Guidelines for Pricing Your Art

  1. Your prices must be consistent. People shouldn’t pay less at your open studio than they do at a gallery. You have one price and should never (never ever) undersell your representatives.
  2. Start on the low end, while paying yourself enough. You can always raise your prices. It’s nearly suicidal to lower your prices later and it won’t make your current buyers happy at all.
  3. Don’t forget to pay yourself a wage! The most common mistake artists make is forgetting to pay themselves. You have to cover overhead and materials, but you also need to be compensated for your time.
  4. Attach higher prices to originals and larger works. As a general rule, originals are priced higher than reproductions and larger works sell for more than smaller works.
  5. More expensive materials (bronze, precious gems) command higher prices.
  6. Know your market. Study the pricing of artists working in the same genre (abstract, local landscape, portraits), showing in the same venues, and who are at about the same place in their careers.
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  8. The faster you work and more prolific you are, the lower your prices–in general!
  9. If you can’t produce enough work to keep up with the demand, it’s time to raise your prices.
  10. Instead of lowering your prices, you’re free to offer discounts for friends, family, and your best customers. Call it a discount and write the receipt so the buyers know the true value.
  11. List your prices as retail prices. When you draw up a contract with a gallery, retailer, or art consultant, make sure you list your prices as retail prices. If you list only wholesale prices, the other person could sell them for three times as much as you’re asking and you get only 1/3 of the sales price. Fair? Hardly. You need to know what your work is selling for. You need to control pricing.Having said that, I know a lot of artists are selling to art consultants at wholesale pricing. I don’t like this, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. I asked for them in this post.

Are there more than 10 rules? Anyone? Anyone?

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35 comments to Guidelines for Pricing Your Art

  • It is amazing how many times I need to remind people interested in showing work at the gallery I operate to consider these items when pricing their work. The 1st tip is the one people usually don’t understand at all.

  • It’s also worth noting that it’s the artist’s final responsibility to judge how individual artworks may vary in price. Whatever metrics you use you must do so fairly and spend a good deal of judgement on the choice. I mostly sell my comic Chinese brush paintings on the internet. So I spend a lot of time really squinting at each one and making sure that I’m pricing it fairly relative to my other work. And yes, starting out with low prices is probably the best tip here (among several good ones.) Thanks for the post!

  • I have one gallery that wanted to double the price on my 6X9 pieces even though every other gallery had the regular price. The gallery insisted that I raised the price and I did but I feel bad because I feel I have raise them everywhere else when I know they are at a great price now. What do I do?

    • Ahmad,

      Negotiate with them. Offer to meet them half-way and put an agreement together for future price increases:

      Dear (Gallery Director),

      I am deeply flattered by the pricing you want to place on my art work, but as I have stated, I am uncomfortable with this large a price so early in my career. My other long-time gallery partners have been very successfully representing my 6 x 9 works at ($…) to my collectors and I know they would happily sell my work in the future for more, but to suddenly raise my values in these galleries may cause short-term problems.

      I would love to see my prices raised, of course, but can we do this in increments over a 12 or even 18 month period? If you are able to raise prices by 25% now and then 10% or more per quarter, we will reach the prices you are after, but you will also be able to raise them even higher in the long-term. You will also have a track record on increasing prices that will clearly read well to potential collectors in the months ahead and grow my name and my value to your patrons.

      I am happy to be part of your collection and look forward to working with you for many years. Please contact me so we can finalize the pricing issues and create a long-term solution.

      Sincerely,
      Ahmad

      ~~~~~~~~~~words to that affect.

      Hope that helps. If they insist on this large price leap, you may want to have a small increase with your other galleries and put them into the above arrangement instead, so the current values eventually raise to the values of this new gallery.

      Of course be VERY VERY attentive to what is selling and if the new gallery is not able to move your work at the very high rate, you will have to consider entirely separate issues at that point.

      Good luck! Your work is great!
      Mckenna

    • Ahmad: Sounds like they’ve already been raised.

      Did you ask their reasoning?

      • Ahmad

        Yes, Their reasoning was that they believe they could get more for the high price. Though the gallery is in another city some of my customers in my hometown visit that city and I would hate for them to ask why are the prices different from place to another.

  • Item One on your list is really critical and perhaps something I only realised recently. To make up for the gallery’s commission, I thought it was common for artist to increase their prices in shows, to increase profit. But now I understand that this makes your art pricing inconsistent when another person buys artwork outside of the show for a considerably cheaper price.

    One thing I have found very helpful when it comes to determining costs, is to have a set unit rate per square inch (unit rate is governed by material costs plus profit percentage). That way determining the price for any piece becomes easy. And as time goes on, you can increase your unit rate.

  • Hi Alyson, I sell my art through art consulting agencies, but not for wholesale. The group I work with does not mark me up, they ask me to provide a receipt that shows a “discounted price” that is specifically available to them, and they pass this discount along to their customer. They feel it makes the customer feel good, and I am happy that I state the full retail price on the receipt that is presented to them.

