Pricing may be one of the greatest challenges when it comes to running an art business. While there are objective and easy to quantify elements of making, what buyers are willing to pay is often subjective. Does your work speak to them? What value do they perceive? Do they understand the potential investment? You have to consider your market as well as the time you invest, the cost of materials and more. Is there one pricing method that works best? Honestly, I would say no. It depends on your medium and style as well as the customers you are trying to reach and how well you communicate why they should buy from you. So how do you determine your ideal approach to pricing? Research and testing. The going rate for your work much like your style will evolve over time. Whether you're just getting started or evaluating mid career, here are some considerations to help guide you in making a living off your creative talents.
1. Know Your Market and Your Competition.
Who do you expect to buy your work? How much do they have to invest in art? Where are they going to see your pieces, a gallery or an art festival? What other artists are they likely to consider? How are other similar creatives pricing their pieces? These questions can help you gauge the environment where your work will exist. All business must conduct this type of research.
2. Start Low, But Not Too Low.
You can always raise your prices, but it devalues your work if you have to offer too many discounts to get sales. Find a happy medium where you're asking enough to cover costs and time, but have room to go up as your work gets more exposure and more value in the marketplace. Increases over time should be gradual, but are a natural part of your career. Sales are not bad, but just be sure you are strategic about offering lower price incentives to maintain the perception of value in your work.
3. Communicate Your Value.
Because art is very subjective, you will have people who don't understand why you set your prices at a certain level. They may argue that they can recreate your art or buy it much cheaper mass produced. What they're missing is the value of handmade and the unique talents that come with a personal touch. While you don't want to seem defensive or give away too many details, it's worthwhile to help see what goes into making your art - the time, the materials, the inspiration. All of these elements make it easier to differentiate your items and give people a reason to connect.
4. Be Careful About Giving Away Work.
For many of us, art is a personal expression and hard to put a price tag on. Some of us prefer to just give away our work to people we know and have a connection with instead of selling to a wider audience. If you want to stay a hobbyist, this is a great approach. However, if you're looking to create a career out of your art, you deserve to be rewarded for your effort and talent. Make sure your prices at least account for the cost so you can continue to make more. Your time is part of that because the piece wouldn't exist without your investment. There will always be instances when giving makes sense, gift for friends and family, charity opportunities, but for the most part, you should sell your work just like any other type of business.
5. Know Your Prices.
Once you set the going rate for your work, it's important that you are ready to talk about them. When it comes up in conversation with a potential buyer, you want to be committed and consistent. If you seem like you're making up the price on the spot or wishy washy in how your talk about it, people may question the true value, and you risk getting less than your pieces are worth. Plus, it's easier for you to have a set price you can quick reference. I recommend putting together a line sheet if you have trouble remembering or don't enjoy taking about money, and this can be a piece of collateral you share to help do the work for you.
6. Test Out Pricing Methods.
There are a number of different ways you can determine the value of your work, and its best if you pick one that allows you to be as objective as possible. Many painters for example use the Square Inch method. That way every piece is consistently priced with a rate you've calculated to cover materials and time for each square inch of work. Other artists prefer to start with cost of materials and then assign an hourly rate to their time. What works best for you will depend on your medium and your target market. Run the numbers and ask around to see if what you're getting makes sense in their mind as a buyer. Use that feedback to evaluate and more forward. Read more of pricing formulas here.
You need money to run a business, creative or otherwise, so Pricing will always be important. The best buyers are those that understand the value of handmade, but for everyone else, you will have to be a creative salesperson. The more confident you are in your prices and the more realistic they are for your work, the better chance you have for success. My best advice to you is to research, test and repeat. Every sale is a potential learning opportunity, but so are those you lose. Be open to feedback and keep your ears open to see what's going to work for you. You and your work are valuable!