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?

Send to Kindle

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

  • Kara Rane

    Hi Alyson
    Your insights are really valuable! And it makes me believe you can do both. Which is encouraging. My experience at this moment is that I do have a few low priced art goods printed with the highest of sustainablity locally, so in their category they are the most expensive ie. greeting cards and re-usable vinyl stickers. These products are selling well. And they are an entry for people to become my fans and buy original art from me. Your advice has now encouraged me to focus on selling larger original art. Thank you!!

  • Barrie Stark

    Good article! Can you elaborate on how to find the ideal client list?

  • I agree with Kara Rane, above. I’ve done just the highest end of the market within my reach and it’s not quite enough, although I have room for improvement (I’m a bit tired after 20 years tho). The artists I know personally either succeeded as superstar artists or do both originals and reproductions, but with class. A friend of mine pays for her very nice studio mortgage completely with just the sales from the reproduced items. They also provided a path for new buyers and people that will eventually buy originals.

    • Thimgan: It certainly can be done – if and when there is a strong market for the original work. You have to be able to sell an original many times over before there is a market for the reproductions. Too many artists jump into reproductions before building an audience for the originals.

  • My husband and I were discussing this very topic a few days ago! As someone who’s just starting out, I feel that people are less likely to feel comfortable paying a lot of money for the work of an unknown artist. At the same, my “blood, sweat, and tears” went into that piece, just like any other artist, so why shouldn’t I charge a good price for it? There’s a happy medium somewhere, I’m sure!

    • Yes, indeed, Emma. When you sell yourself short and don’t charge enough, you also upset a lot of artists who are charging fair prices for their work.

      The general rule is to start lower so you have room to raise prices.

      • Michele

        Hi, Alyson. I agree artists should not sell themselves short, but I am finding that in general art prices are highly inflated. This creates a problem for accessibility to buyers and also when artists need to price their work in sync with other artists’ work. Where did the crazy prices come from?

        • Michele,

          Yes, some art prices are inflated, but I don’t think it is the norm. Of course you may be referring to a different market than I am familiar with. But from my experience I find that most art is under priced.

          However, it is true that a lot of people mistakenly assume it is highly inflated.

          When you consider the expenses, materials, marketing, shipping, travel, insurance, self employment taxes, etc., etc., etc., oh, not to mention gallery commissions and/or booth/show fees, profit is far less than most people assume. This doesn’t even address the less tangible concept of what original ideas are worth. Nor does it address the risks, time and money just to get here in the first place. That has value as well.

          When I was first starting out many years ago, an artist mentor once told me that when he calculated all his expenses, his ‘take home’ pay at the end of the year was about 25% of the gross sales. That means if you want to earn $25,000 a year (fairly low wage if you ask me), you must sell $100,000 worth of art.

          That is a lot of small ticket items. But far fewer large ticket items. And now we’re back to Alyson’s point. 🙂

          As for accessibility to buyers, it is a problem only for the wrong buyers. It isn’t a problem for your ideal buyers.

          Also, your prices only need to be in sync with the supply and demand of your work, not other artists’ work.

          Anyway, just my 25 cents worth.

  • Denise

    Well Alyson, as always, you’re right on target! Have you been hiding in the corners of my studio?
    After buying a new home, moving 50 miles and helping my sister with my mom, the studio is set up… But the, produce more small work for less money has taken residence. I love your gentle slap in the face, wake up and smell your worth!!!!
    Thank you!

  • Great article Alyson.

    I’ ve done just what you said not to do in the very beginning of this journey because I wanted to entice more people to buy my art. It is a lot of work to produce a bunch of small art!

    However, I do make small ones to work out the designs for making larger art.

    For example, I paint 12X12 panels and then if I love a concept, I’ll end up with a series of large panels.

    The 12X12s are a nice little work for people who say they have not much wall space and the big ones sell for folks who want something special as a centerpiece to fill a larger space. Basically, I would still do the work.

    I don’t sell cards and prints but may in the future if something is popular.

