asked.

Basing the price on time taken to complete a work alone isn’t always the best indicator although it should be factored in. But you run the risk of inconsistency in pricing because you could produce a bestselling work in twenty-minutes, or twenty-hours, or twenty-days which would give wide variations and make your pricing structure seem erratic. My latest piece took more than 90-hours and based on that the price should be significantly higher than it is, but other works have taken a couple of hours and I know where my market is, or at least I know where my market was a few moments ago, but it can change. 

Per square inch might work for some sizes but in my experience a small ACEO can take just as long as a 20 inch square, and again makes your pricing seem inconsistent if you are applying only single dominant factors.

Materials have to be considered too, paints, brushes, software in the case of digital artists, electricity unless you plein air (paint outside) but so do things like marketing, telephone calls, and of course you need to factor in how much it has cost in both time and financially to attend whichever art school of choice you attended if you attended one at all. But you could be self-taught and have many years of experience and produce work just as fine or better than someone who attended the Royal Academy, either way you will have experience which has to be valued. 

Back to the question…

None of this is still answers that age old question of how much you charge for a particular piece of art. To do that we have to dig a little deeper still. 

The first question you should ask way ahead of how much, should be where does my art fit into the wider world of art? To answer this you need to start looking at every piece of art you can find and get a feel for what’s already out there. 

Then you need to start narrowing everything down and figure out what is comparable to your art. That’s a bit harder than you’d initially think because to get a real comparison you have to know about the art and the artist you are comparing and the number of comparable’s has to equate to an almost replica of you. It might be worth knowing if their art is also selling.

At that point you start to get a better understanding so you need to look at the criteria that have to be met. This is where you can compare your experience, the shows you have attended, the awards you have won, and your previous sales history and how the market is performing overall. 


make your growth strategy sustainable

Audience Participation…

Let’s make that a little easier by using Joe and Sidney as an example. Joe’s not real and neither is Sidney. You know, just to be clear. So we’ll make this into a little interactive game where you will provide the answer. When you think you know who and why which of the two artists will make more sales over the next few years, leave a comment!

Joe:

Joe has started selling his artwork. He has been painting ever since leaving art school almost three years ago. Joe won an award in a local art show which gave him the confidence to start selling.

Joe paints landscapes of the local area and he has sold twenty paintings this year alone. The quality is good and Joe is developing as an artist quickly. His works are always the same size 24 x 30 and he uses acrylics. Joe uses only the best acid-free supports, and he also managed to get reviewed by a local art critic who thought that he showed potential. Joe spends on average around ten hours on each piece of art. Joe’s portfolio currently stands at 100 pieces of art – all of which have been completed and because his wife works in social media marketing, all of Joe’s work has been tweeted or has appeared on Instagram.

Sidney:

Sidney has been painting landscapes of regions across the world for more than twenty years and is a self-taught artist. His work is exceptionally detailed and wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end gallery. Sidney is meticulous in his work but he isn’t very good at marketing himself or his art.

Over his 20-years of painting he has only sold a dozen pieces and doesn’t feel confident in entering shows so has never entered one. Sidney spends on average more than 30-hours working on each piece of art and also always paints on 24 x 30 supports but has created larger pieces in the past. 

He has more than 500 paintings in his portfolio but almost a hundred are unfinished. Sidney hasn’t shown anyone around 400 pieces of his art, keeping them neatly stacked in the attic. Sidney paints for pleasure usually but now wants to start selling his work because he has so much of it, all of which is artistically more appealing than Joe’s. Sidney has also signed up to a national art competition after his daughter convinced him to have a go and enter.

So who wins the sale?

Take into account everything that you have read from both scenarios and see if you could even work out a price. Not as easy as you would think even though we appear to have a lot of information to hand.  Yet the question still gets asked frequently on social media, how much do I charge for my art? 

Criteria…

Art pricing has to be based on what the market will stand, but that market will buy and value art based on certain criteria. Whilst you might already have an idea of what your art is worth the market may have a very different idea. The knack is to take your value and make it reflect better what the market will pay. That could be way more than you currently charge but equally could be way less.

The criteria for setting prices is therefore much wider than simply per square inch, although you can use the per square inch model together with a number of other elements. There’s another note of caution here, you can overvalue your work just as easily as you can undervalue it, so it is really important to consider everything and especially the comparable’s within your particular market. 

