"How should I go about pricing my artwork?"
This is a question I get from artists ALL the time. I get it from brand new artists as well as artists that have been in the game for longer than me! So, if you’re reading this, don’t ever be afraid to ask this question.
Over the past 6 years, I’ve done a lot of research and evaluation on this topic, so the answer to this question has taken me years to craft.
Alright, so how do you price your work? Well, that depends on your intentions… Pricing artwork is just like anything else - meaning, YOU have to do what is best for YOU! What do I mean by that? There are tons of ways to sell art and they each depend on your comfortability, production quantity, market value, etc…
So, here are my best practices when pricing artwork...
1. Cost-of-Materials Approach
This is the simplest way to price your artwork.
Take the cost of materials, add a comfortable rate for your time (for example: $20/hr), then multiply it by a percentage mark up (for example: 20%). Here is an example:
Even though this is the simplest way to price your artwork, I don’t suggest it. But with that being said, if that works for YOU, go for it!
2. Market Rate Approach
This approach takes a little bit of honesty. If you want your work to sell for what the market says it’s worth you need to take a good look around and see what price point(s) your peers are selling their work at. From there, you can base your prices off of that. For example, if you look around at your peers (whether this is at a pop-up exhibition/event, a group show, or even on Instagram) and they are all selling their work for $1000 and you’re at $10000, but you’re not selling any work, you may need to lower your prices. Same thing in reverse - if your peers are selling work for $10000 and you're only at $1000, you'll probably need to raise your prices...
**If you need help figuring out who your peers are, scroll down to the “Credentials Matter” section.
3. Price on Request
If you take this approach, you are essentially letting people choose the price for you. Especially if you are unsure about how to price your work, this can actually be very helpful.
The way this works is that you ask to list your artwork as “Price on Request” or “POR” and then if someone is interested they will contact you asking for a price. This is your opportunity to present the interested party with a price - they’ll either accept the price or come back and say that it’s high. This can open up a dialogue in which you can ask them why they think it's too high or what they would offer as a fair price and why. This tactic is not painless, but it can give you some good intel.
Other factors to keep in mind:
It is okay to negotiate your prices if you are still grappling with how much to sell your work for. This is for a couple of reasons:
If someone really likes your work, if they are willing to pay close to what you’re asking for, it’s usually worth it to work with that person. Usually if someone loves your work, they’re going to come back in the future and support other things you’re doing. That might be a fundraiser, a community support art (CSA) campaign, they might suggest your work to curators and for other endeavors, and they might come back and buy another piece or print from you.
Being in someone’s collection is a BIG deal. So, sometimes it’s good to work with individuals and/or institutions on price in order to get into said collection. For example, if a museum has $15000 available for acquisitions and your piece is $18000, it might be worth it to sell it for a little less because being in a museum collection is a HUGE cap in the feather! But even on a smaller level, let’s say you sell a piece to Joe Schmoe and they put your art in their home, office, etc etc… Your work is now being seen by more eyeballs than it would just sitting in your studio/garage/bedroom/storage unit.
And to follow up on that last point - as a rule of thumb, if your work has been sitting around for a while, sometimes it might be better to get it sold and circulating more than it would otherwise. This is not the case all the time, but you’ll know when it is.
As taboo as it might be to talk about, in the art world, credentials matter when pricing your artwork. Let’s say you are fresh out the gate, wide-eyed and bushy tailed when it comes to selling your art… Do you think someone is going to buy your piece(s) for $10000? Most likely not. In the art world, getting stamps of approval definitely affects how much you can charge for your work because status is a large part of pricing.
For example, getting accepted for a reputable residency program is a stamp. Having a major solo show at a gallery in your city is a stamp. Being included in a group show with some top notch artists is a stamp. In the art world, you have to be able to justify your prices.
Imagine this...: So you’re telling me, you are collected by NO major museums nor collectors, you have no track record of selling artwork consistently, and you’ve never been in a major show?? No disrespect, but I’m not buying your work for $10000.
This is not at all an attempt to belittle how anyone feels about themselves or their artwork - just think about it from a consumer standpoint. Would you pay $100 for some socks from H&M? Probably not. Why? Because we know that those socks will be good for maybe a year and then we’ll be ready to get a new pair. But I bet if you went to a high-end sock retail store downtown and they sold you a 200 thread count, 100% Egyptian cotton, thermal pair of socks that are guaranteed to last up to 10 years you would pay WAY more than $100 for them. Why? Because they have a higher value! It took a lot for these socks to be produced and they’ll last longer. It’s the same with art. People want to buy something that has a higher value.
Now, I want to be clear - there is a difference between negotiating and just all out lowering your prices. You negotiate as a way to compromise and push the needle forward. Lowering your prices means knowing when your work is not selling at that price point. So, you reduce your prices as a tactic to gaining more accessibility and hopefully selling more.
I am not a huge fan of reducing price, but I am a fan of doing what is best for YOU as an artist. If lowering your prices is a way to get some pieces sold, which in turn helps you pay your bills, I am all for it.
Lowering your prices is not anything to be ashamed of - successful businesses do it ALL THE TIME! It’s supply and demand. Sometimes you have to lower the price to build that demand. This doesn’t mean that the work doesn’t hold as much value - it means that you need this work sold and you want to be compensated for it. If Louis Vuitton doesn’t sell out their entire Fall collection, guess what?! It’s going on wholesale to boutiques and clothing-rental companies. Don’t be fooled - price reduction is a business move. Move smart.
I hope this dispelled some myths about pricing and gave you an idea about how you might want to price your work moving forward. If I forgot something or you have a specific question, let me know!
Happy Black History Month,