How to price your artwork: A 7-step guide
If you’re an artist producing artworks for sale or even as a hobby, you know how much time goes into your work.
From picking a subject to creating the composition to using materials and framing your work, the process often demands hours or even days of your time. That’s why, if your work doesn’t earn the profit it deserves, it can be disappointing. Putting all that heart and soul into a piece of artwork and getting nothing back is a frustrating experience.
Fortunately, there are tried and tested ways of pricing artwork that are proven to appeal to your customers and guarantee you a profit. Taking a professional approach to pricing will transform your art business and ensure that you are paid fairly for your talents.
As artists, we are always looking for ways to turn our creative energy into a viable career, and a calculated pricing strategy is a tool that will help get you there. Of course, that leaves you asking the question: Where do you begin to price your artwork?
Don’t worry, in this article, we will talk about the 7 main strategies you can use to master pricing for those high profits your artwork deserves.
Follow this 7 step guide to pricing your artwork:
This is the first place most artists begin when they are deciding on how to price a piece of artwork. A market-based pricing strategy, sometimes known as a competition-based pricing strategy evaluates the value of art based on similar works that are available from other creators. This can be difficult if your work is highly personal or very unique, but for freelancers and commission-based artist it is a great place to start to help you understand the market.
When you are looking at competitor’s pricing, try to compare the features they offer, the presentation and customer service. Where does your artwork rank in comparison? Would people pay more or less for your work? The market rate for artwork can change if demand for your product increases or decreases, so try to understand how these fluctuations will affect your price.
It is unwise to price entirely based on your competition, and you’ll still need to crunch the numbers and make sure your costs stack up, but it is a great way to get a feel for the market you’ll be selling in.
This handy formula is used to calculate the sales price of your artwork based on its size. It also takes into account the materials you have used. It works as follows:
[(Area x CPSI)+Materials] x2 = Price
Area – Calculate the area of your commission in square inches using the formula Length (in inches) x Width (in inches) = Area
CPSI – Cost per square inch. Choose a cost per square inch that reflects your reputation and credentials as an artist. This could be as little as £2 if you are a beginner, and will increase with your experience level.
Materials – This is how much you have spent on materials and packaging for the this piece. Be sure to include everything and be very detailed or you could be left out of pocket.
Example: A typical A5 portrait commission might cost £212.56
( [ ( 5.8” x 8.3” ) x £2 ]+ £10 ) x2 =£212.56
Play around with your cost per square inch and compare the price it gives you with other artists of a similar skill level to you. This formula is a good starting point when pricing your artwork.
This formula starts by factoring in the time it has taken you to create an artwork. Many artists undercharge for their time because they love what they do, it’s a classic mistake that you can easily avoid by factoring it into your pricing to begin with. The formula works as follows:
[ ( Hourly Wage x Hours Spent) + Materials ] x2 = Price
Hourly Wage – When deciding on an hourly wage, consider the living wage in your country as a minimum rate. You deserve to earn enough to live a good life doing what you love.
Hours Spent – The approximate number of hours the artwork has taken to complete.
Materials – How much you have spent on materials and packaging for this artwork.
Example: A typical A5 portrait commission might cost £236.00
[(£9 x 12 hours) + £10] x 2 = £236.00
As you can see this produces a similar price to the Area pricing formula. Play with each formula and note down each figure, they will be a great starting point when deciding how to price your work.
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Think about what type of work you are selling. Is it an original oil painting or a Giclee print? Is it a page from your daily sketchbook or acrylic on canvas? It is well known that art collectors expect to pay more for an original work than they would for a print or reproduction of your work. Unique, one-off pieces command the highest value, these are your show stoppers that demonstrate who you are as an artist and what you are capable of. These should be your most expensive pieces. Prints, on the other hand, offer your clients a more accessible way to own a piece of work, without the higher price tag. Remember that limited edition prints, produced in short print runs will command a higher price than unlimited number runs. There is value in exclusivity.
This is the basics of any business (yes you are a business now). Do you know how to calculate your costs? How do you measure the cost of your materials, studio space and hard work? Don’t worry, you are not alone. The biggest mistake most artists make when they start their art business is to underestimate their costs and not charge enough for their product to cover the basics. Once you have a thorough idea of what your work is costing you to produce, you can make an informed decision when it comes to pricing your art.
Break your costs down into two basic categories: fixed costs and variable costs.
These are the costs that you have to pay, regardless of how much art you produce. Usually, these are costs that will stay consistent over a one year or more time period. The number of fixed costs you should apply to your artwork relates to how long your work takes to produce. For example, if a painting takes you 2 months to complete, you would apply 16.67% of your annual fixed costs to this painting. Typical fixed costs you might encounter include rent, utilities, and bills, depreciation, insurance etc.
These are the costs that will vary depending on the amount or type of work that you produce. If you don’t produce a single piece of work, these will be zero. Examples include materials and supplies, postage and packaging, sales commission, advertising related to this piece of work, labour that went into the creation of this work. Variable costs related to just the costs associated with this specific work.
Once you know your costs, you can work out what you would need to sell the work for in order to break even, and moreover to make a profit. This is something you will find easier as time goes on and your experience grows. When calculating your costs, detail matters, so be honest with yourself about what really goes into producing your artworks.
Once you decide on a pricing strategy, be consistent and stick to your guns. Collectors and customers do not want to find out later that you have sold work at a much lower price elsewhere. It is the same story with galleries, they will soon drop your work if they think you have undercut them elsewhere on the market.
The artworld is actually very small and your reputation is precious. You should feel confident charging a fair price for your work, and transparency in this matter goes a long way. Whenever someone inevitably asks you why your work is so expensive, be prepared to give a strong answer, rather than feel obligated to drop your prices. Tell them you’ve regularly sold work at the same amount, that you provide certificates of authenticity and have provenance records. Talk about the years of creative effort you’ve gone through to arrive at the piece. Collectors want to be able to justify their purchase and feel that your work is a good investment for the future.
This is an age-old technique that you will see a lot, and it works. Having a selection of artwork at multiple price points means you can satisfy customers with different budgets or at different stages of the customer cycle without sending them away empty-handed. This makes your work much more accessible to more people, which grows your following of loyal fans who will often buy larger pieces as time goes on.
Prints are a fantastic example of this at work. If an oil painting you have produced costs £2,000 to buy, you will potentially put off customers with smaller budgets, or those who have just found your work and want to see more before committing to a large purchase. This is where a range of limited-edition prints, priced at £120 each can fill the gap. Selling work at multiple price points in this way can also allow you to scale and use existing works more creatively to increase your profit without creating more original work.
You already know how to create beautiful artworks. No, it’s time to price your work accordingly and take your art career to the next level.
It can sound complicated at first, but just remember these key factors that go into a price: cost, time and materials.
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