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More Thoughts on Pricing Your Artwork

You’ve poured your heart and soul into it. It’s kept you awake at night, made you frustrated and filled you with joy. It’s your work—your artwork, that is. If you want to make a living as a full-time artist, you’ll eventually have to part with your work in exchange for monetary compensation. But how do you put a price on something like this? Pricing artwork isn’t as easy as it seems. Many artists have difficulty in stepping back from their art and looking at it from a business perspective. Following some of the tips below will help you set your pricing strategies appropriately.

Understand the Market
If you’re trying to sell your house, you’ll look at the sales prices for other houses in your neighborhood before setting your price. If you’re trying to sell your car you’ll take a look at the newspaper and see what similar vehicles are selling for. Do the same thing when setting the pricing for your art. Get out there and see what the going rate is for artwork similar to yours. Visit galleries, look in newspapers and other print publications and do research on the Internet to get an idea of the range of prices that abound. But when you’re out doing that looking around, remember to...

Compare Apples to Apples
Make certain that in your quest to understand the market, that you’re searching out artwork that is truly similar to yours. That means finding artwork:

  • That sells in a location similar to yours (e.g. similar galleries)
  • That is a similar medium to yours.
  • Whose creator is in a similar place in their career. If you’re an emerging artist, look for artists who’ve been in the art world about the same amount of time you have.
  • That has similar availability to your artwork. Make sure you’re not basing pricing on your limited edition prints by looking at others pricing on originals.

Consider the Medium and the Mass
One way to start pricing artwork is to consider treating yourself like an artwork employee. Set a reasonable hourly rate and then factor in the cost of materials to determine the ‘starting price’ of a piece. For example, let’s say you have a painting that took you 20 hours to complete, and you’ve set your hourly rate at $20. If your materials for this piece cost $35, the price of the piece would be $435. When determining pricing, don’t overlook things like the size of the piece (larger pieces typically require more materials) the quality of the paper or canvas, the matting, the framing, and even the cost of transporting your work to the gallery or shipping your work to a buyer. Each of these things has a price attached to it—and all of them have an impact on what you should charge for a piece.

Price the originals high enough to support the LE prints:
If you offer limited edition prints in addition to original artwork, make sure to set the pricing ‘tone’ for LE prints appropriately. People who want to own an original are more willing to pay a premium for a one-of-a-kind piece. And people who prefer to own a print will often judge the value of the print based on how much the original costs. For example, if you want to sell prints at $150 each, pricing your original at $500 doesn’t make the prints seem a very good value. Pricing the original higher (in the case of the example we mentioned, perhaps $1500) makes limited edition prints available to a wider range of art buyers, which we’ll discuss more in depth below.

Consider a wide price range
Art buyers come in many shapes and sizes—and with varying budgets, as well. Consider creating prints, posters or other lower cost artwork in order to give buyers an introduction to your work, and a way for them to begin to become repeat buyers. Art buyers who purchase a print today are the same buyers who one day may be willing (and able) to pay a higher price for originals.

Be Flexible
This doesn’t mean that you have to accept any offer you’re given. It does mean, however, that you need to entertain reasonable offers, even if they are less than your asking price. Consider discounting your prices by up to 10%, offering payment terms or even bartering your artwork for products or services you need. If a potential buyer is offering a sum much different from the asking price of a piece, show the buyer other pieces available that may be more in line with his budget.

Show your prices
Until you’ve gotten to the point in your career that you’re a household name...and maybe not even then...resist the temptation to not post your artwork pricing. The old cliché of ‘‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’ may boost your ego but can deflate your bottom line. People, in general, don’t like discussing money—forcing potential buyers to initiate their first conversation with you as one related to price is a tactic that is sure to backfire.


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