Throughout my career, I've had the pleasure of meeting countless artists and getting to know their unique stories. One question that frequently arises in our conversations is, "How should I price my art?" More than half of the artists I've encountered seem to grapple with this perplexing issue, and my initial reaction is always one of uncertainty. After all, how could I possibly determine the value of their work when I've only just met them and haven't had the opportunity to study their art up close? This, I believe, is the first myth of art pricing.
Many artists seem to be waiting for someone else to decide the worth of their creations. But the truth is, art is a profoundly subjective and personal realm. Its power lies in its ability to evoke emotions and forge connections between souls. Pricing these emotions and connections is a challenge. However, just like any other product, art demands materials, equipment, and labor. So, how can one accurately price art? In this article, I'll discuss three methods for doing just that.
Three Methods of Pricing Art
The first approach is market-based pricing. To employ this method, you need to research the market to understand the price of similar artworks or what artists at your level are charging.
You can research similar artworks in terms of style, medium, size, and subject matter by collecting data from galleries, art fairs, exhibitions, e-commerce platforms, and more.
You should also consider the kind of brand you wish to establish—whether it's premium, average, or affordable—because it will impact your pricing strategy.
A typical pricing formula used in this method is:
Price = Width x Length x Price per Square Inch
If you're just starting your art business, you might begin with a range of $0.1 to $2 per square inch. As you evolve into a full-time artist and gain representation by galleries and other art businesses, your range might shift to $2 - $8 per square inch. If you become highly sought after and people are willing to pay whatever you charge, you can even exceed $8 per square inch.
However, it's important to note that this formula isn't a golden rule. It primarily applies to painting and two-dimensional work, and other factors such as materials and details play a significant role in pricing.
Still, I've observed that this method is popular among successful full-time artists as it offers a consistent pricing system that eliminates the need to reconsider prices for each new piece.
Cost-Based Method Pricing
The second method is the cost-based approach, which is particularly favored by artists who wish to meticulously account for their costs and ensure that they don't operate at a loss while creating art. To apply this method, you must gather all your expenses, including materials, overhead, labor hired, packaging and shipping, studio costs, and your hourly rate.
Determining your hourly rate can be a bit tricky. A helpful guideline is to ask yourself how much you'd be willing to pay yourself for creating art instead of working at a regular job. Part-time artists often set their rate at $15–$30, while more experienced artists may charge $150–$300 per hour. Many full-time artists, however, might not use this method, especially if they produce artwork quickly, and this method may not fully reflect the quality of their creations.
To calculate the price using this method, you'll also need to establish your markup margin, and the formula is:
Price = All Costs x (1 + Markup Margin %)
The detailed formula would be:
Price = (materials + packaging + shipping + overhead + studio costs related to the piece + hourly rate x hours to create) x (1 + Markup Margin %)
It's worth mentioning that this method can be complex and time-consuming, particularly when you have to compile all the accounting details related to your art business. Nevertheless, it's highly beneficial for those running studios or shops, as it helps justify fixed costs such as studio rent and utility bills.
Value-Based Method Pricing
The value-based method is less straightforward but more akin to an art form itself. The formula is quite simple:
Price = cost + markup margin + surplus that customers are willing to pay
Credit to Revart
The challenge, however, is determining the extra value that a customer is willing to pay. Naturally, you can't discover this answer while sitting in your studio. You need to engage with collectors and understand the secondary market, especially if people are trading your art.
A useful tip is to collaborate with different parties and seek professional opinions. For instance, if you're selling your work for $100 and a gallery recognizes your talent and sells your work for $1,000, it suggests your art is genuinely worth $1,000.
Another tip is to experiment with your pricing in the early stages. If you initially price your work at $1,000 and it doesn't sell, try raising the price to $2,000 to gauge the market's response. If it still doesn't sell, lower the price to $500. Many artists mistakenly believe that their initial price should be perfect, but in reality, you can always adjust it to find the right market fit. Be strategic in your price changes; frequent adjustments could send a negative signal to potential buyers.
The value-based method offers several advantages, such as reflecting the true value of your art, the potential for higher profits, customer-centric pricing, and flexibility. However, it also has its drawbacks, including complexity and market uncertainty.
Tips to Enhance the Perceived Value of Your Art
Tell Your Story:
People are more drawn to a narrative than a mere product.
Incorporate Your Art Statement:
Use your artistic statement as part of your marketing materials.
Title and Describe Your Art:
Provide titles and descriptions for your artwork.
Try to connect with viewers in a personal and meaningful way.
Create one-of-a-kind or limited editions:
Number and limit your artworks for exclusivity.
Present your art professionally, both digitally and physically.
Exhibit your work:
Display your work at exhibitions, art fairs, or with partnering companies.
Document Your Art’s Evolution:
Maintain a record of your art's development and your resume.
Develop your brand:
Establish a strong online presence, including a website and social media.
Design a unique signature:
Craft a signature that becomes part of your brand.
Collaborate and Network:
Partner with others and build a network within the art community.
Help Buyers Visualize:
Assist your clients in envisioning how your art will enhance their living spaces.
Provide Certificates of Authenticity:
Offer certificates to confirm the authenticity of your work.
Host events and talks:
Organize events, salons, and discussions to connect with your audience.
By implementing these tips and understanding the intricacies of different pricing methods, you'll be better equipped to navigate the art market and find the right pricing strategy that aligns with the value and uniqueness of your art.