    • Elizabeth: That’s the way I think it should work! That’s the way it used to work, but more and more consultants are acting as “retailers,” which I don’t like.

    • Christy

      Hi Alyson or Elizabeth,

      I have a question for you… How do you find art consulting agencies? I have been painting for years and have been thinking about starting to sell my work but unsure how to begin? I really like the idea of the art consulting agency. Any advice would be appreciated.

      • Christy: Google “art consultant” + whatever city/town. I haven’t used Yellow Pages in years, but local art consultants used to be listed under Galleries.

        You can also search “art advisor.”

  • Thanks for the great tips on pricing. I wanted to let you know that the link to “Pricing for Joy” didn’t work for me. I read the article by Googling it, but I thought you might want to know. I always keep in mind that modest pricing allows people with modest budgets to buy art.

  • GREAT list, Alyson!

    I would amend # 9 so that whenever possible the art is not discounted. Instead make the “discount” be a free something. For example, if you sell a framed piece, discount or give away the frame – but don’t affect the value of the art. Or if you ship… ship for free. Or if you have some other item that you can give away: small pencil sketch, little giclee, box of note cards (if you have some of your art). To family members, not so much, but to “outsiders” it would be a nice thing to keep that art at its peak value.

    …and #8 is not so cut and dried. I know a painter who works in pointillism and works VERY large. He just barely makes enough money as it is and has tried to charge more for years, but his chosen method is simply too time-consuming and his work and career path choices (he won’t work with “bleeping galleries”) don’t endear him to command big prices. He has no pedigree at all. But he does move what he paints and is kept plenty busy.

    So sometimes… one needs to discover a quicker method to work – without compromising on quality of course. My friend has had nearly everyone tell him to work smaller and not focus on points on the entire surface, but he stubbornly refuses. So often, too many artist’s work in time-consuming ways and will remain “struggling” artists forever. Especially if they can’t build a resume because they can’t command the prices the galleries will require to represent them: they have no room for a mark-up and then blame the “bleeping” galleries.

    Thanks again for this great learning tool!

    Mckenna
    AND # 1 is absolutely number one: never undersell your galleries. EVER.

    • Excellent points, Mckenna.
      I know a number of artists who really can’t afford to charge what their time is worth. Their work is too laborious.

      As for discounting, I just can’t imagine selling my work to a family member or dear friend at full price. That’s just me, perhaps. I think it’s totally fine to offer discounts in such circumstances. Gallerists offer them consistently to their best customers. Consummate collectors wouldn’t dream of paying full price.

  • Each 50 x 40cm [16 x 20inch] painting you make is another product in your product range for that size. The materials used are those of the artist to the average art buyer, so no self-deceptions here that this is more expensive than that one in this product size. Again no self-deceptions this one took me 8 hours, this one 8 days,this one took me 8 weeks, 8 months. It is still an artwork of yours in this product size. If your art sells at the’ 8 hours’ why waste that effort on anything else? With say 5 million artworks available on the likes of Ebay art has to be also a commodity. discounts? Yes if they collect from the studio [no shipping costs], yes if they but two artworks [the same shipping costs].

  • The guy who does the slow large size pointillism is doing fine…He doesn’t want a resume, or a gallery & that is ok…I’d venture a guess that his work is very good…That is important…I’d also venture a guess that he is a turtle…Slow & steady wins the race, I’d put my money on the guy who takes his time & does it well…In fact, that would be my tip…Slow & steady…Don’t fret about pedigrees or resumes or having a gallery or not, just produce brilliant work & if you build it they will come…Sari p.s. If working with a gallery, be the better man…Understand that you may have to teach the gallery how to be generous…Also understand, that if you sell from your studio directly, even at the same price, if you don’t give any money to your gallery who is working for you, they don’t get any money…That causes misunderstandings…

  • Thank you for the great tips.
    When I am pricing my handcrafted wearable art I keep track of how many minutes that it takes me to make.
    I calculated an hourly wage for myself, then I divided that by 60 to figure out a “by the minute” wage.
    Say your minute wage is $1.00 and a piece takes 45 minutes to make. I would charge $45.00 plus materials (which I multiply by three).
    So if I have $5.oo in material cost (which should include electricity, rent, tool rental, etc…) then I charge $15.00.
    This makes the piece retail for $60.00.
    This can be adjusted up or down slightly depending on the quality or uniqueness of the piece.
    This way you can pay yourself and keep the business going with the profit from materials.
    Just don’t pay yourself to little for your time.

    • This is a very important distinction:

      If you (anyone reading this) were to be approached by a gallery – or as I experienced – be in a large finer store chain like Neiman Marcus – how would you price this work in the above example. This formula is not usually used for a RETAIL price structure.

      To Eric and Verina: Are you content with 30 an hour as a wage? Could you sell your work for half that or less if you were given the opportunity? If not, then this is NOT truly a retail price. Hopefully your example above is NOT the actual per hour. Especially if two people are trying to make a living off of that wage.

