It can initially seem very difficult to correctly price your artwork, I mean how do you price your art? On merit? On size? On hours? It turns out that how to price your art can be a methodical and logical process, especially when you are just starting out. Follow these practiced steps for how to price your art and get it right, every time.
How to price your art – the easy way
Ok, so let’s get the obvious method for valuing your artwork covered early. You could price your art based on hours, materials, and additional costs. This could look something like this:
|6 hours of work||£120|
|1 canvas used||£35|
|Adjustments for tax, holiday and sick pay||£40|
In many ways, this easy method for pricing your artwork makes sense. If you use a method like this currently, make sure you are remembering to add an amount for your holiday/sick pay and to cover taxes. You may also want to consider a pension contribution, especially if you are self-employed full time.
The problem with pricing artwork this way
However, the problem with this method is that it isn’t always accurate. You can end up underpricing your artwork very easily! If you produce something within only an hour or two, say, then you aren’t getting very much for it. This is wrong as you could only create it quickly because of the dedication you have invested in your craft already.
You can see how this easy method for how to price your art suddenly starts to fall apart! Picasso is quoted as having priced a ten minute napkin doodle at 40,000 francs. In response to the shock this caused he pointed out that it was a lifetimes skill that allowed him to do this. How can you put a price on that?
The best way to price artwork
Seeing as the ‘easy’ method is less than accurate, artists have a different way to price their art. It isn’t something that can be plugged into ‘how to price your artwork calculator’ or similar, it’s better! Using this strategy for pricing will allow you to grow your art business faster and increase your prices with confidence.
1. Define your art market
The first step in pricing any artwork is to know your market. It is key! If this sends you into a panic then worry not, I’ll show you how to research your market. Your art ‘market’ is just the context in which you are selling. This isn’t just about the physical space such as a gallery or open studio, it’s discovering where you fit into the art scene.
Research your local art competition for price context
For example, if you produce still-life oil paintings then start to see who else creates them. Begin by looking locally at where you’ll be selling. Your market research should include a mix of discovering other similar artists online or by social media and visiting galleries.
You want to think about the following in order to build up a clear picture:
- Who else sells locally to you?
- How long has the artist been selling their artwork?
- Does the artist have gallery representation?
- What is their price range for their artwork? (look for private and gallery prices)
- Is this art niche heavily saturated in your local?
What to do with your art price research
You need to keep your research easy to access in order to help you price your art. To extract the information you need, try downloading the spreadsheet below and using it to record your data. Now we need to extract findings that will help us with this huge question of how to price art.
Why other local artists matter
Starting by looking at who else sells locally to you is the gateway to all the other information. Building a picture of how long they have been selling their art is really useful. It shows you the potential strength of your competition from a reputation perspective. If people locally have been selling similar artwork for 30 years, then it is likely that their pricing targets a specific audience very well.
Why art galleries matter
Next, do the artists have gallery representation? This is an interesting one, gallery representation doesn’t mean an artist is ‘good’ but it can certainly help their brand. Furthermore, if similar artists are already in local galleries, it could be an indicator that you need to look further afield or make your product slightly different. This could be a different price point, or, something simple like smaller works (if theirs are only large).
Why other art prices matter to your art
It only makes sense to have a look at how other artists price their art. This doesn’t mean that you copy them, you need to take everything with a pinch of salt. Remember, if an artist is selling a piece for £4,000 but you have already discovered that they’ve been active for 20 years and have reputable local gallery representation, then they have brand value. In short, that artist has a name and repute to sell under that a new artist just won’t.
But don’t get down, another part of art price research is to see the range. It’s so important to understand the price range that other local artists sell at (in your art niche). If the other two artists only sell for £5000 plus then you can almost bet that there’s a space for you below £5000. The same goes for gallery pricing; if they have similar work but are not representing a certain price point then this is good to know.
Is your art niche saturated?
A very important part of your market research is to know how heavily saturated your local market is. If your town has an exhibition every weekend and ten art galleries, then it’s a very competitive market. You would do well to discover gaps in the calendar when you could also show, without too much competition. You could also show your work in less competitive areas.
Again, when you look at the saturation of artists, see if there’s an opportunity for you to do something a bit different and create art that isn’t already there.
2. Who is your art for? (key for how to price your art!)
I know I’m talking about art as a thing, just a product to sell, and it’s not unintentional. Art is a practice, yes, but if you’re looking at how to price your artwork then you are making that ‘lovely thing’ commercial. You are choosing to make your art a product, so we need to approach pricing your art in the same way.
