How To Figure Out What To Charge For Your Art
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Your mum doesn't know anything.
I mean, of course she does, but art sales might not be her area of expertise. Google has generated over a million results, and all the Youtubers have left you confused.
The truth is, there really isn't a cut and dry way to price your art in my opinion. There are a lot of factors that come into play, that can affect the price at which you sell your art. Every artist has asked themselves "well, how much should I sell it for?" The truth is there are some things to consider when coming up with the answer.
There are many factors to consider.
How much did it cost to create the piece? How laborious was the work? How large is it? What country do you live in? How experienced are you as an artist? Have you won any prestigious awards or exhibited in any recognised institutions? Is your art in high demand? Will there be a sales commission? Are you selling originals or prints? What style/medium is it made in?
Perhaps you’re about to start selling your artwork online from your own store, in which case you’ll receive all the profit. But then you’ll have to consider other things, like shipping, packaging, listing fees, marketing materials, and oh so much time. You’ll need a way to incorporate all of these costs to make it worth your time, valuable to your customer and still gain a good profit.
Maybe you're about to exhibit your artwork for the first time. (Congrats!) Remember that most galleries take a commission out of that sale, often between 20%-50%
Could be that an admirer has commissioned you for a custom made art piece and you want to give them the perfect concoction of quality, value, and time well spent.
Perhaps you’ve never sold anything in your life and you really just want to get started and begin to understand the process, and gauge the market in which you're entering.
We often receive inquiries about how to price artwork as a beginner. If you're an artist who wants to make a living from your creations, pricing your work appropriately is pretty necessary.
So, how can you go about pricing your artwork properly?
Well, there are a few different pricing methods that you can carve into to make it work for your craft. And your pockets.
Stop under-charging for your work.
It may be tempting to start out by giving your work away for free, or selling art at incredibly low prices for the sake of making sales. But be aware that you can actually lose out on sales if the price is too low as it can often indicates low quality artwork.
Stop over-charging for your work.
Even if you notice an artist's style that's similar to yours and they're selling work with high price-points, doesn't mean that you should be too. You need to consider that the artist may have a much larger following, more professional experience, loyal customers, and stronger expertise. It takes time to build up yourself up to a new 'level' or rank as an artist. So just make sure you're considering your own career and not anyone elses.
Keep your pricing consistent.
If you start out by selling your art at print sale or craft fair, chances are your prices are going to be on the lower, more 'affordable' end of the spectrum.
If you later move on to selling your art in a gallery, you may need to adjust your prices to make up for the gallery commission fee.
Once your art has increased in value, it means that if you later decide to sell at a craft fair again, consider applying a discount or percentage off rather than lowering your whole price.
Whenever you apply a discount, be sure you're still making a profit.
I've made the mistake of offering drastic discounts to older pieces of work, just to get rid of it. Not only was I not making any profit, or covering my materials costs, I was also devaluing the work. It's better to give your work as a gift or a giveaway prize rather than put a huge discount sale price on it. Besides, if a customer or friend has received your work as a gift they are more likely to see a higher value in it and purchase a full price piece from you later, or refer you to a friend to buy a piece.
Use your discretion
Remember, the methods below can be used as starting points to, as a ball park for pricing your artwork, but you can adjust the formulas to suit your practice. This is not by any means the be all end all of pricing, it's more of an outline of the different ways most of us artists are using to price our works. You can always add or subtract a few pounds if you think the maths are a little off or out of whack for you.
Prints are one thing, but original art is another. Your original visual art shouldn't be thought of as a commodity in my opinion. It's not the same as selling clothes or food. Making one custom or original piece is different than reproductions or prints of a popular piece. Some artists even add original elements to their prints which adds value to each item.
Check out Peggy Dean's Skillshare course for a deeper understanding on pricing, or this course by Brooke Glaser called Making A Living As An Artist, both courses have been recommended by hundreds of students.
3 Easy Pricing Formulas for Artists and Makers
1. The SQUARE INCH Method
A basic and popular formula that’s good for first time sellers.
Where you’re charging an amount for every square inch.
