Pricing Your Artwork...Where Do You Start?

Pricing Your Artwork...Where Do You Start?

“I have no idea what to charge for this piece.”

This is something we hear fairly consistently when artists bring their work to the gallery to be displayed. As an artist or creative, it’s often a struggle to put a price on something that we feel, over the process of creating it, has become an extension of us. How do we boil down what we love to do into a figure that is fair to the artist, the gallery and the buyer? Do we overshoot or undercut?

Creating a pricing system for yourself will not only allow you to walk into a gallery or art fair with confidence in your prices, but it will allow you to be prepared when someone asks the inevitable question, “Where did you come up with that number?” If done correctly, a pricing system is also a valuable record-keeping tool that can help your artistic business grow.

Let’s jump right in shall we? While size and medium are two main factors in determining the pricing of a piece, there are many intangibles that go into pricing that need to be considered, some of which can only be answered by you, the artist.

Consider your skill and where you are in your artistic career.

Are you just now beginning to forge your path and have only taken a handful of classes, but are still developing your style as an artist? Or have you been expanding your skills for years, developed your own techniques and have even begun teaching others in your medium? Like your typical “9-5”, the longer you have been in a position, the more likely you are to advance and receive additional responsibility and pay. Your artistic career works the same way. If you’re just starting out, you’re wanting to get your name out there which means you’ll need to price your work to sell in order to create a market for yourself. If your skill is highly developed and you’ve been consistently producing work for some time, you’ll need to take your experience into consideration.

Consider your goals as an artist.

Do you create on the side out of sheer joy and passion? Do you have debt that you’re looking to whittle away? Figuring out why you create will determine how important pricing your work will be. Do you need to be a little more serious about setting a price that will assist in chipping away at your mortgage or can you afford to price your work in a more casual way.

Consider the amount of time it took to create the piece.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your finished piece…well, usually. It takes time to create and time is valuable. This is where things can get sticky because if you’re anything like your average artist, you probably get lost in your process and therefor lose track of time. Try setting “office hours” for yourself while working on a specific piece. Mark the time you began, the time you finished and any breaks in between. Like being in a class with a compressed timeframe, keeping time on your piece will allow you to really focus on your work while knowing exactly how much time went into its creation. Think about an appropriate hourly wage for your time and work that into your pricing system.

Some additional things to consider when pricing your work:

-Take a look at the art market in your area. What are similar pieces selling for (or not selling for)? Of course you can never know the amount of time that went into creating the pieces or the exact brand of paint used, but you can get an idea of what people are spending on what type of pieces. When in doubt...ask.

-Keep a price list and document everything you have sold. This can help you explain why you’ve priced a piece a certain way and will also assist in determining what price point sells the most. 

-Know your materials. Keep track of everything you purchase for a piece. A new brush, that tube of heavily pigmented paint, that slow-cool glaze you couldn’t live without…all of it. Keep your receipts and rope those costs into the final price for the piece.

-Remember to factor in any commission. If you’re displaying your art in a gallery, industry standard for commission is around 50%. So factor this amount in when you’re contemplating your bottom line. Depending on what you’d like to receive, you might need to mark your price up.

Of course, in the end, you can price the piece for whatever you would like. Art is subjective and even after all of your price calculations, in the art market, the piece is really only "worth" whatever someone is willing to pay for it. Don't be discouraged! What doesn't sell now may sell later and vice versa. Figure out what works best for you.

These are tips we've compiled from a variety of sources and have found to be useful to us. If you have any ways that you've streamlined your artwork pricing process, we'd love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment below!

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