The Problem With Lower Price Points For Your Art

Have you ever created a body of work just so you could sell at lower prices? If so, you might have created a problem for yourself.

Kimberly McClintock's paper, tape, and ink collage

©Kimberly McClintock, XK. Digital print in various sizes, original assembled from handmade Nepalese paper, washi tape, ink, mathematics textbook circa 1927 and commercially reproduced ledger page. Used with permission.

Do any of the following ring true for you?

  • You are afraid that people won’t buy your art if you charge what it’s worth.
  • You believe that the people in your geographical region buy only cheaper art.
  • You’ve started making smaller pieces because they’re less expensive.
  • You have signed up for a service like Fine Art America to begin offering multiples of your art, even though the originals aren’t selling.

If you have created lower-priced work for any of these reasons, you might be lowering the bar along with your prices.

Let’s face it: selling lower-priced art is safer. There are many more people in your pool of prospective buyers at the low end.

But I can’t believe that your goal is to appeal to the masses. You, like my clients, surely have big dreams, and that means selling big art at fair prices.

So I have to ask … Are you running to this safer place of inexpensive art because you’ve been inconsistent with your studio practice, marketing, exhibitions, and networking? In other words, are you producing “more affordable” art because you don’t want to do the work required to sell your best work?

Have you given up on selling at that higher price because you believe it’s too difficult? Maybe the cheaper stuff will be easier to sell, you might think.

I have no objections with making art in a variety of sizes or offering reproductions of your art, especially if you’re selling a lot of work and can’t keep up with demand.

What I object to is your playing small and safe.

I object to your not taking risks because you have placed a limit on what you think you can achieve. I object to your not putting forth your best effort. I object to your giving up.

Lorraine Glessner's mixed media painting

©Lorraine Glessner, The Sentient Magnolia & The Great Salt Lake 1. Encaustic, collage, mixed media on wood, 30 x 40 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.

It’s safer to stay on the low end when you know you can sell less expensive items. But playing it small and safe rarely results in dreams fulfilled.

My objections aside, the big problem with lower price points for your art is, ironically, that you need to work much harder to reach your goals.

Do The Math

Selling a lot of low-priced work requires more effort than selling a single high-priced piece of art. It’s simple math.

Let’s say you have $50 reproductions on the low end and $2500 originals on the high end.

You would have to sell fifty $50 items to equal a single $2500 sale! That means that if you want to make $2500, you need to sell one piece to 50 different people rather than one piece to a single person.

A. Single. Person.

Unless you have an enormous list and can sell out of an edition with one email, common sense says that you have to do a lot more work to sell 50 pieces.

Now it’s time for you to object. I can hear it: I don’t know of anyone who will pay $2500 for my art.

Fine. Find a new audience. I mean it!

Just because you don’t know them now doesn’t mean they’re not out there. You can find them and nurture relationships with them.

Yes, this will take effort in the beginning, but the long-term payoffs are much greater, unless your goal is to sell a lot of low-end art. I have nothing against this as a goal, but you need to understand what it will take to achieve it.

Just because you sell higher-end art doesn’t mean you can’t also offer lower-priced work, but be cautious of where you put your effort. Otherwise, you have a problem.

The bulk of your effort should be in getting the higher-priced work in front of the right people: your ideal collectors. Be very clear on who they are and create a path to reach them.

Josephine Geiger's stained glass in neutrals

©Josephine A Geiger, Lunchtime Social. Leaded stained glass, bevels, copper, 8.75 x 16 x 5 inches. Used with permission.

I’ve Been There

A couple of years ago, you might have landed on the Art Biz Coach site and found any number (15? 20?) of low-priced audio interviews. You would have also come across low-priced online classes that I rotated throughout the year.

I was trying to appeal to everyone and ended up alienating my ideal clients. The sheer number of items offered on my site confused people.

When I got really clear on the value of what I had to offer, the type of artist I wanted to serve, and how I wanted to serve them, I was able to focus my offerings. Now I attract amazing and ambitious artists that I can support at the highest level.

