Pricing artwork is one of the most crucial aspects of an artist's business. For artists at different stages in their careers - whether new, mid-career, or established - understanding how to price their work is crucial. It's a balancing act between valuing their time, skill, and creativity, and what the market is willing to pay. This blog post explores various pricing strategies for artists and outlines five pitfalls to avoid.
Even at the very beginning stages you need to develop a price list and you need to know what your established price list is. When you approach gallery's they want to know that. It is a good idea in the beginning to establish a base price for your smallest work and then a per square inch price for works on top of that. This means that if your base price is $200 you never sell a painting for less than that.
Pricing Strategies for Different Career Stages
1. New Artists
Very little to no demand: At this stage an artist needs needs to become prolific and practice their craft. They need to get the work out there and depending on size it might range from $50 to $2500. A very important point here is that how long it took you to make it is not a factor to be considered. In the beginning you actually need to produce quantity over quality because that's how you get better. This way you can sell many paintings at a smaller price. This means that your work will be getting out there to a wider range of people and this will help you to become known.
Cost-Based Pricing: What is this? It is fairly easy to calculate and considers material costs and the time spent creating. It can be helpful for artists who are still gauging their market but has a major flaw - see below.
Comparative Pricing: This is a better strategy for beginners. Look at prices of peers with similar experience and style. It helps in understanding market standards.
Undervaluing Art: There is the risk of setting prices too low, which might lead to challenges in increasing prices later although when starting out your prices need to be low.
Market Misalignment: Overpricing due to lack of reputation can also lead to difficulty in selling.
The Major flaw: You cannot expect to price your work according to the amount of time you spend on it - especially in the beginning. You are learning and it will generally take you longer to get things done.
2. Mid-Career Artists
Value-Based Pricing: Prices based on the artist’s growing reputation and previous sales. It capitalizes on the increasing demand.
Square Inch Pricing: Establishes a set formula and makes it easy to calculate your pricing.
Raising your Prices: At this stage you can consider rising raising your prices which will depend on how well you work of selling. If you can't keep up with the demand then that's a good time to put your prices up. You need to put them up a reasonable amount or people won't recognize you've actually done that, so a rule of thumb on this is put them up by 25% or a dollar per square inch.
For mid career artists at this point you need to begin working with designers, dealers, interior designers, and consultants. Your prices at this point might range from $2.00 to $3.00 per square inch. There are also other options available such as licensing your work. A ballpark figure for licensing is that you will get 10% of the art works price. If it is with a dealer, you will get between 15 to 20%, with the publisher it's 20% and a wholesaler 40%. A gallery will generally give you 50% and an art consultant or designer will give you 60 to 75%.
The important thing to understand about pricing and selling your work to these types of outlets is that you have to always bear in mind the price that your collector will get your work for. You cannot adjust your prices according to who you're selling it to. T
hat's why you need a set price like a square per square inch scale to go by. It is the end price that counts
Market Volatility: Prices might fluctuate based on external factors like trends, affecting stability but this doesn't mean you can put your prices down.
Overreliance on Past Success: May lead to overpricing, alienating potential new collectors.
3. Established Artists
Prestige Pricing: At this point you may have some special price points for highly skilled art works. High prices here reflect the artist’s stature, exclusivity, and collector demand.
Auction Pricing: Letting the market determine the price, often leading to higher valuations.
Inaccessibility: Extremely high prices can limit the buyer pool.
Market Pressure: Maintaining high price points can be stressful and artistically limiting. Which leads to the main # 1 Pitfall......
Five Pricing Pitfalls to Avoid
NEVER - PUT - YOUR - PRICES - DOWN!
This is one of the, if not the biggest mistakes that an artist can make when it comes to pricing their work. The problem with putting your prices down, is that it devalues the work for all the collectors that have previously bought from you. You should never put your price down, or for that matter, raise it according to the environment that you're selling in. Inconsistent pricing can confuse collectors and gallery's.
Emotional Pricing: Avoid setting prices based on personal attachment to the work or how long it took you to do it. Stay objective and market-focused.
Ignoring Market Feedback: Not adjusting prices based on your sales and success i.e. If demand exceeds supply, you need to raise your prices. The problem here is that you can end up not charging enough and that also devalues the work.
Neglecting Professional Presentation: Poor presentation (e.g., bad framing, low-quality images and materials) can devalue even the best artworks. Asking high prices for shoddy workmanship tells galleries and collectors that you don't really care about your work, that you are trying to make a quick buck. If you don't value your work- why should anyone else?
Lack of Transparency: Being secretive or inconsistent about pricing can deter galleries and collectors and harms your reputation as a professional artist.
Pricing art is a nuanced process that evolves throughout an artist's career. It is probably the most difficult aspect of marketing. It's important for artists to understand their position in the market, stay informed about industry standards, and adjust their strategies accordingly. By avoiding common pitfalls and strategically pricing their work, artists can ensure they are fairly compensated while growing their presence in the art world.