    Pam

  • Hi Alyson,

    You make a good point. I agree with you that it takes less effort, at least initially, to sell a higher priced original than several reproductions, but there is a caveat: you are still trading time for dollars even in creating an original work for sale. Reproductions give you a kind of residual income, because your production time is done, and if your marketing is automated to some degree, you can make even more. It is the same way that you probably can make a lot more money selling an online course rather than coaching a few people at a time, plus help a lot more people too. I do a lot of commissioned work, and God has recently blessed me with a commissioned portrait, a 48″ x 72″ for nearly $7,000. But it takes a lot of time to create as my style is very realistic and detailed. The better combination would be to sell high priced originals and reproductions together, and that is my long term goal.

    • Hey, Matt. I didn’t mean to imply that it takes less effort to sell higher-priced art. In fact, I wrote: “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 think it actually takes MORE effort to sell high-priced art in the beginning.

    • Congrats on the commission! That’s awesome, Matt! God bless.

  • Definitely struck a nerve. Now my next dilemma is HOW to price. Small piece, large piece, acrylic on wood, ink & pencil on board. Just more to sort out and dive into.

    • Amy: Try a search for pricing articles on this blog. Hopefully those will help, although I’ll tell you outright that you will never be 100% certain of your pricing structure.

    • One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten, many years ago at a workshop that had one evening of marketing talk, was to price by the square inch and be done with it.

      To figure out what I should charge for my oil paintings, I gathered together all the artists’ prices I could find from artist and gallery websites, show catalogs, gallery mailings and magazine ads. I made a list of various standard sizes and noted what each artist charged for that size. I also divided the list into big name artists, ones who appeared to be mid-career and then anyone else who I had found prices for. I got out the calculator and figured out what each of them charged per square inch. It ranged from $20 for the top names down to $2. I then as honestly and objectively as possible determined where I landed on the spectrum, calculating various per square inch amounts ($3, $3.50, $4, $5, $5.50, etc.) for a sampling of sizes. I felt that I was somewhere between those extremes and set my prices at the low end of the mid-range to give myself room for gradual increases. This has worked well for me.

      I don’t get into how much I love the piece or how long it took me, what hourly rate I want or what I think I *should* get for it. I might round up a modest amount for a painting that has been in a national juried show or two, but that’s it. And my price is my price. I never, ever discount the equivalent of the gallery commission. That’s crazy. One, why not pocket the “extra” money and two, what gallery worth having would want to represent an artist who would undercut them that way? Our area used to have a very nice gallery. He closed down and left after a few years because he got tired of a few of the artists selling out of their studios behind his back who discounted the equivalent of the commission. The customers would come to the gallery to see the work and then contact the artist to buy. Argh.

  • I started selling art on ebay in 2006 to find a way to make money while taking care of my young children At home. That taught me a lot about pricing. …too high and it won’t sell….too low and you don’t make enough to justify the work. Now 10 years later, I still have young children at home but I don’t sell on ebay. I found a price per square inch rate that is reasonable for my target market audience and gives me a great hourly wage. Years of practice have honed my skills apparently because it’s gotten very easy , and fun, to make these realistic, detailed paintings of people’s animals. After ebay i used craigslist but now i use facebook for all my marketing. I probably could, and I might, market myself to wineries or big businesses to get a big commission but it makes more sense to get an easy smaller commission quicker than spending big amounts of time working on a big painting. I suppose I am small time because raising a family dictates small amounts of time available. I know this time constraint won’t last forever and that’s why I always put more value on my time with my children. When they are grown I will have lots of time to pursue those big fish but right now the little fish keep us fed and happy lol

    • Frankie: It sounds like you have figured it all out. Yay!

    • Whenever I publish my prices on social media, I always get a backlash of responses from other artists who give me a list of reasons why I should charge more…. but you have to start somewhere, right?. I used another artists method of price per square inch…I think hers was $1.50 so I made mine .40 which makes 11 x 14 $60, 14 x 18 $100, 18 x 24 $175, etc. Another thing I do which upsets artists is not charge a deposit. I do the artwork about 75% and then ask for full payment. I always tell my potential clients this so they don’t expect to see a finished painting until after they have paid. Usually discussing payment will weed out those who don’t intend on paying lol but artwork that is not paid for is either recycled and never finished or finished and used for my Etsy shop, or entered to win $ at the fair lol. I am considering charging a deposit for larger paintings to cover the cost of materials so $20 to $40. I think the thing that I like about no deposit is not having to return money to someone if they don’t like the painting. In the last 10 years I’ve been selling, I have never had an unhappy customer…I just recently realized this! I’ve had unhappy leads….people who were interested but didn’t really like their painting at 75%. But since they had not paid a deposit they are not technically customers….only leads lol
      I’ve got about three years until I can devote full time hours…by then I’m sure I will have a different strategy for pricing and that is very exciting! I would love to hear your opinion about my art business 🙂

