How to Price Your Art to Make More Money

pricing your art

Pricing your artwork need not be a mystery.

The moment you make a mistake in pricing, you’re eating into your reputation or your profits. – Katharine Paine

Pricing Art Properly Is Challenging

For visual artists and other creatives, learning how to price your work is a bedeviling process.

You may have become an artist because you were compelled to use your creative talents. However, when you decided to make it a career, it became clear that correctly pricing your art is crucial to becoming profitable.

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Self-limiting beliefs hold some artists back financially.

Artists sometimes cap their prices with self-limiting beliefs and actions. For example, if the top of your price range for your work is $2,000 then you will never get more than that for any of your work. Simple enough. Truth is you will struggle most of the time to get $2,000 for any of your work.

In this case, you have set in your mind, and those of your buyers and galleries that the highest price for your work is $2,000. You built this box and put yourself in it. Now it’s your job to climb out of it.

You are the reason your prices are too low.

When you set the high end of your price range at $2,000, you can expect negotiations to bring whatever piece is currently under consideration to a price less than $2,000, routinely. Your actions and beliefs are what caused this cap to happen. My advice to you is to STOP THAT! It is costing you money. If you don’t think you can sell your work for higher prices, you cannot expect others to raise them for you. Yes, you have to be realistic about prices, but I bet you have prices that are too low in your top range.

There are realistic, effective ways to raise your prices.

Here’s a real life example from an email consulting exchange between Australian artist, Olivia Alexander, and me.

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OLIVIA:

I would like to enquire about a consult. I need advice on setting the prices on my artworks. I live in Australia and as I have followed and benefited greatly from your posts and podcasts. I just read your article ‘Self Limiting Beliefs’ and it really hit home. I need to take that leap in pricing my work according to my experience, but sales have been slow here in Australia. I do exhibit and get awards overseas though.

It is difficult to compare my works with other artists in my level and medium as most do not post their prices on their websites. Thank you for your time Barney and I appreciate any assistance you may be able to give me. If you are able to do a consult for me then, I will explain my dilemma a bit further.

BARNEY:

Thank you for taking your time to contact me. I am happy to help you. Please provide the details.

OLIVIA:

Thank you so much for your fast reply, I really appreciate that as I know you are a busy guy. Okay, so here is what I need help with:

I really need someone with the experience and knowledge who can look at my CV, business vision and some of my artworks and then suggest a price formula so I can price my works at their real value.

This is my situation; I have worked consistently for the past 12 years building a professional art career. Years of art training, but also over 6 years of online marketing, networking and studying the business side of art.

Through all this work it has opened doors for me to exhibit in Italy, USA and, in 2011, at the Salon d’Automne in Paris where I was the first and only Aussie. I also sold a framed work in the exhibition for 1000 euro.

2012 I was awarded the Bronze Medal diploma from the Society of Arts, Sciences and Letters in Paris. Just before Christmas I was invited to Paris this coming June to receive another award and also the news that I had been nominated for the Pewter medal, a 3rd award, also. I will be exhibiting in a group exhibition in Paris not far from the Musee Picasso in December.

You said in your blog ‘Self Limiting Beliefs’, “It takes brains and courage to get higher prices. If your highest price for your work is $2,000, ask why.”

Well, that’s me! My most expensive work is $AU 2000 for a 36 x 48” mixed media on canvas! I’m beginning to realise that my pricing just doesn’t match up to my experience and level as an artist as shown on my CV.

Here in Australia the art market is very slow and opportunities and recognition, well there’s not much of it around. The area in which I live has artists in abundance and not many buyers who will pay above $200. I have struggled to sell here and I realise this is not my market place and that is why I went global. But I also wonder if my low pricing and self-limiting belief actually hinders my ability to sell well in Australia?

Galleries are closing down left, right and centre here, so it is nearly impossible to get representation. I recently administrated the set up of a local professional arts Trail in my area to try and give myself and other artists the opportunity to showcase our work to an interested audience from our own studios. So at least I do have new followers coming through and we are doing our best to educate the general public.

