Years ago I had a friend who works in business and marketing helping me come up with the prices for my art. I remember disagreeing with the prices he set. I felt they were too high. He asked me something very important that was a huge wake-up call for me.
Figure out how much you need to make per month to live comfortably, factor in how many paintings you can create per month and how many you’re likely to sell, and that is the minimum you can afford to charge for a painting.
I honestly fought this for a while. It was really disappointing to realize that there was NO way I could make enough given what my prices were. I felt the prices he set were too high! I wouldn’t pay that much for a painting at the time (heck I could barely pay my phone bill at the time) so no one else would either right?! Plus I could barely sell my work at my current prices that were less than 1/4 of what he was suggesting!
Selling your work is far more than just choosing the right price. There is a lot of marketing involved and learning how to get your work out there. I don’t want you to feel like that magic number will make the sales for you, it won’t. These are just factors you need to consider in your own business plan.
If you’re planning to make a living with art, you have got to figure out how to get your work in front of the right buyers, and you have to be asking an amount that is fair to you. Even if you sold a $200 painting every week, that $800/month is not likely enough to live off of. If this has been your plan, it’s time to re-evaluate your business strategy.
I see so many trying to make a living selling their work, but even IF they managed to sell everything as soon as it came off the easel, they wouldn’t be able to live off that amount. I think there are two major issues here.
- The artist isn’t ready to make a living off of their art. When I was 19 and decided I wanted to make a living painting, there is NO way my work was ready to sell for enough that I could live off of it. I just wasn’t quite there yet, so it made sense to sell a painting that took me a week for $100-$200. I worked at an animal hospital to pay my bills then the money I made from selling paintings was just bonus money I could spend on more art supplies. We need to be realistic that the first few years of painting for most of us are going to be a stage for experimenting and learning. In other words…don’t quit your day job!
- Artists have a hard time believing their work is worth more. I think a lot of us who are experienced artists fall into this idea that “I would only pay $200” for that, so I assume that is all anyone else would pay. Nevermind the fact that my phone is going to get disconnected because I’ve not been able to pay the bill. Remember that you are not your target market. Art is a luxury item. Your target market should be those who have expendable income. To those buyers, $1000 is not as big of a deal as it is to us.
I’ve also heard artist’s state that they want their work to be affordable for everyone. This is a reasonable statement if you’re just starting off or if you don’t intend on selling your work to be your main source of income. Personally, I offer prints that those who are not wanting to invest in an original can buy. If you really want to offer originals that anyone can afford, you may want to consider small (5×7″ or under) canvas boards or cards that you can create a lot of in a very short amount of time. These small studies can not only be great practice for you, but if you can get 3 or 4 done in an hour, then selling them for $20 each (especially if you sell at art/craft fairs) isn’t unreasonable.
If your goal is to sell paintings on the higher end, having prices ranging so much that anyone can afford them will sometimes limit you to only selling to those who are looking to buy on the low end of the price spectrum. For many high-end buyers, they want to own something from artists that only those with more money can afford. Before you jump to judge them for this, remember that art is a luxury item. For many buyers it is a status symbol.
The first step is figuring out how much you want to make per month then taking the steps to make that happen. If you don’t make that first effort you’re going to continue to struggle for a long time.