      • Gerry

        Frankie – thank you for your insightfulnes. I’ve tried pricing on linear inches, which seems to work with a rounding formula. I’ve tried Craigslist and Esty without results. I’m working on designing my own website now using WIX. It’s really so much about marketing. I’ve had note cards printed for auxiliary sales and need to look into having prints made. I’ve done a few local shows through my art guild with limited success. The audience demographics is very important to understand.
        Thank you again for your comments.

      • Re deposits: It all depends on how you work, Frankie. I have a client who prefers to work the same way. She doesn’t like the pressure of taking a deposit.

  • Hello Alyson,
    This blog is so poignant to a quandary of whether to continue on with these pieces.
    I recently completed a series of handmade Japanese paper pieces, with sewn areas and using my pigmented papers also that I have now mounted on cradle boards. The work looks like mine but it is smaller and more affordable. I also loved creating the work too. It felt so freeing to do some work like this. I have sold two of the pieces already and have interest in others by my local gallery. I love the diversity and the less time it took me to create them.
    My higher end work starts at 3300 for a 30×30 and goes up. I feel as if they could be filler for when things might slow down and or open houses here at my studio. Truth be told I would love to implement this kind of loose style into my larger works and working towards that also. I just wanted to share my thoughts with you about my smaller but cool work!

    • Lisa: I think you know what you’re doing. Making lower-priced work that fulfills you and is a natural direction for you is a great idea. I worry about people who are making low-priced work because they haven’t put the effort into the work they love. I know that not to be true for you.

  • Curious about your comment on Fine Art America. I found putting them up on Fine Art America is such a good way to keep track of my pieces, the medium I used, the size and price, and you can pull this information up where ever you are. I do have a website but I link it to my Fine Art America page to show my work. Just wondering if you think this is not advisable? Also I have my website linked to my cottage rental.

  • Thanks for explaining your thoughts on reproductions. I knew that you were generally not in favor but not why. This fills it in for me.

  • Sylvia Tucker

    Donna, do you mean Fine Art Studio Online websites? Fine Art America makes reproductions to sell.

  • jan

    My dilemma is not a topic for most of the audience reading this. I live in a foreign developing country where the market is divided into “quick and dirty” for the tourist market (and sized small to fit in a suitcase) and high priced art in galleries that cater to the wealthy who are unsure of their own tastes. It is difficult for a national artist and even more difficult for a foreign artist to be recognized and sought after. Selling work online to US customers presents a problem with considerably higher shipping costs and customs at the US end. The hoops I have to go through seem daunting and very time consuming so I find myself teaching intuitive art and creating paintings just for my enjoyment.

  • I am sad to see you slam artists with a production line. There are plenty of very very successful artists who live and maintain a great income with a base of production work, and a few high end pieces for sale. It is very grand and lovely to think everyone is underselling themselves, but honestly every show I do has plenty of people willing to spend between 40-90$ on a great artwork.

    • Cleo: I am sorry that you misunderstood the point of my article.

      I am by no means slamming artists with production lines. I have numerous clients who have healthy, beautiful production lines.

      My comments are intended for artists who neglect the work they really want to sell in order to go to a “safer” price point. In fact, I never once used the term “production line” in this article.

  • Good points to consider, as usual, dear Alyson. I just wanted to compliment your choices of the art to include in this article. The pieces shown here are GORGEOUS!
    In the end, each artist must decide his priorities in life, so it is great to read different perspectives on any given situation. I find that as I get older and now that I have found a place to call home again, my focus is shifting to make more complicated pieces with the many ideas I have in my head. I no longer want to be thinking of a bottom line finance-wise. I want to make the art that I want to make. While I have done this most of my life, I feel that I want to focus MORE on significant work rather than sketches and such. Which is hard to explain since I love sketches myself and all… anyway.
    The art here is inspiring. Thank you for including it in a wonderful article.