Looking at comparable’s you have to be sure that you are judging like for like and a quick cursory overview of another artists work probably won’t give you the comparator. Sidney and Joe both paint landscapes, both are relatively new to selling their work, and both produce acrylics on 24x30 acid free supports. But that is essentially where the comparison ends.

Joe has been to art school and has received one positive review. Whereas Sidney never went to art school and is only now thinking about getting his work out more widely. Joe is known across social media and within his community but his practical experience is less than Sidney’s, so it is almost impossible to say whether or not either artist’s work is worth more than the other because you are not completely comparing like with like, more like apples with pears because there is very little in the way of other relevant information. 

We have no visuals to make a judgement but we can possibly ascertain that Joe is pricing his work based on a local market because Joe is painting local landscapes and so perhaps his pricing is geared towards a local market where his pricing makes sense. But we don’t know what either of the artists are charging and getting for their work.

Joe might add a premium because his work is a little more niche and not too many other artists might be painting the same area, but would that pricing translate if the work was to be offered elsewhere? Locals might understand the pricing but clients across a global market might not.

Again in order to answer the question of how do I price my art, it all comes back to the fact that you need to fully understand your market. If you are playing in a global market which many of us are these days because we have this thing called the internet, your pricing has to be consistent across that global market regardless of geographic location. It has to make sense to buyers wherever they may be. 

Using Comparisons…

Comparisons are not an easy thing to make in the art world because each artist and artwork is unique. Rarely will you come across anyone producing exactly what you create, with the same level of experience, broadly similar skills, and in the exact same market. So it makes sense to look at what else is going on in your area too and more broadly across genres, styles, and mediums. But the key is that you will find some comparable’s if you look hard enough. 

You also have to be honest with yourself as to where your art is really at. Many artists are their own worst critics and think that everything they do is worth less than it is, but there are also artists who will think that their art is just as great as something produced by Matisse or Renoir and immediately start setting prices to reflect that. The only tangible way of knowing for sure is to ask someone other than your best friend to give you an honest opinion and that person ideally has to know something about art or even better, ask the market.

Making yourself aware of the wider picture and becoming more informed about other artists and why those artists charge what they charge will also help you to decide on the best way to work out pricing.  Using the comparison technique also means that you also have to be accurate in your calculations and consider everything but if you get the comparisons right then you are more likely to succeed. 

Objectivity is the key because without it comparisons go out of the window. You have to know for certain that you are comparing apples to apples and even then, your art remains only as valuable as someone is willing to pay for it. Just because the comparisons lead you to believe that your art should be sold for $5,000 they don’t necessarily always translate across until you have a number of sales for $5,000. So much can affect the value of any given piece of work, genre, style, and medium, the list goes on.

When we talk of making comparisons it is vital that you also take into account that buyers and dealers will be making similar comparisons to your work too. Few artists throughout history have ever created something that is so different to anything else already produced and makes people think wow, I must own that work at any price.

If you do manage to create something that the world has never seen before, art critics and dealers will still find something to compare your art with and they will make the comparisons to arrive at its value and its place and relevance within the art world. 

Setting your pricing…

Whichever way you go with pricing your work it always comes back to understanding your market. Putting a value on art is at best academic at least until you have sold the work for whatever you have asked for.  

If you are happy that you have a range of comparable artists and work on which to base your price on the next step is to see if that price drives any sales. If you price your originals at somewhere in the region of $5,000 but only ever manage to sell them at $3000 that in itself will set the direction of travel and $3000 becomes the price that has been determined by the market. 

The question then becomes more about whether or not selling a $3000 piece of art will sustain you as a business moving forward. If it doesn’t then you need to look at what would make up the missing $2000 short fall. The actual price matters very little at this point and could be swapped for any figures. 

That short fall is something than can be at least partially filled by diversifying a little and making sure that those who can’t afford to buy one of your larger or more prestigious originals can still afford to be able to purchase the image in some other way and I will come on to that a little later. 