Look at your artwork, who does it appeal to? You have already researched your local art market, so you should have an idea of who other artists sell to. This might be by looking at their social media connections, looking at the location of galleries, or by less obvious means, such as the way they present themselves.
Try to create an image of your customer, who are they? If you are making large, bright abstract pieces then you know a few things already. They need a large space to hang the work, so a fairly big house. The work is very modern and vibrant; it’s likely to appeal to a slightly younger audience. It’s non-representative abstract, so your potential customers might be creative themselves, or slightly alternative.
Discover your art customers in analytics data
Another good way to discover who enjoys your work is via social media. On social media, you are able to access ‘insights’ or analytics and see who is connecting with you. Same for your website, if you have one, and this is valuable information to consider. You’ll be able to find the demographic splits for your audience which you can use to help pick locations to sell in, as well as times of the year.
This is all best to test out by running an exhibition and taking notes on who interacts positively with your work. We can theorise about who may or may not like our work until the cows come home, but you need to get out and test your theory. Talk to people, listen to their conversations, and see which pieces demand the most attention – why? I would suggest running a low-key exhibition using the information from this blog to test out your ideas.
Who your ideal art customer should be
The next layer is thinking about who you want to be selling your art to. It’s great to have interested people and they should not be ignored, but you may have an ideal customer in mind.
For me, I work in wildlife art and this can interest a really wide range of customers. However, I decided that retired folk would be my main target. Why did I decide this? A few reasons, one of them being that they holiday after schools are back, in general. This works in my favour as buying art should not be rushed by screaming children or a busy schedule. This often allows my potential clients a calm and relaxed wander around the exhibition.
Also, my work appeals to bird watchers and twitchers, people who are truly passionate. Retired people have more time to indulge in their hobbies and so are likely to be dedicated and interested in buying expensive binoculars, top outdoor gear, and, associated items such as paintings.
So, as much as anyone is free to buy my work and my customers are not exclusively retired, in general, originals sell to my chosen audience. Families and younger adults tend to buy prints, cards and the odd small original. These are all things I have learned over time by watching how people interact with exhibitions.
3. Where should you sell your art? (and how to price your art accordingly)
Knowing where you should sell your art is key to learning how to price your artwork. Where to sell influences other things, like what you’re selling. You can, of course, work it the other way around, too. So, let’s break down where is best to sell your artwork!
Where are your art customers?
Now you know who your customers are likely to be, or who your ideal customer is, we can figure out where to find them! As I have already said, I usually target an older audience in between the school holidays. For me, as my work is linked to a hobby, it is easy to discover where to sell my work.
The North Norfolk coast is a perfect location for my exhibitions. I most enjoy exhibiting at the stunning Cley NWT, which is a hub for bird watchers. People come from all over the world during the migration seasons to see the various species in the marsh.
I therefore know that the footfall of interested people is likely to be very high, (reducing the time spent with people not actually interested, this can lose sales!), and I may also meet past customers. This can allow me to build a relationship with people over several years and they become repeat customers or ‘patrons’.
How does location help you to price your art?
Everything I’m talking about helps you to price your art correctly! Location is a biggie as it gives you another layer in your demographic data. If the area you are exhibiting in is particularly affluent, you might be able to charge more. If your work is too cheap in a pricey location, people won’t trust you. Your work and the pricing simply aren’t going to fit in! Selling art is all about luxury and you don’t discount luxury or it just looks cheap.
For example, when I price my art I consider how the location will alter the people. People at Cley NTW are there to see some extremely rare species of birds and people really do come from all over the world. So, they have already made an investment of cash and time to get there. This is a treat, an indulgence, and Cley has one of the highest densities of different species of birds in Europe during migration. In short, it’s a top spot for people who want the very best bird-watching experience.
Then, there is a second layer which is Cley Spy…
How context helps you to price your artwork
When it comes to location and how to price your art, look further than just your shop. What else is around? How do these places relate to your audience? What are their price points, what is the value, how do you compare?
Cley Spy, (a highly reputable optics shop), have a small shop where I exhibit. It receives a steady footfall of interested people (great for me!), and also gives me a big ol’ clue: people spend hundreds. Their binoculars range in price, but they have some extremely expensive options worth tens of thousands.
Furthermore, in the bird watching community, they are widely known and highly respected. It does me no harm at all to be exhibiting artwork directly next to them. I don’t compete in any way with their products but am also offering a luxury, high-end item in the same niche.
