Knowing how to price your work is an essential part of growing as an artist, brand, and businessperson.
Professional artist James Corwin explains how to price your work in his Skill share course. He mentions the logistics of pricing as well as the artwork itself.
So how is the value of a work of art determined? And just as importantly, what are the shortcuts that can be taken to make the price of a work more likely to sell?
How to price a work of art based on comparisons
No matter how great your artwork is, it does not exist in isolation from other artworks. To determine the price of a work of art, you must carefully consider where you plan to sell the work and other similar works for sale in that space. The valuation of a work of art is always subject to other similar works, whether you like it or not!
Of course, this can be difficult to accept, since you know your art and the effort, motivation, and emotion you put into it better than anyone else. However, if you really want to price your work for sale, it is time to start comparing your work with that of other artists.
Things to consider
All of these parameters mentioned below are important in evaluating a painting.
Once you have an idea of the ideal price range for your work, based on comparable artists in the market, come up with a formula that will keep you within that range. At a minimum, the formula should cover the cost of materials used and the hourly rate.
For example, let’s say you set the price per piece at about $600. If the cost of materials is $100 and it takes you about 20 hours to make the part, you can reach your target price by paying yourself about $25 per hour ($100 for materials, 20 x $25 for your work). If you find that similar pieces are selling for about $500, you may need to lower your hourly rate slightly.
As you gain experience and your sales increase, that hourly rate will increase, so be honest with yourself about what you are willing to pay per hour now.
If you sell art through a gallery, you will be charged a commission. (At the Art League, the commission is 40% for us and 60% for you.) Remember to take this into consideration when pricing your artwork. You need to make sure that you are still making money after the commission is taken.
Does this mean I have to sell my artwork on the website at a discount? No! The price of your work should remain constant, regardless of where or how it is sold. Galleries don’t want to know that their prices are low, and buyers don’t want to know that others have charged lower prices for similar pieces.
How to Set Commission Prices
There are many great opportunities for artists who do commission work. However, you need to make sure that your commission price is the same as other artists in your market. If you are selling custom commissions, you will definitely want to learn how to price your commissions to attract repeat customers.
Fortunately, many of the principles we have learned so far apply. If you are doing custom portraits, you need to understand the price of portraits in your market and set an hourly rate that is reasonable for you and in the price range where your work will actually sell.
It is very helpful to have a formula that references the price of the commission, as it allows you to set a price based on the complexity of the work and helps the client understand how you arrived at that price.
For example, if the price of a portrait painting is $400, it is understandable that the price would be higher because of the extra time it would take to do a two-digit painting, and the price can be calculated using the formula and an estimate of the time it would take.
If you are a commissioned artist, you may want to look for a website builder with built-in client proofing that allows you to easily communicate with clients throughout the process.
Understand the difference between retail and wholesale
When you are just starting out, you will probably sell primarily through an online store. Even if you belong to a gallery, you may sell original artwork, prints, and commissions directly to customers through your store.
Selling directly to customers is called wholesale (even if it is just one piece), and selling through a gallery is called retail. If you are selling wholesale, you can use the tips we have described. However, if you sell through a gallery or an online art retailer that takes commissions, pricing your artwork requires that you understand how much they are willing to pay for it.
For example, let’s say the price of an art commission is about $500 per piece. If you sell through a gallery, you may receive 50% of the sale price. In this case, the selling price to the gallery would be about $1,000.
If you are selling through a gallery, your online store price should be the same as the gallery. Galleries do not appreciate knowing that after spending the time and resources to advertise, customers can find your work at a much cheaper price elsewhere.
How To Price Artwork For Beginners | Video Explanation
How To Price Artwork For Beginners | Infographic
In what markets do you sell your work?
The first step is to decide which market you intend to sell your work. Do you want to sell your work in your own town or community? Perhaps you plan to sell your work nationally or internationally. Depending on where you sell, you will need to decide what price you will charge for your work compared to the prices of artists selling in that same market. For example, the price of your type of art in your city may be higher than the price on an online marketplace like Saatchi Art, which sells the work of artists from around the world.
If your main focus is selling in galleries, for example, this is a different market than selling directly to consumers. By knowing which market you sell in, you will be able to look at other artists selling similar work in the same market and see what people in your market are willing to pay.
Some artists price their work by square inch or perimeter, just by the size of the piece. This is easier to explain to buyers and certainly makes sense if you spend less on a small piece.
Even if a small piece has taken the same amount of time and effort as a larger piece, buyers will expect a lower price for a smaller piece by the same artist. This is not a strict rule, but it is an expectation you should be aware of and prepared to meet.
Depending on the media you work with, there may be other considerations
Photographs and prints: You will be selling one (or more) limited editions, so be sure to number and sign each piece (see more about selling editions).
Using the time and materials formula above, we can divide by the number of prints to get the price each should cost; if the time and materials for 15 prints is $1,500, the starting price is $100 per print ($1,500 divided by 15).
Jewellery and Sculpture:
The time and materials formula can still be used, but the materials will be a more important factor. Please keep track of what goes into each piece.
Be sure to keep records of the pieces you sold. These can be used to justify your price estimates and to determine price increases (see below).
Remember the words at the beginning of this article. That your work has value? Don’t forget that.
However, many people sometimes feel that they don’t belong. That even if they are successful, they should not be priced the same as an average artist. This is called “con artist syndrome” (knowing this is half the battle).
Eliminate emotion from your evaluation of art
Every artist knows the feeling of being more attached to some works of art than others. This is perfectly natural. However, it is important to be as rational as possible when determining the price of your artwork.
You want your customers to understand your pricing structure. If you price your work much higher than other works just because it is your favourite, you risk making interested potential buyers uncomfortable and wondering why it is so expensive. Doing so may deter inquiries!
Don’t forget to promote yourself
Pricing is only the first step! Healthy self-promotion improves sales. Telling your story, the story of your work, increases its value. Here are some other blog posts
As an artist, you want to spend time in your studio. You can always pay someone else to manage your website and even your social media, but no one but you can set the price.
However, getting started is the hardest part. After your first few sales, you can be confident that your prices are right. You will find a pricing method that works for you and you will not have to worry about setting prices.