Pricing Your Art: 10 Rules

  1. Your prices must be consistent. You don’t sell work more
    cheaply from your open studio than at a gallery. You have one price and do not
    undersell your representatives. If you do, word will get around and no one will
    be willing to represent you.
  2. Start on the low end, while paying yourself enough. You can
    always raise your prices. It’s nearly suicidal to lower your prices and it
    won’t make your current buyers happy at all.
  3. Don’t forget to pay yourself a wage! This is the most common
    mistake, I think. Yes, you have to cover overhead and materials, but you also
    need to be paid for your time.
  4. As a general rule, originals sell for more than
    reproductions and larger works sell for more than smaller works
  5. As a general rule, works with more expensive materials (bronze,
    precious gems) command higher prices.
  6. You have competition. They are not doing the exact same
    thing you’re doing (who is?!), but they’re working in the same genre (abstract,
    local landscape, portraits). And, they’re at about the same level as you (beginning,
    emerging, established). What is their pricing like and are they selling?
  7. The faster you work and more prolific you are, the lower
    your prices
    –in general!
  8. Of course, if you can’t produce enough work to keep up with
    the demand, it’s time to raise your prices.
  9. Instead of lowering your prices, you’re free to offer
    for friends, family, and your best customers. Call it a discount and
    write it up as such so they know the true value.
  10. When you draw up a contract with a gallery or art consultant (YES! You should have a
    contract with everyone!), make sure you list your prices as retail prices. That
    means they should be sold for that amount. If you list them only as wholesale
    prices, the dealer 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 have control of it.

Are there more than 10 rules? Anyone? Anyone?

Robert Genn wrote
an instructive letter on this subject called “Pricing for Joy.

And Mark Kostabi,
the shameless self-promoting gadfly, talks about pricing for emerging artists
in his column.

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10 comments to Pricing Your Art: 10 Rules

  • But, what is an artist to do if she has already priced her work higher than it should be? I let a print dealer of mine convince me to raise my originals prices but in comparing those prices to similar work, I now feel my prices are too high. I’ve sold some older work for more reasonable prices but haven’t sold the newer and bigger pieces yet. Am I safe in lowering their prices? I’m known in the genre but am more of an up and coming artist than established in any way.

  • Hmmm. Interesting dilemma. No one has purchased at the higher price, so is it okay to lower them back to where they were before? I’m guessing the print dealer had good reason. I have no way of knowing how long they’ve been on the market at that price or how much you raised them by. That would help me with an answer. Having said that, YOU have to be comfortable with your prices and it sounds like you are not. If you can’t justify them to yourself, how can you justify them to anyone else?

  • Alyson, Great rules for pricing. I would add an corollary to rule #4. I agree that larger works sell for more than smaller works. However, artists should not succumb to the temptation to just price by square inch. In general, larger works have a lower “per square inch” price than smaller works. I’ve seen artists try to rigidly stick to square inch pricing and it can price the larger works above what the market will bear. Clint Watson Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

  • Alyson, this discussion of pricing is a boon to artists. Pricing is torture and we have nothing to go on. Not one word was there about the biz of art in my art school (that was 30 years ago) have things changed? My prices, I have played with prices a bit, and have now settled on a level I am both comfortable with in terms of value, and have a plan to increase in an orderly fashion. I am still open to learning more, and am currently priced so that I feel very comfortable with raising prices as work sells more briskly, or I have gallery representation that calls for pricing higher. Carla Sanders

  • J. Forest Ocean Bennett

    Sacred art, true art, is so uniquely you that no one can imitate it. This is what is known as a sacred trade; the pain of letting go should be equal to the joy of the income it sells for. You each feel you gave a little of yourself. “Artists have always been the Holy men, the Shamen.” If one is doing one’s innermost soulwork through art, than that commands higher prices, and people will eventually want to buy the work for it’s courage commitment- because it sings “you”. Make sure you are making art like this! If you are not getting what you deserve, simply work harder to find your market. 1/2 your time must be spent working at this, being a new artist.( Unless you live in NYC, then anything goes.) Remember, this is all a part of the process of becoming more You. Be aware that the Universe may try and help support you in other ways, and be gratefully accepting. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. You are a unique and beautiful spirit, so your path will be different. Make sure you are saying what you REALLY want to say. The soul-work of ‘true art’ takes the artists and the observer to a new place. Are you sure of where are you taking you? If you are wildly successful, is it your path or someone else’s that you follow? If we sell our work quite reasonably priced to move it and confirm others like it, we may get what we wish for. I know of one woman who exhbited at NY ArtExpo and got orders. Now she sells faster than she can paint and is unhappy, burned out. ‘Will this be you?’ If you are not paying yourself, than you do not value your soul-work, yourself, or other artists. That being said, you must also do what you must, on occassion, do. I have done it- and yet always regretted it. Understand that this too is part of the process of learning who we are and becoming more ourselves. Here in Hawaii, artists sell thier work WAY to cheaply, except for a few ‘well known’ artists. This is a great place to buy art becasue the prices are SO cheap here! Come, collectors!!!!!! This is probably as a result of the beauty of where we live, the small market, and the numerous good artists here. Therefor I look at taking my work to the mainland. I couldn’t afford to buy art that I like as much as mine. There is no one doing what I am doing in 3-D, so I cannot compare my prices. As my work gets better, and I value me more, I raise my prices. I am still selling ‘too cheaply’, but working on co-creating my vision. In this manner I come to create my future and myself at the same time. Be prepared to hang on to your work if you are selling beneath what your heart knows it is worth. Wait, and show it around, work at creating your future. Most businesses fail because they don’t have enough capital to help them through the lean times. This, too becomes part of your co-creation of your life. Use it to make your life interesting! My commitment is to live my life from the view of the 80-year old me I will become; I won’t sell some of the pieces I make now, because some are just too good to part with at the moment. Make more art like this! Make art that is the ‘holy shaman’ in you.

  • Vicki Schroeder

    I am wondering what a “reasonable” wage is? I do beadwork and other textile techniques that are very time consuming. 100 hours is not unusual for an 8 x 10 or so piece of beading. As an emerging artist, must I pay myself only $5 an hour? It’s disheartening. Thanks!

  • I think $10 is on the low end. $25/hour isn’t too much, but is probably on the high end. $5/hour isn’t even minimum wage!

  • Mireille Damicone

    I did a sculpture made of copper which is about 6feet tall. I also did a painting in a chapel with 3 larges walls. How would I price that?

  • I devloped a loose formula for pricing. I call it the 12/52. I divide the price of the art work by 12 months or 52 weeks, this gives the potential buyer an idea what the assault to their yearly income is. A thousand dollar art object divided by 12 is about 84 dollars a month, 52 into a 1000 dolars is about $19.23 a week. I always ask for half down and the balance to be paid in two or three payments. This works well with NEW buyers.

  • Do you have any guidelines for pricing digital artwork that is produced on demand in various sizes? I’ve done much of my recent work that way and would appreciate your input.