Unveiling the Artistic Conundrum: The Puzzle of Pricing Your Masterpieces

You’ve reached a significant milestone: entering your artwork in an exhibition for the very first time. Congratulations! As you prepare to showcase your work, you frame it, load it up, and head to the gallery. Everything seems smooth until you encounter the challenging question: “Price.” Your mind goes blank. The enigma of pricing artwork emerges.

For newcomers to the exhibition scene, determining the price of artwork can be a daunting decision, often made at the last minute. Assigning value to your own work is intimidating, and aspiring artists tend to struggle with under- or over-pricing their creations.

Let’s establish two fundamental assumptions:

  1. Your work holds value, and you deserve to be compensated for it.
  2. Somewhere out there, someone will appreciate your piece, desire to own it, and be willing to pay a reasonable price you set.

Now, what does “reasonable” mean? Where should you start?

Here’s our standard advice for artists venturing into pricing for the first time:

  1. Begin by determining a fair hourly wage for yourself.
  2. Add the cost of materials you used and any other associated expenses.

For instance, if a piece took you 12] hours to create, and you aim for a rate of $20 per hour, with materials costing $45, you could start with a price of $240 (12 hours multiplied by $20, plus $45 for materials).

The cost of materials should encompass items like canvas, paper, paint, ink, and other relevant supplies. When considering expenses, don’t overlook factors such as framing services and exhibition entry fees. It might be slightly more complex to account for annual business costs, like website hosting, but once you have an estimate of the number of pieces you anticipate selling in a year, you can include that as well. The crucial point is to avoid neglecting these costs; otherwise, you might end up losing money.

To gain a rough idea of appropriate pricing, you can also visit galleries showcasing artists similar to you.

Note: This serves as a starting point for artists new to exhibiting and selling artwork. Artists at different stages of their careers may employ alternative formulas unrelated to time, and those approaches are equally valid.

Other considerations:

Commission: If you sell your artwork through a gallery, they will likely take a commission (at The Art League, it’s 40 percent to us and 60 percent to you). Remember to factor this in when determining the price of your artwork. It’s crucial to ensure that you still earn a profit after the commission is deducted.

Does this mean you should lower the price of the artwork on your website? No! Your artwork should maintain a consistent price regardless of where or how it is sold. Galleries won’t appreciate discovering they are being undersold, and buyers won’t appreciate finding out that others paid less for similar artwork.

Size: Some artists base their pricing solely on the size of the artwork, whether by square inch or perimeter. This approach is easy to explain to buyers and makes sense if you spend less time on smaller works.

Even if your smaller works require just as much time and effort as your larger ones, buyers generally expect lower prices for smaller sizes from the same artist. Although not an absolute rule, it is an expectation you should be aware of and prepared to address.

Medium and Editions: Depending on the medium in which you work, there may be additional factors to consider. For photography and printmaking, you might be selling one or more pieces from a limited edition. In such cases, ensure that you number and sign each piece. By using the time and materials formula mentioned earlier, you can divide the total by the number of prints to determine the price for each piece. For instance, if the time and materials for an edition of 15 amount to $1,500

Unleashing the Value of Jewellery and Sculpture: Balancing Time, Materials, and Pricing

When it comes to jewellery and sculpture, the time and materials formula remains relevant, although materials often play a more significant role. It is crucial to meticulously track the components of each piece, ensuring accurate pricing.

Maintaining a Track Record

Keep detailed records of the art you sell. These records serve as valuable support when quoting prices and making informed decisions about future price adjustments.

Navigating Common Challenges

“But I don’t really want to sell it” Sometimes, artists feel reluctant to part with a piece that was particularly challenging to create or holds personal significance. While it’s tempting to assign a higher price based on these factors, explaining such pricing to buyers can be difficult and is best avoided. Instead, focus on tangible aspects like time invested, material costs, and size. If you genuinely don’t want the work to sell, refrain from listing it for sale.

Never forget that your work holds value. Many individuals experience impostor syndrome, doubting whether they should charge comparable prices to other successful artists. Recognize this feeling and remember that you deserve fair compensation. As your demand increases with more sales, consider raising your prices. Selling approximately half of your inventory within a six-month period can serve as a sign that it’s time to adjust prices, typically by 10 to 20 percent.

Should You Lower Prices if Sales Are Sluggish?

Avoid rushing to lower prices if your artwork isn’t selling as expected. Ensure that you and your gallery are actively promoting your work before attributing slow sales solely to pricing. However, it is beneficial to keep an eye on comparable artists in terms of medium, size, and career stage for general pricing guidance.

Consistency and Promotion

Maintaining a consistent price is vital for presenting your artwork to the public. Avoid putting your pieces “on sale” sporadically, as this may discourage buyers from purchasing at the original price. Generally, prices should gradually increase over time. Additionally, don’t overlook the importance of self-promotion. Setting a price is only the first step; actively share your story and your artwork’s narrative to enhance its perceived value.

Conclusion: You Set the Prices

As an artist, you would prefer to spend more time in the studio. While you can delegate tasks like managing your website and social media, only you can determine your prices. The beginning may feel challenging, but with a few initial sales, you will gain confidence in your pricing decisions. Discover the formula that works best for you, making pricing decisions a more effortless process. Soon enough, you will be ready to raise your prices. Best of luck on your artistic journey!

Want to learn more?

  1. Find out more
  2. Launch Pad + Accelerator Expressions of Interest
  3. Selling and Licensing Your Art & Designs Around the World with ArtSHINE.

We’re here to help you to take action, just like we’ve helped thousands of other entrepreneurs, business owners, and creative professionals all around the globe.

Now is the time to let your passion SHINE.

Now is the time to Make Tomorrow Today!

To your success, Vinh Van Lam and Stuart Horrex Cofounders

Vinh Van Lam
the authorVinh Van Lam
Vinh Van Lam, co-founder of ArtSHINE, is a visionary art coach and entrepreneur with a passion for fostering creativity. With a diverse background in art and business, he brings a unique perspective to empower emerging artists, enabling them to thrive in the dynamic art industry through the innovative platform of ArtSHINE.

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