Imagine you have just bought some new binoculars for a few thousand and then you come out into a room of art. My prices aren’t going to look high, out of place, or a shock. They’ve just spent a few grand on binoculars! Now imagine you are next to a nick-nacks shop, everything is around £20, how do you think you will look? You are likely to sell greeting cards and a few prints in that position.
4. How to charge more for your art
So you should have a good idea of who will buy your art, where they are, and when they’ll be there. You should also know what the competition is like, how they are priced and if the market is saturated or not. Lastly, you do have the ‘easy’ way to price your art which can be good to check you are receiving a minimum hourly rate, at least. This should all be giving you ballpark figures to start to play with!
But let’s say you need to charge more for your art. If you want to raise the price of your artwork but are worried it’s pushing the mark, here are some ways to do it.
Add value, exclusivity is king in pricing your art!
Something we haven’t yet discussed is that original work is a ‘one off’. You can’t get on your high horse and demand silly prices ‘because it’s the only one’ but it can be turned into added value. We have to be careful not to sound like a cheap car salesman ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’, but also use this asset to drive demand.
A simple, nearly free way to charge more for your art and add value is to create a certification of authority. This is a single-page document that simply states the following piece is a one-off. You sign it and give it to the purchaser of any original. This could be stated on a small, dignified, sign next to information about the artist.
It not only adds value, but it will also help you grow trust. To the customer, they feel as though they are purchasing a moment in history ‘This is when it was created, this is the only one’. I also like to use my custom embossing stamp to add an extra flourish and make sure it’s on high-quality paper.
You are really creating ‘theatre’ when you do this and adding some excitement to the purchase. I usually also enclose a small handwritten note to the customer about the work, about our interaction, and hope they enjoy it for years to come. Make them feel special!
Make the pieces of art exciting and alive
This is harder to do and less tenuous, however, it works. I make sure to talk to people, get to know them, and take an interest. Personally, selling is something that makes me very uncomfortable, but potential customers usually feel uncomfortable, too.
So, instead, I tell them about the work and about me. Take time to really think about how you created each piece before you exhibit them. I like to show visitors what excites me about any one piece, I mean if you can’t be excited why should they be? I love to break down the colours and techniques for non-art folk and they’re usually really interested, too.
That way, we can talk about the whole show without talking about prices. I can show my love, passion (awful word), and enthusiasm for my practice. After all, they are buying work I have made so try to engage them and relate to them. We buy from people we like and trust. They certainly don’t want to hang work on their wall and think ‘lovely painting, awful woman’.
Price your art while looking professional
This bleeds into planning an exhibition but is worth mentioning here quickly. If your show is not looking polished and professional, you will struggle to charge higher prices. Keep your exhibition simple and allow the works to shine out, this helps clients imagine the works in their own home.
A simple way to make exhibitions look professional and price your work higher is to frame things consistently. Framing is a huge expense and I tend to use only two different frame moldings for an exhibition. Hanging work in many different frames often looks very messy and unprofessional. If in doubt, opt for plain wood, white or black. Keep them simple as people will reframe work if they feel strongly about it!
How to price your art – don’t hide tags!
This is a lesson best learned very soon. Make the price tags easy to read and clear, don’t hide the prices! People tend to feel a little awkward at exhibitions anyway and if they’re interested in a piece of art, they might want to sneak a peak at the price. So don’t make it hard for them! If the price is £750 in size 10 font or £750 in size 18 font, it’s still £750.
I see people making this mistake all the time and it’s so easy to fix. Remember that many people need reading glasses but don’t wear them all the time, too. I keep my tags very clear and simple: name of a piece with the date, price, and medium, easy. Nuff said.
How to price your art – the ultimate list
These tools are going to transform how you price your work with confidence! Remember to collect information as you grow about who, where, and how. No amount of theorising is ever as valuable as talking to people and seeing what is actually selling.
How to price your artwork:
- Know your competition (and their prices for art!)
- Understand how competitive your niche is
- Know your actual customers (using data and experience)
- Define your target customer
- Discover where your customers are and when they’re there
- Analyse the affluence of your exhibition location
- Make sure to add value to your art with my top tips!
Now, all you need to do is go and do it! It’s a lot of work but it is so valuable and will help you to accurately price your artwork. Throw out the ‘pay by hour’ art pricing calculators, they don’t work. Price your artwork based on the value it will bring your customer and the only way to do that is to understand your customer as best you can.
Good luck and if this helped you to price your art, share it with an artist friend who might need to read this!