  • This is the perfect post for me right now. I was just contemplating price points and accommodating people who want cheaper art. You saved me from myself.

  • I’ve been thinking on this lately, and it always seems to come back to the same things. One, when I make less expensive work, no one seems very interested in it. Two, I’m not fulfilled creating smaller pieces. So why should I create work I don’t really enjoy only to have it sit around as long or longer than work I enjoy making?

    However, I’m still struggling to find my ideal clients. I know there are people out there who want my work. I’ve sold a number of more expensive ($750 – $4000) pieces, so I know they are out there, but I’m birding such a great job reaching them.

  • Great article in every way–kudos to you!

    Years ago, I belonged to an online artist discussion forum. (Remember those??) At some point, I realized that artists across the country, from California to Florida, Kansas to New York, all made the same complaint: “People around here just don’t buy xyz!” (Insert your art or fine craft medium here.)

    It was a moment of clarity for me, and changed my entire marketing perspective. I’ve never tried to sell my work to “everyone”. I focus on the people who are drawn to my work (and I try to make that as easy as possible). I create connection with them to the work, provide excellent customer service, and encourage them to come back. It builds.

    Now I’m in the process of reinventing myself on the opposite coast, using the same approach. It’s hard to start over, but I remind myself I’m not really starting from scratch. Sure enough, it still works.

    Yes, I have lower-priced lines, and when things get time, I pour too much energy into them. But soon I catch myself, and go back to making the best work that’s in me, with all my heart.

    The lower–priced lines are often ways to experiment and play. But rather than become my main lines, those pieces become donations to good causes, gifts to customers, and sometimes entry-level purchases for a younger, newer, audience.

  • “Fine. Find a new audience. I mean it!” … and that is it.

    I have so much work to do!! The truth is that some lovely, amazing, generous women have bought alot of art from me. They can afford, and do buy pieces that are $150 or less … occasionally up to $2-300. On very rare occasions a bit more. I feel indebted to them. I feel like I’m saying ‘thanks for helping me out when I needed you, but see ya later’ if I increase my prices in such a way that they no longer can buy them. The truth is that they are still the same lovely and amazing women. They will always love me, and they will always support me emotionally, if not through purchasing my work. I have to step to the next level, or my spirit will simply dry up. Taxes were eye-opening for me. How had I worked so hard and had so little income to show for it? Work at my ‘job that pays the bills’ increases and takes a further toll … while my artwork waits for when I can afford to sell another $100 piece. Not where I want to be. Thanks for the post, Alyson ~ it’s exactly what I needed today.

    • Jane: I’m so happy this resonates. You have been doing what many of my clients do – thinking for other people.

      My hope is that these lovely women will be happy that your art now commands higher prices. You can offer them a short-time discount on new prices if you like – to keep them satisfied.

      As you said, they will continue to be your cheerleaders.

    • “thinking for other people” … going to hold onto this. It’s key for me in so many areas of my life ~

  • Okay. I am a true convert. No more apologizing for my large pieces or the VERY REASONABLE prices that I charge. Yes, they are “expensive” when you are looking at the number on the check, but when you are looking at the artwork they are a bargain.

    My boys keep HOUNDING me to raise the prices. I will, but not yet. Right now they are a sound price and a super bargain. Win/win. (I HOPE!)

  • Barbara grant

    Timely post for me. You are so wise…and so generous with your wisdom. Thanks again, Alyson!

  • thanks for the reminder! this is something that is always sitting on my shoulders, and a constant battle for selling art in a touristy area where people want to buy something little (and beachy!) to carry home. although i want to price it up UP UP… we often feel that there unfortunately (has to?) be a balance of big and small, expensive and somewhat inexpensive… along with painting what i want to paint vs painting more of what they always buy

  • Alyson you are correct in your reply to Sylvia, but I do pay the $30.00 a year to have my own website on Fine Art America so only my stuff comes up. Here is the link to my personal website http://donnasgallery.ca/
    I really appreciate your article, as it reinforces my thoughts, but have many well meaning neighbors and friends that want to help and give advice and their advice is go small, do prints, make cards, so all can buy, and I keep saying that isn’t what I want to do.