      I price my wearable art jewelry at a production value of a WHOLESALE minimum of $115 per hour and in that figure is my material costs AND my overhead. I know that I spend a large amount of time doing marketing and other things (like this posting! LOL) that don’t create income, and so I know that the only money I make is when I make jewelry. My cost of goods is nearly nothing, by the way, as I re-purpose found objects.

      So…each piece in my line must bring the $115 per hour and then be able to withstand a 2.5 mark-up so that I know it is a viable retail product in my 40 or so galleries/shops that represent my line.

      I went to the link to Modern Art Jewelry and see that you two sell on-line and I hope that is working for you. I do not sell on line, but even if I did, it would be at a 2.5 mark-up from my WHOLESALE pricing.

      All of this is said to make sure that your pricing formula is not seen by others as a full-fledged method, but rather one that has been working for you in your very specific situation, just as mine works for me.

      Anyone selling to OR consigning to galleries, must establish a solid price and a firm grasp of wholesale vs retail pricing. Many of my clients (http://www.mygoldenwords.com) have come to me just to work out this issue. They never had a “real” wholesale base price and it can really make for inappropriate “real” retail prices. And until they have that under control, it is hard to sell to stores, galleries, or boutiques.

      • The figures that I used were for illustration only.
        I don’t tell anyone what my actual personal wage is.
        We also don’t deal with stores or galleries, so our prices are already wholesale.
        Thanks for your concern.

  • I’ve been selling family tree charts in an antique store. Each time they ran out of them I raised the price. Eventually I found the stopping point. If you can figure out what the market will bear, set it there, but don’t set it in stone forever. The market fluctuates. My question is, what is the mark-up for most gift boutiques?

    • It would be rare in a gift boutique (not a consignment shop) for buyers to purchase work that won’t at least double (keystone) in price. Unfortunately, some even look for items they can “double keystone”. That is to say that they want to triple the wholesale price. Some shops have turned to items that they can buy for pennies and sell for dollars. They buy imports. Some “hide” the stink of the term imported by claiming that the work is supporting a village of artisans (Fair Trade) and they are all paid a proper wage, but there are scandalous importers who feed them the story while in fact, children slave for hours. Buy American.

      As a rule of thumb, the less expensive the item, the higher the mark-up. It is costly to “handle” items: open the shipment, put into inventory, price them, put prices on them, and then put them out on display. If a shop owner is paying someone a living wage or even minimum wage, the cost of that time spent on the shipment MUST be accounted for in the profits or they are just spinning their wheels and can actually lose money when they sell the goods.

  • Hi there, I just started selling my custom seaglass jewelry and am quite new to pricing my art. I didnt quite understand #1 and wondered a few things..

    If selling in bulk on consignment or to a retail store to resell, what pricing formula should I use? Would I offer a retail price with a discount? Should I offer a “wholesale price”?

    Also, should I start with the estimate the the stores would want to resell the pieces by at least double? that said to give me an estimate of what my price to the stores should be?

    Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Beachside-Creations-Sea-glass-and-natural-stone-jewelry/101724666551512

    Becky B.
    Beachside Creations

    • Becky: Jewelry is a little different.

      I would think that if you sell on consignment, you provide a retail & wholesale price. Your earnings are from the wholesale price, so make sure it’s sufficient.

      If the store buys outright, you have a wholesale price.

      Any other jewelers here who can help Becky?

      • Yes. I have my jewelry in 40 locations and have almost 50 years of experience in Retail & Wholesale. Director of Sales and Marketing at three businesses – one jewelry and two Art Galleries. And I was a buyer for two jewelry stores. I have lots of help to offer. I did already address “pricing” in a small way in reply to Modern Art Jewelry in this thread, but if Becky wants to call I will give her free counsel.

        Mckenna
        PS: Becky, please go to my website for contact info including time zone (a clock shows my local time) for calling Hawaii.

  • hi Christy, I live in Orlando, FL and I do a lot of networking for my art. I have a stayed in touch with a woman I took art classes with years ago who works in the office furniture industry. Janine put me in touch with her college roommate who owns a gallery in West Palm Beach, as well as offered to introduce me to a friend of hers locally who runs the art consulting business. I did not wait for the introduction, I googled the business, got the friend’s email address and in my digging realized we went to the same University! So I had some common ground and I contacted her immediately. I sent her a packet of printed material and put her on my newsletter mailing list. We hit it off, we met and now she includes me in many of her pitches. She once told me, “Elizabeth, thanks for sending me your newsletter every month, I have a pile or artists I deal with and sometimes I tend to forget about some of them. But not you, you are in my mailbox every month, and that moves you to the top of the pile!” So, you have to network and follow up! be persistent.

  • Thank you Alyson, I learned from the best!

  • This was very helpful. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind when pricing the prints I sell on Etsy. Thank you so much. :)

  • […] • Guidelines for Pricing Your Art – from Alyson B Stanfield comes this great post about the tricky business of pricing your work. I’ve been reading Alyson’s blog for years, and she is one of the people I trust most online for art and business related advice and is on top of the list as one of the premiere art marketing experts. […]