Even in galleries there will be variations between what a work of art is offered for and what it really sells for. Some galleries will offer a discount if you ask and negotiate, other galleries will never offer a discount at all, and some are so erratic with their pricing that it can change frequently or whenever a sales target needs hitting. It also depends on whether the artist has agreed to any reductions. 

What galleries do about pricing is for them and the artists they represent alone but as a self-represented artist you do have to offer consistency. This is one of the reasons I have officially given up on offering heavy discounts. Buyers notice that you might offer a discount during a slow period and they will wait for the slower periods before approaching you to buy something. If they are also switched on to the fact that you need to make the sale and move a piece of art, it exposes you to further haggling or you could lose the sale. 

The best course is to only offer promotions rarely, and never for your bestselling works but remember that just because a piece hasn’t sold it should not be discarded to the bargain bin, it just hasn’t found serendipity just yet. Sometimes you can offer a piece way below market value, the bargain of the year and it still doesn’t sell. Put the price back up or raise it some more and it could sell in a week, unpredictable is the best way to describe the art market.

If you have existing collectors and they frequently buy from you then it might be worth having a strategy which applies to all of your collectors, but this doesn’t have to be all about giving a discount. Offering other value such as collector exclusives or a chance to join you behind the scenes, maybe even attending an art event with you, are all alternatives that can be used to set yourself above the rest of the market. Remember that value is not always monetary.

I mentioned galleries but if you are unrepresented by a gallery then gallery pricing is entirely different. The way galleries work is very different to selling work as an unrepresented artist. Galleries take sometimes as much as 50% in commission fees and as I mentioned in one of my recent articles, I came across one taking as much as 85% in commission. 

If you decide that your market price is going to be $5,000 and that is what the market is paying for your work then moving into a gallery could see the flow of money heading your way reduced to $2,500 or even less. You might sell more of it, but equally you might sell less.

Being in a gallery doesn’t at all mean that your work has suddenly increased in value, although some galleries could potentially springboard your career and your work, and place your art in front of a different audience and your value could go up but it’s not always the case.

That is sometimes the deciding factor when considering whether gallery representation is for you. If you currently make three sales each year at $5,000 and a gallery will make four sales each year at $5,000, what you earn selling without the gallery is worth more than you would take home after commission, and maybe you will have given up any right to sell work directly too. On the other hand you could be exposed to exclusive audiences and art shows so you have to decide what that could be worth.

If your new strategy is to start creating so called “affordable art” what would your original collector’s reaction be? Those who once paid $5,000 but who could now pick up a work for $250 might feel a little perturbed and decide that you are no longer a good investment despite the fact that they loved your work. You could pick up a hundred new collectors though and only knowing the market will give you an idea whether it is going to be a strategy worth following, but whatever you do, always look after your collectors.

For collectors, investing in art is as much of a risk as investing in anything else, there are no guarantees that the investment will go up in value, and this is why it is so important to consider the tolerances of the market. You want your prices to be sustainable as much as anyone else, those who buy for the love of art might not care at all, those who are looking at potential future values will be all over your pricing. 

Just before we move on, exactly what is affordable art? I was thinking the same thing and spoke to a number of people, artists, buyers, and a gallerist, and I was surprised by the answers. It wasn’t very scientific but the results surprised me a little. The Affordable Art Fair in the U.K. for example sets an upper limit and prices are capped at £5000, so I used that as a starting question, is £5000 affordable? 

I am guessing here but it’s probably not an impulse spend for many, but of those I spoke to, a number thought that £5000 wasn’t affordable more generally, putting a value on what they felt was affordable art at up to $250, but a small number of people did think that £5000 would still be classed as affordable.  

What was interesting was that my gallery friend raised his eyebrows at the thought and said that for his market £5000 wouldn’t be anywhere near affordable for 75% of his clients, but that anything up to £2000 would usually sell if the buyer loved the work enough. The other 25% of his clients were a mixed bag, some would find £5000 a considered purchase and take their time to mull it over, others would be happy to spend whatever it takes. Which is kind of the point, it’s about knowing the market and it is all very subjective. 

Consistency…

I keep mentioning the word consistency so it is worth putting a little context to it. If you sell prints for example on more than one print on demand site there is a real risk of inconsistency. Base prices for some sites are lower than for others but then so too is the quality of the final print. 