    • These people are well meaning, Donna, but they don’t know what they’re speaking about. I’m guessing they don’t know the art world – more like the gift world. Is that right? Do they buy original art?

      • Both, but I would say more in touch with the gift world. I know some Artists are doing well with the small stuff but I know the extra effort they have to put in, going to markets and joining co-op’s where you pay and have to work. They have created a full time job. I don’t have the time for that and I want to make my gallery work but not as a full time tourist trap, I want to sell to the select market that wants an original painting. I’m just in the learning curve of how to do all this and find that market, I’m sure that is why I’m getting all the advice. I must admit people that are well meaning and giving advice have no idea of all the issues. Thank you Alyson for your advice to help me stay focused on my goal.

  • I definitely see myself in your list of questions. Right now I have a lot of small pieces, mostly plein air pieces, that I’m hoping to move at an upcoming art festival. I’d rather be doing larger pieces and it makes my festival when 1 or 2 of the larger pieces sell. Family obligations have had me so tied up for the past 14 months( about to change! Yay!), that I haven’t been able to get out the door to network and try to find the clients I want the art in front of. With only 2 festivals in the line up this year, I’m trying to hit all price points to generate any income so the year isn’t a total loss. My husband thinks this is a mistake and that I should stick with the larger pieces. I’ll find out next week if my strategy doesn’t pan out.

  • Monte Allen Hostetler

    Thank you.

    I needed a push and a boost to get me rolling . I have thought of myself as an artist and have been making art (photographs) for the last 40 years but haven’t exhibited or published or sold anything since I had a couple of gallery shows in the early 80’s. I have had a 30 year career in fundraising and ticket sales for the performing arts but am now ready to return full time to my one true love – making photographs.

    I have a strong belief in my images and wast to start at the top, selling work at the highest prices to the top collectors. Any advice?

  • Pamela Neswald

    Guilty as charged. And I know better! Thank you for your beacon of sanity in the fog.

  • I think one problem many of us have is thinking in terms of scarcity and not realizing that a dollar is not worth what it was when we were growing up. Because most artists don’t have the financial freedom of the clientele who will be buying our work, we underestimate what is a fair price for our work. You made this clear for me a while ago which resulted in a price increase for my Improv Earrings line. I am comfortable with the price because it is equitable for all concerned,

  • Having experimented successfully with creating a smaller, and therefore, more affordable “line” of paintings, I have a different perspective. I believe my smaller paintings (6×6 oils created in series) brought new patrons to me. From my first series of 100 (“100 Paintings in 100 Days”) created two years ago, I have sold all but 6 of the paintings, then priced at $125 each in a simple box frame. Many patrons bought multiples, and some new patrons returned to purchase larger works, while the whole series undeniably reawakened the interest of existing patrons in my work. I have done another 6×6 series recently, and have increased my price without detriment to sales. For many older clients, producing smaller works is a “plus,” because they feel they have run out of room in their homes to hang art after years of collecting.

    I am also not sure about the example used, where there is a $2500 original and a $50 reproduction; isn’t the rule of thumb here that a quality reproduction is generally priced at 10% of the price of the original? In which case one would have to sell only 10 reproductions to equal $2500, not 50.

    But this post is a good reminder that we artists often undervalue our own work and there is a virtue in sticking to the prices that we have determined from our research about where our work actually fits in the marketplace of fine art.

    • Isn’t that funny, Claudia. I hadn’t even intended that the reproduction was a repro of the original. But it does read like that.

      As I said, I have nothing against the smaller, less-expensive work unless and until it becomes an excuse for not promoting the larger stuff.

      Sounds like you’re doing it right.

  • I find this subject to be somewhat delicate and complicated, but vitally important in looking at career growth.

