Whether you are a painter, sculptor or an illustrator, you will reach a point in your career, a crossroad if you will, when you will either continue create just for yourself or you will want to share your artwork by selling it. If you are planning the latter, then this article is for you and will help you determine what price you should be setting for your paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc.
Now, having spent almost 4 years on this matter, trying to find my price point as well as emerge as an artist, I have a good bit of knowledge to share with you. A lot of articles have been written on this subject, however, they all mention bits and pieces, and so I would like to approach this more holistically and give you the bigger picture, so after reading this post, you will know exactly how to put a price on your work.
When pricing your artwork, it’s important to understand the product and ask yourself what you are selling and to whom you are selling. Even though the art market is very specific, in the end, it’s a product like any other. I mean, you can’t price a painting like you would price bread, but in many things they overlap like material and labour costs. Artwork prices should not only be influenced by the visible costs but also the intangibles like the artist’s prestige, reputation and exhibitions.
Once you feel comfortable with treating your artwork—into which you have poured your thoughts and emotions—like a product meant to generate revenue to help you cover your time, costs and advance your artistry, then you can start setting your price by looking at the following crucial factors:
Time spent creating the piece. Set a reasonable hourly wage for yourself, and calculate the number of hours spent on it. You then get your price. Easy right? Well, not always, as some works especially in the minimalist sphere can be very quick to execute, but hard to contemplate and come up with. So don’t base your pricing just on this factor or include the time spent contemplating, planning etc., but always try to be reasonable. A price has to be justifiable and understood by your clientele.
This is the most obvious one. Whatever material costs you had, include them in the price of the artwork. If you wish, you may add a margin to these costs like retailers do.
Look at what prices other artists sell for. Be sure to look at those in the similar category and stage like you. This is when you need to be brutally honest with yourself and look at things realistically. This can be very hard and may not come to you immediately. You are likely to hugely overprice or underprice yourself at the beginning. But do your research, look around, and see where you fit in the picture.
If you are planning to open your own online art gallery and run an e-commerce site, then you will need to include packaging costs in the price of the artwork. Packaging a painting is no cheap feat, so be sure to include these costs. It has happened to me before, I sold a drawing, and later realised that I lost 15% of the profit due to the costs of the packaging. So trust me, include it! It’s part of the product.
Marketing costs like creating professional photographs, descriptions, product names, catalogue maintenance etc. These are all overheads that should be incorporated in the costs of your products. Those are your marketing efforts meant to sell the product and they should be projected in the price in some way. If you pay someone €50 for taking a picture of your painting, are you going to include those costs in the artwork or take the hit from the profit that is supposed to help you advance in your artistic development? Of course, you will include them, as any other business does. But again, do be careful and considerate about what you include.
Gallery commissions? Here, it really depends on your strategy. If a gallery takes a 40% commission, do you add that on top of your own price? You may, but I don’t recommend it. You don’t want to have different prices for the same product in different locations. What I recommend is to maintain the same prices across all distribution channels. That means, that if you sell a painting on your shop for €1000, you want to sell it for the same in a gallery that represents you. Yes, you will end up losing the 40% of the price, but you must understand that the moment you start expanding your business to galleries and other venues, you are becoming a wholesaler and don’t deal directly with end customers. If the commission is 40%, then that amount goes to your gallery for generating the business and handling sales. It’s fair. You don’t want one customer to see the same work at two very different price points at two different locations. Be fair and transparent about the way you handle business. You have a brand and name to manage and it’s up to you to establish a truth-worthy reputation.
There are other intangible variables like have you ever exhibited? Where have you exhibited? Are you represented by galleries? What type of galleries? You have to look at yourself, at what stage of career you are. For example, an artist making similar stuff like you do but who has had 10 solo exhibitions and is being represented by galleries will have higher prices. Not always, but most of the times. Higher artist achievements, public appearances, awards increase the artist reputation and may lead to price increases. This, however, depends on many other variables and on individual cases and is not to be taken as a suggestion for a price increase.
Include your VAT/Sales Tax if applicable. This is an obvious one if you are a business in Europe and VAT applies in your country or to your business.
Last but not least, use your gut feeling to evaluate whether your final price is right. If you feel something is off, make adjustments until it feels right and you are confident about your decision.
There are other variables you will want to consider, like how much work you create per month, what are your business costs, the originality of your artwork, etc. But these should be used just as supporting information to make final price adjustments. The core of your price should be made from the fundamental factors mentioned before.
So there it is. Use this article to establish your prices. To validate them, well, that will be done by your clients. If you start selling your artwork under those prices, then you nailed it. If not, then make adjustments, however, be sure that the reason you are not selling is due to your prices.
Good luck and I invite you now to share your thoughts, doubts and ideas in the comments section below! Also, feel free to contact me for a free consultation.