Consider the market and country you sell in though, because that may affect the way your art is valued and priced.
This amount should respectively represent your reputation and value. As always, this number should not go down, although it may differ depending on what medium you use.
For instance your illustrations might be valued at 50p per square inch, whereas your paintings might be valued at £1 per square inch.
Also, you'll want to include and consider your creation costs. Things like your studio fee for the total amount of days you were working, any key specialty materials like resin or gold leaf as well as your framing costs.
The Square Inch pricing Formula:
Width x Height = Square Inch
Square Inch x Value = Artwork
Artwork + Costs = Retail Price
Retail Price / Your Percentage Portion = Commission Retail Price
24 in x 36 in painting = 864 sq inches
864 x £1 = £864
£864 + £112 studio for a week + £25 worth of Resin + £100 Framing = £1101 Art Price
£1101 / 75% commission = £1468 Commission Art Price
2. The LINEAR INCH Method
This method is also a good starting point for early career sellers, painters, illustrators with small sized works on paper or similar. The Value here is usually in whole numbers like £3
The Linear Inch Formula:
Width + Height = Linear Inch
Linear Inch x Value = Artwork
Artwork + Studio Fee + Key Materials + Framing = Retail Price
Retail Price / Your Percentage = Commission Retail Price
10" + 12" Drawing = 22"
22 x £3 = £66
£66 + £32 studio for a 2 days + £100 Framing = £198 Art Price
£1101 / 75% commission = £264 Commission Art Price
3. The LABOURER Method
Helpful for those that make detail oriented, time consuming work, or large works. Perhaps you use unusual materials or tools.
Now there’s a few different approaches to The Labourer. It actually has 3 variations of the same numbers.
For this one, you’ll need to consider the cost of your materials, and the time in hours it takes you to make one piece. You’ll also want to pay yourself. So consider, how much you will pay yourself for the job? Be fair but be realistic.
Take a look at the National Minimum wage of where you live and adjust it accordingly.
You might also take into account that the typical working day of a full time position is usually between 7-9 hours a day. What would a reasonable daily rate look like to you? How about a monthly salary?
If the total price of this formula seems totally out of whack for you, then you may need to consider finding less expensive materials, or working a little faster.
Example 1 - Hourly Rate:
Numbers you need: Cost of Materials, Time in Hours to make 1 piece, Hourly Wage
Formula: ( Hours x Wage ) + Cost = The Price
An original textile piece that took 8 hours to make. You pay yourself £20/per hour. Let’s say the cost of all the materials was £18.
( 8 x 20 ) + £18 = £178
Example 2 - Daily Rate:
Numbers you need: Cost of materials, Daily Rate, Number of Days it took to complete.
Formula: Rate x Days + Cost = The Price
A hand dyed macrame piece that took 3 working days to complete. You pay yourself a daily rate of £100. And the cost of materials was £35.
100 x 3 + 35 = £335
Example 3 - Monthly Salary:
Numbers you need: Desired Monthly Salary, Number of Pieces you could complete in one month, Cost of Materials
Formula: Salary / Number of pieces you could make in a month + Costs = The Price
A hand-cut multi-layered paper portrait that took 3 ‘working days’ to finish. It’s possible to complete 8 pieces in a month. It cost £12 to make one piece. Let’s say you pay yourself £1500/month for this.
1500 ÷ 8 + 12 = £199.50 each
When should you adjust your prices?
Reevaluate your pricing every year or so. Take a look back at how many pieces you sold, which were most popular, to whom they were sold, and where were they sold the most? This information is a great way to analyse your most successful and popular items and sales channels in order to increase the prices of some items or the use of most successful sales channels.
Additionally, you may have had new experiences within that year such as gallery shows, or publications that may increase the value or level of your work or career.
Perhaps you have changed styles or introduced a new medium to your work. This should all be considered when calculating the cost of materials, labour, and overall value of the work you'll continue to create.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren was born in London, but grew up in Canada where she received her degrees with distinction in Fine Arts and Education. Now she's back, she continues her work in creative arts by making art and teaching it, while developing opportunities for early career artists as the Founder of the online platform Dark Yellow Dot.