    As we had discussed, I discovered that my market is bi-modal. There are a group of individuals who love my work, but as my prices rose over the years, they could no longer afford even my small paintings. I felt like I was “abandoning” those loyal collectors, but I was not willing to keep my prices low for one segment of the market. This year I began to offer reproductions of my most popular pieces. The key was finding a very high quality publisher so that I didn’t “cheapen” (harsh, but true) my brand and be a “turn off” to the high end collectors. Alyson, I cannot thank you enough for referring me to Brilliant Studios in Exton. There is simply NO comparison between the quality of reproductions produced by Brilliant Studio vs. a mass printer such as Fine Art America or the one I was using previously (they were good, but wow, Brilliant Studios is amazing) . They are worlds apart. FAA is perfectly fine for many artists, it simply was not a good fit for me or my client base.

    In addition, to help those loyal, but less financially flexible buyers, I offer payment plans on original paintings. It’s quiet, I don’t advertise it, but when a collector is clearly in love with a work and I can “read” that finances are an issue, I offer it to them privately. It turns out to be an excellent and dignified solution to a tricky problem, especially when it comes to maintaining my pricing integrity. I cannot tell you how many paintings I’ve sold with this method, regardless of whether they are spending $200 or $2000.

    I based price increases, which were reasonable and steady, on solid metrics, such as demand, the quality of shows I got into and awards. Increasing my prices, as well as sizes was kind of scary, but worth it. Yes, it takes more time, more effort and getting in front of people who appreciate the value of fine art can be challenging, but it’s not impossible.

    Alyson, I love when you admitted “I was alienating my ideal clients” in your article, that struck home with me. That’s a big part of the solution to the topic in this article- identifying the ideal clients for your work. When I truly identified my ideal clients, and began to market directly to them, with integrity and a service model instead of a “sales” model; the quality of my collectors, as well as students, increased.

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but it does take less time and effort to sell a higher priced piece of art than a bunch of less expensive pieces. I keep both in my gallery. In part because I like to do smaller work (it’s fun and almost “instant gratification”) and the reproductions are very popular with some interiour decorators. But I truly love the collaboration with higher end clients who want commissions and/or larger works. Thats what feeds my artistic soul and, keeps my checking account happy.

  • The timing of this article is impeccable Alyson. Just a few days ago I came to realize that I am spending way too much time on the “smalls” for shows instead of focusing on the “gallery” pieces I want to make. This just solidified my thinking. Thank you so much!

  • l’ve recently gotten into that mind set of smaller, less expensive works. Then as l started doing them l realized they took up a great deal of time, time that l could use on my more important pieces. Also that l was probably going to lose money on them in the long run because they were still labor intensive but didn’t look expensive. l think now l’ll just do them for fun and between projects that are drying etc. l still haven’t figured out a way into the high end market and l’ve been doing this for a long time.

  • If I like them when I am done with a “bigger” (not necessarily in size) piece, I sell them as “studies”. My work is generally small in size, but not complexity, so it is easy to tell the difference. In general, these studies are only available at Open Studios or fairs.

  • Hi Alyson, great article and great discussions too! I have to agree with what you’ve shared. It’s all about getting your art out there in front of as many people as possible and network, network, network.

    I’ve tried the reproduction thing and put in lots of time, effort and marketing with very little success. I’ve yet to personally meet an artist who is making good money at this. Maybe it depends on the style of art.

    I have a range of sizes based on a pricing formula per square cm. My work was given certified valuation based on my sales records over a period of time and from that I can base my middle size prices. My large works are a bit higher end in pricing due to the many more hours I spend creating them and
    I make sure my small pieces are as good a quality but reasonably priced, but not too low.
    I explain to buyers that each piece is an original, one only.

    I have sold some cheaper pieces which have been a different style from my fine art, more on the decorative side and although it has been a blessing financially at the time, those buyers have not come back and bought my original fine art. So it can work against us in the long run, to offer cheaper artworks.
    Cheers
    Olivia

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. As someone mentioned above, there are people who make good money from reproductions. And, as I replied, I think you have to build a reputation with the originals before that can happen.

  • Great article. Going through this right now. Totally correct. Smaller pieces, more time to make and bigger for me sells better. Thank you so much. And yes, reproductions distract the customer. FAA takes a big chunk and you are giving them your traffic. My site used to be linked to FAA. I finally cut the umbilical cord and it’s my own. I feel I have more control. I’m still on FAA but don’t advertise it. I’m going bigger this year. Thanks for your article

    • Carla: I have nothing against FAA – only artists who use it as a crutch instead of doing the harder work to get the originals out there.

