Well, you know you want to sell your artwork, but the question is – how much is your art actually worth? How do you price your art? In this article, the art experts go over some quick, simple steps to price your artwork fairly, and in a way that will get you making money in no time.
When pricing your artwork, there are several factors to consider. We will be looking at pricing artwork at three stages: setting artwork prices for emerging artists, adjusting prices over your art career, and setting prices for exhibitions and events.
You should carefully consider prices when you are just beginning to sell, as they may determine your prices as you move years and decades into your career. So, to start:
Calculate the cost of your materials. Acrylics on canvas are worth more than graphite on paper, and both are worth less than a large, stainless steel sculpture. Even if you bought your materials in bulk, you can still roughly estimate what the prices were. Your artwork should never sell for less than the cost of your materials.
Calculate the cost of labor. How much time did you spend working on this piece, and how much should you be paid per hour? Consider any other jobs you may have, or previous jobs you’ve held to determine what your time is “worth.” If you’re just starting out, don’t overvalue yourself just yet. Your value will grow as your reputation does. A good starting point is $20/hour.
Once you’ve decided your wages, multiply your hourly ‘wages’ by the number of hours you’ve worked on that piece.
Example: if you spent $50 on materials and worked on this piece for 12 hours at $20/hour, your ideal starting price point would be $290. However – there are even more factors to consider, so keep reading before you update your price lists.
Size matters, too. Smaller works should, all things considered, require fewer materials and less time to complete. For this reason, smaller works should always be priced lower than larger works when made of comparable materials.
Look at similar artists. If there is another artist in your area with a similar background to you who is selling works like your own for much less money, you have to recognize that most buyers will turn to them instead. Keep an eye on your competition, be aware of what they are doing and always consider this when setting your prices.
Do not overvalue yourself. It’s always easier to raise your prices after you’ve made many sales than it is to lower your prices after no sales. Being forced to lower your prices due to lack of interest can greatly harm your reputation.
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On the other side of the coin, don’t be “cheap.” There’s a difference between a fair low price and an embarrassing price. While it’s acceptable to give special discounts for close friends, or even as a marketing tactic to create long-term relationships, you’ll want to keep your average artwork price at a level that shows you’re a serious artist and not just a discount decoration shop.
FAQ: Does education affect the value of artwork?
In certain industries, the education and background of a professional will mandate their prices. A lawyer from Harvard, for example, may charge more than a lawyer from a lesser-known, lower-reputation law school. However, both of these lawyers will charge much less fresh out of law school than any lawyer who has been practicing law for years, who has proof of expertise and has won trials. The same goes for artists. A self-taught artist may charge less than an artist who studied at a well-known school or under a famous, well-established artist. However, a ‘new’ artist with no former sales or exhibitions should not sell their works at the same price point as a well-established artist. Your background will impact your artwork value, but more in the case of former sales, exhibition history, and reputation than your education history.
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Adjusting Prices Over Your Art Career
As we mentioned, well-established artists don’t sell at the same price points as newly emerging artists. However, the change doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, artists’ prices grow with their careers.
When to raise the prices of your artwork. When your work is selling well, it means you’ve established that there is value and demand for your artwork, so you can afford to increase the price. However, one or two successful weeks is not enough: you should be looking at at least three months of consistent sales.
You also may consider raising your prices when:
- Recent Succesful Exhibition (if over half of the works on display sold, minimum of 5) .
- Prize in a Noteworthy Competition.
- Increased Media Attention (ie: articles in high-profile magazines or websites).
Any of these circumstances might increase the value of your works, but you should be careful about sudden price hikes. For the most part, you’ll want to stick with gradual increases of 10-15%, but in special circumstances, you can stretch to 25%.
Consider Your Output. If you have a vast number of artworks and are constantly creating new work, you should price your works lower than if you only have a few available works and only create one new piece per year. That’s basic supply and demand, and is the same reason you can buy a factory-made desk at Ikea for much less money than a hand-crafted desk from a local artisan.
Be able to justify your price points. As you begin to show your work in new venues, you’ll be interacting with a lot of art professionals. These are people who won’t be fooled by improvised prices. You must either be ready to show proof of previous sales or, if lacking that, proof that other comparable artists are selling at the same price range.
Note: when showing proof of previous sales, do not let yourself get overconfident based on the prices that your family and friends have been willing to pay. Selling works to your family for $6,000 a piece does not mean that your art is worth that much. Savvy collectors will catch on when this is the case, and not only will they not be willing to pay your high prices, they’ll also take you less seriously as an artist and professional.
How To Price Your Art For Negotiation
You may price your artwork at a higher point than you’re willing to sell it for, to give yourself room to haggle while still staying in a range you are comfortable with. There are two advantages to this method: first, your haggling clients will feel like they got a bargain; and second, you may end up making more money off of buyers who don’t haggle.
Be careful, though! You may scare potential buyers away with high prices. Keep your asking price within 10% of what you want to sell for, and be highly observant of the reactions of potential buyers. If people are quickly losing interest after learning the price, then mention to them that you have room to negotiate.
Setting Prices for Exhibitions and Special Events
Blend In With The Crowd. When showing your work in a gallery, an art fair, or any collective exhibition, be aware of the prices of your co-exhibitors. Your work should be priced very similarly to theirs: too high and it will never sell, too low and it won’t be taken seriously with the others.
Be aware of your audience. A New York audience is always willing to spend more on artwork than a small-town local audience. Additionally, buyers at large outdoor markets will want to spend less than buyers inside a gallery. You may want to adjust your sales with each new location, so do your research to see what other local artists are selling their works for in this style of venue.
Consider extra costs. When working with a gallery, you’ll have to start factoring the costs of commission into your prices. For art fairs, you might have to pay for the booth space. For any out-of-area events, you should consider the cost of shipping and transportation. All things considered, you’ll start raising your prices as you do more of these events to recoup the losses. However:
Don’t cheat your gallery! If you use your gallery relationship to promote your artwork, but then sell through your own website at a lower price, you are cheating your gallery out of their commission. Your gallery may drop you immediately, and other galleries will be less likely to work with you in the future. Why? Because you are actually competing with the gallery and taking away their business and source of income.
The hardest thing about pricing your artwork is viewing it through an objective, impersonal perspective. If every artist priced their artwork at what they valued it at, then there wouldn’t be any affordable art on the market. Your audience doesn’t always see the emotion and stress that went into the work any more than you see the stress of factory workers who put together your clothes.
Don’t confuse price with value. A work that sells today for $200 can be worth millions when you’ve reached international fame. If you are selling works at a low price, do not think that it means you are any less of an artist, or that your artwork is bad. Cheap doesn’t need to mean cheap, and artists who confuse these two become self-conscious, discouraged, and uninspired.
By pricing your artwork right, you are one step closer to finding your art a new forever home.
Looking to enhance your career and build a presence in New York? Submit your portfolio to us and get the opportunity to present your work to a broad range of national and international art collectors and buyers. Visit our Gallery Representation And Artist Promotion page for more information.
Let us know if you have any questions, and feel free to offer your own personal tips for pricing artwork in the comments!
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