You could set your commission at $10, or 10% of the total sale price but if the cost of buying from one site is dissimilar to the cost of buying at another site, the buyer will generally go with the cheapest option. With print on demand sites frequently basing commissions on a percentage of the final selling price, you could earn $10 from one sale and $3 on another sale if there is a wide variation between base prices and how commissions are set. 

The customer will notice too, your print might cost $100 on one site, but only $97 on the other and that $3 difference would have then taken away another $7 from your commission. So pricing has to be consistent for both you and the client. Inconsistency of just $3 though probably wouldn’t be the be all and end all, but in some cases print prices can vary significantly and the difference can be much more than $3. 

Consistency should be applied whether you are selling in a gallery, directly, or through print on demand or a combination of all of them. If most of your work is selling for whatever price it sells for but suddenly there is a piece that costs triple the price, buyers are going to ask why that piece is so much more expensive. 

If the pieces are comparable then prices should be too. Over the years I have visited many art events and I remember asking this very question to one of the exhibiting artists who was selling every piece of work at $500 except one piece. The piece in question was priced at $1800 and when asked why this piece was more expensive, the artist said that they didn’t really want to sell it. In which case a label with not for sale would have served much better than inflating the price. Personal feelings about the art were the cause, his wife had wanted this piece to hang in their home and it would have taken an extra $1300 to make the artist part with the work. 

Personal feelings should never be taken into account when pricing art. You have to be quite cold in your approach and if something has more worth to you than selling it for whatever the market price is, then just don’t sell it at all. If you try to justify the price to someone and say that you really don’t want to sell the work because your wife or partner is in love with it, it’s not a justification for selling it at a higher price. When it comes to the cold bare business of money, the market doesn’t care at all about feelings and emotions and especially yours. 

No sales history…

If you have only a small or even non-existent sales history you also need to take this into account. This is another comparator that is important when determining art prices. All of the ducks might be in the same pond when you compared your work to the work of others, but perhaps they weren’t all lined up exactly. 

If there is little difference between the pricing of each artists work it will come down to one factor for buyers and that is which piece of art do they like best. However, if there are wide variations in price then buyers will chose the piece they can afford and live with. If you are less established than the other artists then it might be useful in order to start building sales to price your work slightly at the lower end of the comparison scale but this doesn’t mean totally undervaluing it.

Affordability is as subjective as art itself but if your market will only ever spend $500 on a painting then that is your market. You can sell the exact same piece of art for $5000 but those customers will come from another market. Again, understanding your market is the key and if you need another more affluent market you need to go through the process of finding them and hope that serendipity plays its role and that your work fits within that new market. 

There are times when the value of your work could be lower or higher than its true value especially if you priced it incorrectly to start with or you have been offering huge discounts. If your market is currently populated by close friends and family who expect your art at a discount, you have to remember that this is often not indicative of real market prices and neither is the fact that you created a piece of work for charity which was auctioned for $10,000.  Those kinds of sales shouldn’t influence your ongoing pricing strategy.

Filling the short-fall…

I mentioned earlier that if your strategy means that you need to make a certain amount on each piece sold and the market pays much less, you need to look at ways that will fill that short-fall in income. This is just how business works and is not at all peculiar to the art world. 

Before we go on though it is worth pointing out that diversifying too much and into too many areas can equally be as negative as not diversifying at all. If your original intention was to create “affordable art” then diversifying what you sell could give you an inroad to be able to do that without having to compete with the box and discount stores. You just have to offer something different and something that people will want.

If you have an established base of art collectors who wouldn’t like to see your work other than as originals or quality prints you will need to consider those collectors too. But as you are asking the question “how do I price my art”, then you might not have an established collector base at all and diversifying early on is a good move. Having said that, most art collectors will know that the artist also needs to earn a living so if you do have an established group of collectors there are still plenty of options to diversify what you offer without upsetting them or making them think that you have devalued your work in some way.

Again this comes back to the word affordable being subjective. If you have a market appeal to a group of collectors who will eagerly pay you whatever you charge for a work, there will also be another market who can’t afford your originals but are no less important. To own your premium works is an aspiration for them but offering something that is within their financial reach means that they can at least start building up a collection and enjoy your art without breaking the bank.

