How do you price your work, especially at the beginning of your career? Artists often look for a shortcut, a simple way to figure out pricing, like adding up the cost of materials or charging so much per square inch or counting the number of hours it took to create the work.
These methods don’t work because they ignore how the art marketplace operates. It is not just your time, but your talent and experience. Think about it. A 36” by 24” oil painting might sell for $500 or $5000 or five million dollars. Your name and reputation determine your prices.
In order to establish your first prices, you need to do research. Visit local galleries and art centers who show emerging artists. Find a juried group show that includes work in your medium, like traditional landscape painting or abstract art or ceramics. Choose artists whose work you admire, and note their prices. Later on you can check the websites of these artists to evaluate their background. Are their prices justified by a solid record of accomplishments?
Now look at the wider art world. You can do most of your research online. Both UGallery and Zatista are juried sites that offer original art for sale. Again, find artists in your own category whose work you admire, and note their prices. You can also look at large retailers, like Crate & Barrel, who sell both prints and original art online (see “wall décor”). Compare the artists’ resumes with your own.
If you are a maker of handmade goods, you can do research in the same way. Take a look at the range of prices on Etsy. Find items that are similar to your own in terms of quality of materials, originality, and skill, and see what they cost. Does your jewelry fit at the low end, in the middle, or in the higher “one-of-a-kind” market?
When you are ready to establish your own prices, start with your largest and most complex work. Based on your research and your own selling history, what would a fair price be? Imagine yourself walking away with a check in that amount. Are you smiling or puzzled? Do you think you’ve received fair compensation for your effort?
Then price medium-sized and smaller works accordingly. You might want to provide a range within each category, so that you can adjust prices for works that are more or less complex.
Your goal is to establish prices that are credible in the current art marketplace. The next time a buyer asks “how much is that?” you will have a confident reply because you know the value of your work.
Mary Edwards, Ph.D
Career & Life Coach for Artists
“Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”