      • I agree. Nothing against it either but making my independent site this year besides FAA has been more profitable for me. Still selling here and there in FAA. In my art shows is where I’m going bigger. I feel I’m working “less” and making more. I got to a poin that I had no life, just in my studio like a machine rushing small work and not sleeping :-/

  • Judging by the response to your article, Alyson, you brought up a topic we all need to talk about more. I tend to underprice my work because I want people to be able to afford to buy it, people who might not have a lot of money to spend on “extras.” I would rather have the work appreciated than sitting in my closet. However, you make a good point about working to find your audience.

  • Alyson, thanks for your quick reply to my comment, and hat’s off to you for taking the time to respond to all nearly all the comments on this post! I can see why you are getting so many responses. Impressed!

  • Alyson great post and as a member of a local art association as well as signature member of a national group I have many friends who are hobby artists and they sell low just to keep buying supplies and not have art hanging around. However I’m in it for the long run, making time to market, make connections, enter and receive awards and get juried into major shows online and internationally.

    I’ve been thru the gamut of festivals, successfully teach my techniques, have made reproductions, done local shows trying to flesh out MY clientele. Sadly my sales have decreased. After raising my prices in small increments aligned with my increasing resume I initially had great success in sales but things have stalemated and I can’t get them back on track. Classes are going great guns but sales are nada recently. I do realism and my work has a lengthy process.

    Without teaching the classes I wouldn’t make it, students do buy but not the bigger pieces. Trying to find out how to reignite things, by creating more thoughtful pieces while maintaining my high quality as well as find more of “my target audience”. Your thoughts on how to do that are welcomed.

    • Gloria: That speaks to a point I made in a comment here elsewhere – those who sell at lower prices (by not valuing the work) are ruining it for the rest.

      Here’s what I’d do: a complete analysis of what’s going right, what’s going wrong, what have you done differently, what could you do differently, how have the circumstances changed.

      I look forward to hearing what you find out.

  • Alyson, what a timely post! I feel like I’ve spent a year learning about how to market my art online. I took a few courses, including one of yours, which was great. And then I felt so overwhelmed, not knowing where to start or on which platform, that I haven’t really done anything to try and promote my art, other than having it on my website. Someone recently opened my eyes up and said he didn’t understand why I wasn’t trying to get in front of my target audience where I live, rather than going online. I suddenly have clarity that I needed, and now am focused on finally looking to sell my work, starting out with interior designers. I originally thought anyone was my audience, but realize that, until I can readily find enough individual collectors who would buy my originals for a few thousand dollars, I should stick with focusing on an audience that I know already likes my work (I am also a decorative painter, and work with many designers). Now I have to stop procrastinating, and start contacting them, which leads to my next dilemma — the best way to do this, i.e., introductory phone call, e-mail, postcard with art and then follow up, etc.

  • Thank you for another amazing and timely article, Alyson! It seems you post exactly what I need to hear when I am considering a decision. Since there are so many opportunities and avenues to sell art these days, I get distracted easily. Currently my work is small in size and after research on Etsy I chose a price that is comparable to what they sell at. After the first series I plan on raising the prices a little incrementally as I build an audience. I was considering knocking off the pieces to sell at a lower price but now realize the extra work involved in setting all that up and marketing to a different market will certainly take me away from my creating time. Years of habitual thinking and striving to be a successfully selling artist needs time to wind down and disappear and thanks to your insights this transition to more professional thinking is made easier.

  • I’m told my website is well done, I am growing an e mail list of subscribers , use social media and have very little online sales which I want to develop and concentrate on. I’ve been consistent with it for the past year.

    Do I just go raise my prices and/or paint bigger and charge more for those? enter more shows? Teach?

    At times, I feel discouraged for not being compensated for my years of painting, workshops, effort of marketing, etc.

    I like what you are saying Alyson. Thanks so much 🙂

  • I just noticed when you click on the persons name their website comes up. Thank you for sharing our websites along with the great advice.