Some people might not have enough wall space to hang one of your original works either so offering your work on other products means that your art can be enjoyed whenever and wherever. 

Some artists might suggest that diversifying isn’t for them, thinking that it cheapens the original art if it is also available as a print or on a cellphone case, but visit any museum and their gift shops are full of postcards, posters, and apparel featuring the artwork of famous names. 

One of my long-time collectors started off buying small prints and as circumstances changed over the years has progressed to some of my large format original work, and my relationship with that collector has grown considerably over those years. That’s another important lesson, you should give your time to anyone who shows an interest in your work because they might just go on to be your next collectors. A once casual buyer is now also a great friend.

Keep pricing in context…

You also need to keep pricing in context and this is a lesson I learned more than twenty years ago. I remember pitching up at an art fair with a huge portfolio of work and similar pieces had been selling well all year. When I turned up though I wasn’t expecting that everyone else would be selling within a much lower price range, in some cases less than half of what my art was displayed for.

Had I have put the question to the show organisers around price ranges before the event I would have realised that the show was focused on prints rather than originals and as such the price range was lower. Had I have taken prints then it would have turned out very differently on the day, although some quick thinking and the creation of a sign saying that my work was also available as giclee prints eventually saved what was left of the day and I managed to take a few orders but nowhere near enough to cover my costs for the day.

Show pricing…

I have always been a big believer in letting people know up front how much a piece of artwork costs and whenever I have shown my work I always make sure that the statement is easy to read and that the price is clearly displayed. 

Not very artist does this and thinks instead that people will ask how much a piece of art costs and it will start a conversation where the artist is able to convince the potential buyer. Another lesson learned long ago is that most people will stop, take a look, and then move on if prices are not displayed and way more of those people will never ask the price. 

Some buyers might be embarrassed to find out that they can’t afford a particular piece of work, others will be surprised that they can. I want my buyers experience to be as easy as it can be so making sure that prices are visible without them having to ask means that they can decide internally whether or not they can afford something or if the work is worth it. I can engage them by talking, I don’t need them to start the conversation off by immediately talking about the cost.

While we are on the subject make sure that you set your pricing before the event and that it remains consistent with wherever else you sell your work. The internet is mobile so having a piece available online for $1000 and charging $1200 at the event is something that can easily be found out on the fly.

I have seen this happen frequently and if you ever go on a cruise vacation you will notice it too. Having been lucky enough to become a regular cruiser I have seen art in the galleries around ports increase dramatically for the duration that the cruise ship is in port for. Check the gallery price a day or two before arriving and it is one price, and when you arrive it is suddenly being promoted as a special cruise ship only offer at twice the price. Ask anyone local to a cruise terminal if this happens and they will politely move the conversation on and smile.

Justifying your pricing at shows is no less important than selling your work anywhere else and there is no better way of doing this than giving those potential clients some insight into what previous work has sold for. 

People like to know that they aren’t the only people buying your work so letting them know that a particular piece is your best selling or has previously sold reinforces their belief that they should invest in you and your art. Not only that but it also adds justification that your art is worth whatever you are asking. 

Raising prices…

At some point in your career you will want to consider raising the price of your art. Raising the price because you need to cover a few bills is not a justification, but raising prices because you are having a successful run of sales or your professional circumstances have changed might be.

A successful run of sales should also be over a prolonged period which is why I only review my pricing once each year. Some years it stays the same and other years it increases a little, other years a little more, but every time it is based on what I know the market will pay and just as with anything, art can drop in price if the market goes away. Reviewing prices means reviewing the market, that is marketing 101.

You can raise prices as often or as much as you like but if they go outside of the tolerances of the market, your art will stop selling unless you have an exceptional reason to increase your pricing. Maybe you have suddenly become represented by a major gallery or you have achieved a significant career milestone which has meant that you have become exposed to new markets and their tolerances are higher. If you are represented, the gallery will determine any new pricing based on what they know.

Again, artists never really set their own prices, maybe they do set their own aspirations around value, but only the market will confirm if that price is acceptable.


get close to your customers art marketing

So how do I price my art again?

You are probably sitting there thinking that any moment now he’s going to pull a formula out of the air and tell me exactly what I need to know without me doing too much work. And yes, I am going to give you the exact magic formula and here it is.

