Pricing Considerations Artists Need to Know

Pricing Considerations Artists Need to Know

I once met an artist who refused to price his work. He wanted the potential buyer to set the price. He also wanted the maximum dollar amount he could get for the work. I asked him, if someone walked into your space today how much would that piece of art be? And he didn’t have an answer. I could only imagine he does this same guessing game to his viewers and potential buyers, no wonder he was having a difficult time selling work!

People either overestimate or underestimate prices on art and will talk themselves out of the piece when left to guess on the price.

Basic pricing Formula: Having prices is not negotiable. As a professional business and marketer, you need an answer to the question, “How much is this?” As an artist, you are a small business regardless if you are a registered LLC or a sole proprietorship. This means you need to operate as a business. You have goods for sale and they need a price. Your price needs to pay for the supplies, your time to make the art, and bring in a profit. 

Don’t forget to consider the commission cut that galleries take when pricing your art.

Price Tags: Price tags placed on the physical artwork itself is optional. If you don’t want to sticker or label each work of art, then consider posting a price list nearby. Consider more permanent lists or signage and also consider having price slips, this way interested buyers and collectors can leave with a list and think about their purchase.

Having multiple options for price tags and labeling is better. If someone has to ask you the price for your art then that should be a red flag that you are missing sales. Always have a price on or adjacent to an item.

Negotiation: Ask yourself if you are willing to have some wiggle room with your price structure. Some artists are firm on their prices, others will allow collectors to negotiate. Consider letting big or higher-priced work have a negotiable price range. Consider having a price range for your work and be willing to cover the sales tax.

Being a little bit flexible with your prices can help sell your first few large big prices, lock in a market value for your work, and can cause buyers to buy one than one piece.

Price Changes: Be willing to change your prices based on professional recommendations. This means suggestions from gallery owners, curators, and other professionals. Price changes should not happen because you think you can get more money for your work. Your prices need to be a deliberate business choice. It can be easy to underprice work when you’re an emerging artist but once you realize you have a market and begin making some consistent sales, it can be easy to raise prices quickly. Quick price increases can cause you to work your way out of the market.

Pricing Feedback: If you have sold work in the past, use and customer comments as a frame of reference. Did you hear people mention, “your prices are low,” or “this is a good deal” or perhaps the opposite, “I can’t afford this, these prices are high?”
If you haven’t received or heard any feedback here are a couple of other questions to ask yourself: Were the previous spaces and galleries you exhibited conducive to sales? Did other artists make sales but not you? Did you sell out of work or your product?
Gallery History: When looking to exhibit and make sales, look at the history of the artists in the gallery. A gallery space will often choose similarly priced artists to exhibit and sell even if the medium and content are different. So look into the history of who exhibited there and do some investigating on their websites to get a feel of their price range.
A gallery won’t exhibit an artist selling paintings for $10k a piece and then next month exhibit an artist selling work for $100 dollars, investigate the price range galleries sell at before applying.
Exhibiting Your Prices: When exhibiting work, make sure the gallery puts prices on the didactic tag or near the artwork.  Even having a supplementary piece of paper that collectors and visitors need to grab makes it more difficult to make a sale.
You won’t sell the pieces when you hide the price.
Collector’s Packets: Pull together a few fancy packets of information for interested buyers and potential collectors. Include a nice draft of your resume, artist statement, a price list, maybe some printed images of your work on photo paper, a catalog, etc. Then if a prospective collector or buyer comes you can give them more information about you and keep your work at the forefront of their mind. This demonstrates your level of professionalism and can seal the deal. If or when they make a purchase, this packet is nice to have alongside the purchased art about you to go with the work.

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2 thoughts on “Pricing Considerations Artists Need to Know”

  • This is interesting and I always tag paintings on Art fairs. But what about websites? Should there be prices on the website? Greetings, Kathrin

    • Hi Kathrin,
      I think having prices available somewhere is important but for some artists may want to use their website as a professional portfolio (their goal isn’t to sell). In this case you may not want prices visible. But if you are in the business of making work to sell and you want to grow your collector base, I would definitely recommend prices for your website. Its hard to people to gauge prices of art so providing the sticker price is important. New collectors can feel pretty embarrassed if they reach out and ask and find out that the price is out their range. On my own website, I list the price, or I list sold for each piece. And then I have a “shop” page on my website which is a direct link to my Etsy shop where patrons can look at the work for sale or perhaps purchase a print. If you want to have a more discrete price list, you could always design a downloaded PDF that lists the prices.

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