  • I have been working on building inventory and getting into juried shows over the last year. I am at the point I want to start approaching galleries and realize I am not charging enough for my work when I saw the 50% split price I would receive. I increased my prices and have my first rejection from a gallery. My local bank agreed to hang one of my paintings in their lobby recently. I know it will happen for me if I continue thinking outside the box. Thanks as always for a great article, Alyson.

  • Great article Alyson.
    I noted that many of the commenters are using linear inches or some size-based system to price their work. I use a United Inch (you can look it up on line) and this may be what others are using but I can’t tell by the descriptions they gave.

    Whatever your last painting sold for divided by it’s area is a good place to start for pricing the rest of your work. That is your “rate/inch”, so to speak. But the initial price you come up with: your rate/inch x size of artwork, is a wholesale figure and must be doubled (or increased by some reasonable percentage) to achieve retail (also gallery) pricing. That’s what an art dealer relayed to me.

    here’s a very simple example: if your rate/inch is $5 and you have a 5×5″ painting (total area = 25), your wholesale price is 25 x 5 = $125. Then you double that for retail = $250.

    Alyson, are you familiar with this thinking? are others doing this or am I missing something here? Thanks!

  • Hi Alyson
    Loved this article. Thank you.
    And I enjoyed reading the comments too.
    The conundrum of pricing is always a difficult one. I’ve learnt a lot about the terms “price point”” Cost of goods sold” “Discretionary income” etc when I’ve sat in on small business workshops – especially when those workshops are not about the arts industry.

    My trouble is about finding people to buy the few reproductions that I’ve had made of my paintings – most people have engaged with me as a creator of original artwork. And buy accordingly. However sometimes , when I am creating a body of work for a family (my work is about shearing sheds on sheep stations here in Australia) I offer the family a chance to have a particular image from the series as a reproduction. That way more members of the extended family get to own it. I limit the edition to the number of definite orders, and it feels then like it truly is value adding.

    Perhaps I need to update the shopping cart on my website – maybe I need to update my website full stop !! But perhaps that’s another story.

    Thanks again for your timely words.
    Christine

  • Thank you for your generosity and prompt response Alyson!!!

  • So on target!

    I raised my prices a fair amount this past January and stopped focusing on smaller art. It was the right thing to do. Smaller priced items (sketches and preliminary work) we packaged for Open Studios and those guys sold to people during the event but I didn’t have to kill myself to make small sales- I was able to turn the art that would normally have just been in a box into a little sale. I focused instead on bigger art. Much better. It is as hard to sell the big pieces as the small ones. Also, people haggle LESS when the price tag is more appropriate (that is to say, a little higher).

  • Yes! I have been working my butt off to make mugs and tea bowls and constantly frustrated because I didn’t have time to make enough statement pieces to enter the exhibitions I wanted. I was already thinking in this direction, but this article really brought it home to me and I have decided to eliminate these items from my studio practice to focus on the statement pieces. They were wonderful to make for a long time and I was proud to show them and thrilled that people loved them, but they have served their purpose and I feel good about retiring them. Thanks Alyson!

  • I’m so glad that you wrote this blog post because it is a great reminder to me.
    I gave up selling my art for about 3 years and when I came back to it about a year and a half ago, I decided on painting what I wanted and doing what makes me happy. Making matted prints and trying to sell them does not make me happy! It’s just money tied up in inventory for me and takes the precious time away from creating new works. I rather create and sell originals at the price point where I can make a profit for my time and materials. I’m still trying to sell more of my art work but this is my part-time gig while I raise my family but it is good side income for us. Thank you for your post! 🙂

  • Susan Troy

    HI Alyson,

    I am a ceramic artist. I do a lot of painting on my work, some of which is much like a batik process and very time consuming. People are attracted to the work, but often shy away from a 10 x 4 inch bowl with one of a kind design work on both sides costing $90. Is it your experience that people tend to devalue ceramic work? I’ve reached the point where I really can’t afford to lower my prices and if I paid serious attention to the time and energy going into the work, I suspect I really should be charging more. It’s something of a quandary. I had been thinking of making more, cheaper work, but your article saved me from doing that.
    Thanks. Susan

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>