Base any pricing on what the market will stand compared to other artists in a similar space, and at a similar level of skill, experience, and achievements, and be the best that you can be. Oh and you’ll need to work really hard. 

And that is the magic formula. When you start out selling your work think of it as taking a job offer from a successful company. If you start in an entry level position where the requirements are not too onerous you wouldn’t expect to be paid at the same level as someone who is holding the company together, working three times the hours with a hundred times the responsibility, and who has years and years of experience. 

It might very well be that you could hold the company together just as well and you deserve an immediate promotion, but unless the boss decides to promote you based on what the boss has seen and heard, you still hold the entry level position on the same rate of pay. 

However, there is a short cut to getting that promotion which applies just as much when creating art. You can progress much quicker if you put in some bloody hard work both in creating your art and in your marketing efforts.

Rounding up the market…

So knowing your market and how the art market works more broadly is the only definitive way to know exactly what buyers will pay. In some cases it could be that your art is valued at a given price point but it still doesn’t sell. That could be down to the geographic location of your market or any number of other factors. You may from time to time have to give everything a rethink but you will only be able to do this if you know who the market is, and how much they will pay.

Generally speaking and in my own personal experience with the art world, it is difficult to break down art buyers into categories. There are no constants and it’s so difficult to tell the difference between collectors of Matisse’s originals from a casual buyer of discount prints.

Someone who buys a $50000 piece of art today might buy a $50 piece tomorrow and you need to forget stereotypical ideas of who traditionally buys art. The markets have changed and so have the range of places and platforms where people buy their art from, and attitudes have changed too. 

Sales can be based on various factors and combinations of factors such as mood, price, proximity, time of day, whether or not it matches the décor, whether it has a fit with a theme, and it can even come down to good luck, there are so many variables between a buyer saying yes and a buyer saying no.

What we do know though is that only a very small number of buyers are serious high-end let’s buy an original Renoir type art collectors who just have to own a painting no matter how much it costs. Then there are patrons who support both the arts and artists.

There are also those who invest in art and who might just hedge their bets on a number of emerging artists in the hope that one of them will be collectible enough to cover losses on their other investments. 

There are also buyers who fit perfectly into my earlier description of cruise ship clients. These are the buyers who purchase on impulse, but the largest proportion of buyers out there are buying art because they like it and can afford it. It is just that what they can afford varies so greatly. 

Within this collective will also be the buyers who always go to the box stores who just want something to match the décor, give me that flower painting, and two of those red abstracts with a side of fries because they need to fill a space or add a splash of colour to the spare room. 

The two biggest factors above the market and every other formula are that firstly an artist has to value their work because unless they do, no buyer will. Secondly artists should be creating the art that they want to create. Create art that you don’t want to create and your apathy will shine through in the work and it might never achieve serendipity.

Finding your market isn’t easy, for some it can be a process that takes many years of searching and the only way to find your market is to show up everywhere you can because if you don’t then you don’t exist. 

So in answer to the question “how should I price my art”, is a really difficult one to answer unless you know your market and you have the answers to the questions we have been through today. For those who just want to have a go without putting in any effort, well your art is worth Ten bucks, or two hundred bucks, maybe even a thousand. Take your pick and hope for the best. 

Once you know the market you can apply whatever formula you want. Per square inch, time, experience, medium, genre, materials, but there is no single formula that tells you exactly what you are really asking, which is how much do I charge for this piece of art. 

If you do somehow find that magic number when you ask the question though, please do let us all know!

About Mark…

Mark is a professional artist and blogger who has a passion for creating land and seascapes and abstract art. His work is available from https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com and from more than 150+ retail locations across the USA and Canada. 

You can also follow Mark on Facebook at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia where he posts regular content and provides additional insights into the world of art and technology. 

Mark takes on a limited number of commissions each year and also sells selected works as signed limited editions through Beechhouse Media directly. If you would like to own one of these works or enquire about commissions, please use the contact form on this site. Any sales made through Pixels and Fine Art America go towards maintaining this site in order to support other independent visual artists.

My latest artwork!

Retired from the Fleet is my latest artwork and it’s available now on a wide range of print mediums and other art collectibles!


retired from the Fleet by Mark Taylor

Comments

Popular posts