The Price Point
It’s difficult to put a value on something that comes from your heart, especially if you are just starting out and don’t know how your work will be received. I’ve had many artists ask me how to price their art. Here I will round up a few best practices and refer you to other resources. You can decide what feels/works best for you.
First a few general tips:
1. Get out and look at shows and galleries featuring artists using the same media, scale, themes and styles as your own. Check out the pricing, take home the pricelist if it’s allowed. Make sure you are following artists at a similar stage in their careers. No use comparing your prices to Damien Hirst if you are still working on your first sale.
2. Talk to other artists directly. Open studios or events such as stARTup Art Fair are the perfect place to ask the burning questions. Don’t feel embarrassed to inquire. Just explain that you are looking for tips and want to understand how they came to their prices. You may want to also find out if they work with a gallery or sell online and ask how their prices differ in these contexts.
3. Go shopping online. More and more collectors are buying art online. From limited editions to giclee prints to originals, the pricing online is competitive, so keep in mind that your audience might be comparing these options. Look at: Minted.com, Art.com Saatchi Art, Chairish.com and Lumas just to name a few.
4. Don’t get emotionally attached. The things we make are a part of us – but that also makes them appealing to others. If your art contains real depth and consideration, it will be hard to let go. I caution you to not price your work according to how much it means to you. If you love it that much, hang it at home and enjoy it for a while. Don’t overprice something because it’s your favorite.
5. On the other hand…stretch your goals. Your prices should make you feel a bit uncomfortable. By that I mean, most artists underestimate their worth and feel shy about higher prices. If you’ve checked that you’re in the realistic range compared to others of your ilk – put it out there with pride.
6. Your prices can evolve. While you don’t want to vary prices from month to month, it is okay to raise them a little each year if your work is in demand. If you work in editions – raise the price as the edition runs out. If you start to sell a certain series or size or style, increase the price slowly to see how the market will react.
7. Leave room for discounts. If you want to reward a devoted fan or promote a special event, offer a 10-20% discount, especially if a client is hesitating. Or if a collector wants a group of work, negotiate a beneficial deal.
The Retail Method
Here is how I usually advise clients to price their work. Keeping in mind your track record for sales and all of the tips above - come to an estimate of how much time you spent on the work and what the materials cost. Some artists keep timecards next to their work and tick off the hours as they go. Then, settle on a markup that you are comfortable with. I usually recommend 300%. That way you’ve paid for the production cost, you have enough to make another and some to put away for living expenses. If a gallery sells your work, they will take 40-50% of that, but you will still have a decent profit margin.
So, you’ve spent $50 in materials, $100 in labor > the retail price would be $450.
Test it out and see if it feels right for your medium and scale. If it doesn’t seem reasonable, try one of the methods below.
Charge per square/linear inch
Some artists (mostly painters) charge per square inch or linear inch. This removes a lot of the guess work and keeps your pricing consistent if you work in a variety of sizes. This article at Artwork Archive will help you calculate with this method:
Copy a price range from comparable artists
If you’ve found an artist in a gallery or online whose work is similar and their level of experience matches yours, its ok to base your prices on what they charge. Look for evidence that this artist is selling consistently and not inflating prices. At least if someone asks about your prices, you can point to other examples of artists charging the same.
Have a third-party price your work
Sometimes you just can’t step back far enough from your own brain to make an objective decision. In this case, a gallerist or consultant or another artist could be the answer. Find a friend you trust or hire a professional. Alan Bamberger of ArtBusiness.com offers this service and local organizations such as ArtSpan offer workshops on several topics including pricing your art.
The really challenging thing about pricing is that there are NO pat answers that work for absolutely everyone. Pricing depends on perceptions and those are difficult to predict or control. There are so many factors, it’s enough to drive you crazy.
But experiment with these methods, adjust and respond. Stand firm on the value of your practice – it will teach others to respect your efforts and reward them.