It’s the BIG question that we all ask. How much should I charge for my art?
Like everything else, art is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. It doesn’t matter if you think your work is worth $4000. If no one will pay that then the fact is it’s not. So how much should you charge? I’m going to give you some tips to determine the right number for you.
Do not start high and lower prices when things don’t sell.
The first thing you need to understand when deciding on prices for your work is that it will always be better to start low and raise your prices as sales increase. Don’t start off unreasonably high and lower the price because they aren’t selling. This will REALLY irritate your collectors who paid on the high end of the scale. You don’t want that reputation. Start lower. As you continue to get sales, increase your prices. You can even increase your prices on your very next painting.
There are two extremes I see when artists price their work.
Either the artist is grossly overcharging or they are seriously undercharging for their work. The first tends to come from newer artists who are too emotionally attached to their work so they price their work, according to that attachment. The other common reason for this is that they haven’t yet produced many pieces, so that makes each one more valuable to them. If you are too attached to your work, then I think it’s better just to keep the piece and not list it for sale yet. In a year or two, you will have created enough work that your skill level will have increased and you won’t feel so attached to those older ones. Then won’t feel so harsh to sell those first paintings for $75 each instead of the initial $4000 you thought they were worth at the time.
The artist who doesn’t charge nearly enough is probably the more common of the two. You need to value your time. If you spent 40 hours on a painting or drawing, it just doesn’t make sense to charge $40 for it. That may not even cover the cost of supplies!
Well, how do I really know how much to sell my work for then?!
Unfortunately, there is no one straight answer for this. There are many factors that come into play when deciding how much to charge. So let’s take a look at some of these things and hopefully it will give you a better starting point on how to price your own work.
How long have you been creating art?
If you are a new artist then you probably need time to develop both skill and a following. When we’re first learning, realistically our work is not likely to be that great. That doesn’t mean someone won’t enjoy it, so don’t get frustrated that you’re not yet Michelangelo and give up or throw your work away. An easy way to get started in selling is to list your smaller pieces (smaller because they’re easier to ship) on eBay. Let your friends and family know that you have a new listing by linking it to your social media accounts. See what sells, and how much it goes for. At least charge enough to cover the cost of your supplies. As you complete more work and get more constant sales, you can start to raise your prices. But don’t assume that because you saw a blue dot sell for millions in a big art gallery that your landscape that obviously took way more time is worth more.
How much are other artists at your skill level/area/subject matter selling for?
Go to local galleries, check the prices on artist’s websites who are similar in your subject matter and skill level. How much are they selling their work for? This is one of the easiest ways to determine where you should start. The catch here is that if you’re not well known yet in your community, or online, you need to find other artists who are similar in those aspects as well. It doesn’t matter if you paint as well as Thomas Kincaid, you don’t have the name he built to back you, so your work isn’t going to sell for as much. People buy for the artist as much as for the art itself so, in this case, popularity does matter.
Keep in mind that undercutting those in your range is not necessarily going to get you more sales. Most art buyers don’t know much about art, they just know what they like. Sometimes all you’re telling buyers is that your work is not as valuable as another artist by placing your prices just below that other artist. When I was focused on pet portraits, I got more commissions when I raised my prices above my competition than when I was lower. It was sort of like telling people “I’m worth the extra money”, without having to say it. I’m not saying you need to to put your stuff hundreds or thousands above, but don’t sell yourself short either.
Pricing based on size.
I won’t lie. I fought this one for years. I don’t feel that size indicates the value of a painting. I may spend 2 hours on a 2’x4′ painting, and 2 weeks on one a quarter of the size. Why then would I sell the one I spent so long on for less than the larger one?! Well, frankly, because that is what buyers understand. They relate size to price. There are two common ways to do this
- Price by square inch: This is where you figure out the area by multiplying the length x width. UGG, MATH!! I know I know, but it’s important! So an 8×10 painting would be 80 square inches, and a 24″x36″ would be 864 square inches. Let’s say you wanted to charge $1.40 per square inch, then your prices would look something like this (my numbers are rounded):
- Price by linear inch: This is what I went with myself. To figure out your linear inch, you will add the length + width. So an 8×10″ painting would be 18 linear inches and a 24×36″ painting would be 60 linear inches. If you wanted to charge $20 per linear inch, that would make your prices look something like this:
Why did I choose linear inch pricing over square inch? As you can see by the numbers above, pricing by square inch leaves your numbers skewed a bit weird so that your smaller pieces are really cheap for the size compared to larger. Linear inch keeps the paintings more evenly spaced. I don’t think this is a one size fits all thing though. Some artists like having their smaller paintings available for very low prices so it really comes down to what appeals more to you.
Pricing based on time.
While some artists like to be paid a specific amount based on the amount of time spent on a piece, I personally don’t. First, as I stated above, it’s not something most customers really understand. Second, when you’re a newer artist, much of the time you spend is in trial and error and in fixing things that don’t look right. Top that off with the fact that when you’re newer you won’t really know for sure how many hours a piece will take, that makes it nearly impossible to give a clear price quote to a client who is interested in hiring you for a commission.
Many years ago I used to do a bit of web design for other people. I was not an expert. I could do it, but I did so VERY slowly. Should my clients have to pay extra for my lack of experience while I was learning? I don’t think so (and neither did they). Art is the same. The longer you paint, the faster you will get. In part because you will make less mistakes that you need to troubleshoot.
That said, you may want to incorporate how long you think it will take you to complete a painting into your price per square or linear inch. What do I mean by that? Well if you want to be paid $10 per hour (if you’re more experienced that number should be much higher), and it’s going to take you 10 hours to paint an 8×10″ piece, that means that you want to make around $100 for that painting. That puts your price at around $5.55 per linear inch.
Your cost of supplies.
You need to consider the cost of your supplies. If I paint something on linen, I’m going to charge more to make up the difference in materials (linen cost’s quite a bit more than cotton canvas). Are you using Luminance colored pencils instead of cheaper prismacolors? You can, and should, be charging accordingly. In that case, the work created by Luminance is going to be far more archival that work created with prismacolor. This sort of thing matters. Make sure that you’re factoring in the cost of your supplies when you figure out your pricing structure.
You need to be comfortable with your prices, but for those of us who tend to undercharge given our expeirence/following/previous sales and such, artist Melissa Dinwiddie said something that I think was genius:
That is SO true. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that art is a luxury item. Don’t feel guilty charging what you’re worth!