When it comes to selling art, setting a price is one of the most difficult choices you can make. This is especially true if you’re a new artist who doesn’t want to start by having your work undervalued. Additionally, if you’re largely unknown, you’ll want to price your pieces competitively to be taken seriously. Below we’ve put together several methods artists have used to begin pricing their work to help you get started.
Brought to you by our team & written by Natalie Saar
1. Do the Math
As with any business, it often costs money to make money. If being an artist is the primary way that you make a living, this is even more important. Start with a simple equation. Determine how long it takes you to make one piece, arrive at an hourly wage, then make sure to add in your out-of-pocket cost to create the item. It’ll look a little something like this:
(Hourly Wage x Time to Create the Piece) + Cost of Materials
For example, if Jeanie sets her rate at $20/hr, a painting took 8 hours to make, and materials cost $75, then hers would look like this:
($20 x 8)+$75 = $235
So in this case, Jeanie should start the sale of her painting at $235 dollars. This is a simple way she can explain to prospective buyers how she arrived at the final figure.
When you’re choosing your hourly wage, be realistic about your experience, education, and past sales so you neither over, nor undersell yourself.
If you want a more detailed projection, based on the specifics of your artwork, try using an online calculator to arrive at your final price.
2. Take a Survey
Reach out to friends and family to conduct a real life survey. This is a less mathematical way to determine how much to sell your work for, but it’s also a good way test your prices for the market. When you do this, be sure to ask three questions:
Which pieces they like best
Which they would actually buy
What they’d pay for the pieces
Once you’ve reached out to your friends, you can do some footwork too: surveying people you don’t know at places like college campuses. You can tell them you’re conducting research for an artist. No need to say it's you, if you're not comfortablel doing so. This method also works on social media with surveys and polls.
If you choose to survey people outside of your personal circle, be mindful of the area you’re in. For example, people on a college students may be less likely to pay a high price than attendees at a wine festival.
Once you’ve done the research, look at all of the figures and find what you think is acceptable for the amount of work you put into each piece.
3. Do Market Research
If you don’t want to talk to strangers about your art, but need to see what similar pieces go for, visit an art fair or a farmers market. Take a look at the booths with artwork that’s similar to your own and see what they’re selling them for.
To go one step further, you can talk to the artists and see how they arrived at these prices. They may be able to give you some specific tips about what you make, whether it’s a painting or jewelry. Don’t underestimate the advice of someone who was once in your shoes.
The most important part of pricing your art is being able to tell people how you arrived at the final figure. If it makes fiscal sense to you, chances are it’ll make sense to potential buyers as well.
And remember not to be discouraged if you hear “no” one, or two, or 10 times. There will be lots of no’s, but what matters is the “yes” when your art resonates so strongly with someone that they know the price is right.
Finding the balance between what you’re willing to accept and what someone is willing to pay is key to making a worthwhile sale.