Monday, September 30, 2013

On Pricing Your Artwork And Making Sales

co-written by Michele Preston

When it comes to your art, figuring out a price that works for each market can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope. You don't want to sell your work for peanuts, but at the same time you don't want to price yourself out of a sale. How much should you charge and how much is acceptable when someone offers to sell your work for you and give you a commission?

First, you need to remember that every kind of sale is unique in its profit structure. A fine art sale has more than one way that it is priced depending on where you are marketing it. For instance, if you are selling it yourself at a show vs. selling it through a gallery, it will be structured differently in your profit margin. This is also the same with licensing which you can spend the money and time out of your creative process or you can work with a professional who does this on your behalf and keeps you creating.

Let's start with setting your own prices. For an original, the first thing to think about is how much it costs you for the materials needed to create the piece and the amount of time you spend on it. For a reproduction, you'll need to take into consideration how much it costs for the paper or canvas and the printer to do the work. Then you figure out how much is a reasonable markup, usually around 25% if you are selling to another party or having an agent market it for you. This will set a price that you know you cannot sell below when it is a direct sale to end user. You know you can't sell it for less than that, otherwise you'll only be losing money. If you are selling it yourself and are establishing a base of clientele the margin can be anything from cost plus 25% to 50% depending on what your market would see as a value. Sometimes for followers of your work, it would be a good idea to have a survey on what they think of your prices vs. value. Do not be afraid to ask your audience. Other businesses do it all the time to help them understand their market. You should as well.

Remember what your goals are when you are selling your art. Are you the affordable artist that makes a profit because you sell a large number of pieces to different people, or are you the in-demand artist who makes a profit when you sell one expensive piece every so often? It is normal to be the latter artist, but being practical in your evaluation of your market and clients is important for this assessment of value to price. This depends on the kind of name that you want to make for yourself and this takes a lot of time and relationship building. The real key to success in the industry is diversity. It keeps you in your creating. That is the key to success as an artist.

There can be a benefit to setting your prices really high at the right time, but if you are not a known artist this can be a very hard hill to climb. Saying that your work is worth the large price tag and making yourself only available to a certain clientele can give collectors a sense of exclusivity but if this potential clientele does not see the value it can mean failure. Setting your prices high right off the bat when no one knows who you are yet can make it difficult to get your career going for a while, if ever. You'll want to set your prices based on your buyers and work from there to your goals.


On the other hand, being affordable makes your work more accessible especially when starting or promoting a new look or entering different types of sales like licensing. If you find that people frequently ooh and ahh over your art and then shrink away from your prices, you might want to consider bringing your prices down or offering special promotions to move pieces. You are already creative, so use your same creative skills in marketing yourself as well. Maybe you have a buy one get the next one for 50% off. Think about it this way: would you rather have originals and reproductions laying around collecting dust because you don't want to sell them for less, or would you rather sell them at prices that people can afford, still make a profit, and have happy collectors that see your piece every day and love to share it with others? The value is still high, but you give more people the chance to enjoy your work which showcases your art to others and creates a larger following.

So what do you do when you have an agent who is selling your work for you? Or a company contacts you and wants to license your work? When it comes to making these kinds of deals, it can feel really disappointing when you realize that you won't be making nearly as large of a profit on every licensing deal. In fact, when it comes to reproductions and licensing, it isn't uncommon for an artist to make as little as $5-$150 per piece, depending on what is being sold and if the job is a volume deal. The more volume the less the offer per image, but lucrative if your image is a contract for 100-1000’s. Getting your work seen is still a goal every time you sell the right. The more you are seen the better your increase in audience.

In some instances you may be working with someone to promote your work. This is also a process of events that takes time and is of benefit to you in creating diversity. The agent has used their time, money and effort promoting you, therefore to engage a price that is less than expected is understandable for certain instances. Remember, it is a sale in which your providing an image only to make it happen. The agent does not always make a commission on these sales. They sometimes are fitting a number into a job that fits the budget for a client to make you a sale. Finishing a job within budget for the customer, which in turn brings repeat business and spreads the word of your work to their colleagues for future sales.

When it comes to these situations, you have the ultimate say. You can decide that the profit is too small and you don't like making those kinds of deals. Or you can realize that these entities of value and work hard for you -- they are using their connections and knowledge to sell your work and simply paying you for your talent. Sure, it might not be as big of a profit as you wanted to make, but what's better: making a sale or not? Especially when you didn't have to do any of the foot work, and it leaves you with more time to create in the studio. Not to mention that the sale might lead to more sales depending on where it was placed. – For instance, a piece hanging in a doctor's office or real estate office sees hundreds of potential audience a month. Someone might see it and fall in love with your work.

When it comes to pricing and selling your art, you should do what keeps you painting and creating. Along the way, it's good to be flexible and willing to try different ideas and price points for different situations. After all, being a successful artist doesn't just mean making sales – it is also creating beauty that makes others' lives more enjoyable. It's about sharing what is in your heart with those who appreciate it.