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Pricing Your Artwork

SUMMARY: Whether you're just starting to sell your art or have been for some time, it's always good to evaluate your pricing and make sure it's working for you, your customers, and the overall supply and demand of the market. Having a clear price structure that customers can understand is essential to not only that first sale, but also repeat business. There's several ways artists go about determining the price of their work, however you decide to do it, make sure that you're consistent about it and the prices you charge make you feel good about selling your work.

Based on past sales
For established artists or emerging artists with a consistent sales streak, the best way to price your work is based on past sales. Providing documentation that you've been selling comparable (similar medium, size, or subject matter) work consistently for the amount you're currently asking is not only a good way to justify your price, but it also builds instant credibility. This is how the galleries base their prices and the sooner you can get to using this model, the less you'll have to worry about justifying your prices in the future.

Using the real estate model
Another way to determine price for your artwork is to compare to similar pieces on the market. Look at what other artists are charging in the same geographical location (if you're in California, it's probably best not to compare yourself to someone in New York), are using the same medium, are selling via similar venues, or are focusing on similar subject matters. You might also look at artists whose resume and reputation is comparable to your own. See what they're charging (or what they're actually getting) for their work.

Labor and materials
Another option that works well, especially if you're just starting out, is basing your prices on your time/labor and materials. Keep track of the costs of materials (i.e. mat board, poly bags, frames, etc.) as well as how long you work on each particular piece. Pay yourself a respectable hourly wage, add on the cost of materials, and there's the price of your work. For example if your materials for a particular piece cost $15, and you worked on it for five hours, at $20 an hour, that's a total price of $115. Although the price you ultimately charge should always cover the cost of materials, never itemize or add on a separate "materials fee" to any item you sell.

Size of the work
A clear and objective way to price your work is based on size. You might charge a set rate for works of the same size, and go up in increments. Say 5x7s would be $10, 8x10s, $20, and 11x17s, $40 and so forth. You could also base your prices on per square inch. For example, a 5x7 would be 35 square inches. At 25 cents per square inch, that's $8.75. An 11x17, at 187 square inches, also at 25 cents per square inch would be $46.75. Consider using different grid pricing for different mediums, say canvas, paper, cardboard, etc., to make sure you're covering your materials and labor. Always make sure that you can clearly justify the difference in price of two works the same size, say by subject matter, a medium, or process.

If still in doubt...
If you're still not sure how to price your work, or if you've hit a slow streak, you might be as bold as to ask those interested in your art how much they'd spend on it. This should give you a clear indication of how your prices compare to others.

What not to do
And, although it's been known to happen, try not to price your work based on personal attachment. If there's a piece that for whatever reason you'd have a hard time seeing go or you're heavily emotionally invested in, it's probably better to keep it off the market. The tendency would be to overprice it, which could possibly devalue the rest of your work. Pay attention to what messages you could be sending by how you price your work. If someone doesn't share the same passion as you do for a certain piece, they may wonder why the prices for your other work are so low.

Other parting tips
It's a good idea to offer your art in a lot of price ranges, so that most everyone who falls in love with your work and can afford it and take a piece of it home-you never know what they might come back and buy next. And, although it's best to be consistent as possible with your prices, don't be afraid to adjust as you go to keep up with supply and demand. If you find yourself selling faster than you can create, raise your prices. If you're selling too little, try lowering them. After all, you'd rather your work be out there for people to enjoy than gathering dust in your garage, right?

 

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