You can do the same for your art.

Get very clear on what your goals are, and if your current practices are supporting those goals.

Wouldn’t you rather sell one $2500 piece than try to find 50 people to purchase a $50 piece?

Your Turn

Has your low-priced work become a distraction?

Are you working harder to sell the low-end stuff or the high-end work?

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125 comments to The Problem With Lower Price Points For Your Art

  • I never see this addressed, frankly because I’m sure this is not a common issue, although I have posted on many artist’s blogs asking for input. No one answers. I am homebound because of a severe chronic disease which leaves me greatly fatigued, and interrupts cognitive output. I do have my work on Fine Art America because it’s one of the few venues where I can promote my work. I am in a gallery and sell intermittedly. I cannot participate in local art shows (of which there are many) because the organizers want the artist there at all times. I cannot participate in the events my gallery hosts. I can’t handle crowds or noise, it all overwhelms me. I have searched and search for any other way to promote myself and done all that I can, but I am so severely limited in how much energy I can expend. My work is worthwhile, but it remains quietly in the background.

  • This is a provoking post and I have to admit that I went back and read it twice, the first time I was a little put off by it. Then I realized that this is speaking mainly to a lower maybe entry level artist who is undercharging considerably.

    Personally I have been slowly building my collectors for just over 10 years and when I first started out I was only able to launch myself by selling small daily paintings at a very low price to people that I knew who agreed to be on my mailing list. That was appropriate at the time to my skill level and lack of knowledge about business and not so great looking website and blog.

    There are so many factors involved in this such as what point you are in your work and career. I have been able to raise my prices slowly over time, but have definitely been in cycles where no one was buying when I initially went through a new small price hike.

    Just last year I began offering reproductions rather than continuing to spend loads of time making small original work, mostly because in my natural progression of working on becoming a more skilled artist I naturally want to paint larger even though it is much easier for me to sell smaller paintings.

    Offering several price points is important I think and I also have found that people like to start collecting small and eventually will buy larger works or invest in a commission when they have gained a sense of trust and like you and your work, but that can sometimes literally take years. It can also take a lot of time of working with people, back and forth communication, studio visits, etc etc to sell larger paintings since they are less an impulse buy than the smaller ones, but are worth the effort.

    What would be a great thing is if you followed up this blog post with one about ways for artists to cultivate higher end collectors and let others share what has worked for them and strategies that they have tried over time. This is a real challenge for many artists and something we always keep in the back of our minds.

  • I was just having this conversation about my work. I’ll be selling at a more prestigious show at the end of the month and worry that my prices are too low, but equally worried about raising them. What to do…I value my work, but I am not an established artist.

  • Danielle

    Have you found a way to read minds because you surely have read mine!

    Not only am I an established fine artist, I’ve had my own line with a very Iconic fashion designer and have been shown in Time Square as well as on National Television through a famous talk show host wearing my art/clothing!

    Yet, still I deny myself the allowance of charging a price for my work that a degree in fine art, superior marketing abilities and 20 plus years of honing my skill has allotted! Tsk Tsk Tsk!

    I’ve said time and again that the World Wide Web, though a pertinent and resourceful tool, has created a fear amongst established artists to compete with bigger, better. CHEAPER!

    Please let me in on your vision that I may find the confidence to charge for my work the price it deserves, if not for style and skill then fir the two decades I’ve invested in making it my own!

    Warmly,
    Danielle

  • Kitty Gilbert

    I have struggled with pricing from the very beginning. I am self taught, but feel I do quality work. I have asked my fellow artist how they price their work, but I never get a clear answer. Finally someone suggested charging by the inch. I understand how that works, but still confused as to how my I’m worth. Any suggestions would be grateful.

  • This is perfect. I do hear that people in this area don’t want to buy expensive art. They’re cheap. Yet, I saw a piece here sold for $11,500. I’m with Kitty. I have no idea how to price my work. By the hour? By the square foot? I asked someone in town and she said she priced hers high because she’s well known. Argh. Thanks for all you do.