I have tried to compare my work and experience with other artists on the Internet, but many do not place their prices on their websites. In fact, I have just removed mine from my site as I knew it was time to make some changes. I am currently setting prices on a square inch formula. From $1.85 – $2.00 Australian a square inch. When I look at that, I feel it is too low. I know that when my artworks go to Paris to be exhibited the prices will have to be much higher and I feel that it is time to take that quantum leap! Once I make the leap then there is no going back.

Barney, if you can help me with this dilemma I would be very grateful and I understand if I need to pay a consult fee. I appreciate your time and knowledge and I really have not been able to find someone here that can advise me in an unbiased way.

BARNEY:

You just need to start incrementally raising your prices. More importantly, I suggest making your masterpiece in a large format. It will give you a new high price on your price ranges. Doesn’t matter if it is sold or not. If you have work for sale that is $6000 or higher, then that is your top price. You will have effectively and legitimately expanded your price range. Doing this will allow you to raise prices on your other work higher and faster.

In my book, Guerrilla Marketing for Artists, I devote a chapter to networking and another on local marketing. The point is there are people all around within two-degrees of separation who can and would buy your work if they knew you and your art. You just have to set your mind to start finding them. Add that to your global reach and your career will take off.

You have to love it when your advice pays off!

Cathedral Rocks - Olivia Alexander 2014

Cathedral Rocks – Olivia Alexander 2014

OLIVIA:

A little while ago you gave me some advice on pricing my artwork. I followed it and painted a large, monumental work. I priced it at AU $6900 with the idea of widening my price range. (Perhaps also with the notion that it may never sell.)

I spent quite a lot of time creating this work, which consists of many layers of transparent paints (watercolour, acrylic and inks). By working this way, I am able to create the effect of being able to see through each layer to the next layer. The work is titled ‘Cathedral Rocks – Kiama’. (A very well known, naturally formed monument on the coast where I live in New South Wales.) It is a mixed media piece 44″ x 40” (112 x 102 cm) on stretched canvas.

I painted this piece with the idea that it would be high priced and perhaps never sell. Consequently, it turned out to be one of my best works and received so much attention and praise from visitors to my studio.

Then best thing happened. The piece sold at full price.

Last week, an interior design company purchased this artwork for full price. They will use it as a major statement piece for a big complex they have built. They are also interested in more of my works and I will now offer them a trade price to encourage business.

This art life is a funny thing! LOL.

Thank you so much for that piece of advice. It has made an enormous difference to my career and future.

One simple piece of advice = 350% price increase!

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There you have it. Olivia took my advice, took the plunge and created her masterpiece. She priced it nearly 350% higher than her previous highest priced work. In some ways, I am sure it took a leap of faith for her to create that work and then put that price tag on it. As she said, she did it with the thought it might never sell. How thrilled she must have been to get paid full price for that artwork.

What self-limiting beliefs do you have that are holding you back?

It might be more than just pricing. You might just be ready for re-tooling everything you are doing. My friend, art educator, and artist par excellence, Lori Woodward recently said this on her Facebook page:

I’m diligently working on a new series of larger landscape paintings. Not worrying about selling them at all – in fact – don’t plan on selling any until I’ve got a new body of work that’s way better than anything I’m doing now. No longer playing a small game. Also experimenting to develop my personal style… not worrying about rules or what others think right now. I’m seeking to eliminate imagined critical voices during this time while working hard to improve and develop work that satisfies me. Going into my artist “cave” for now and will emerge next spring.

I believe Lori is an artist worth watching. In walking that talk, I ran a blog post about her, which you can read on this link: An Art Career Examined | The Many Talents of Lori Woodward.

There is something in the wind, on the wire, or in the ether.

I am not taking any claim whatsoever that anything I have written or said influenced Lori, she is quite an independent thinker and a smart cookie, too. I commented on her Facebook post and told her to watch for this blog post as I felt there was synergy between her comments and this post. She commented back that many other artists she knows are feeling the same way about things as she is.

My guess is Lori will come out of her artist’s cave with new works, new higher prices for larger pieces, and that her buyers and collectors will embrace them with their wallets.

Are you feeling it, too?

Your comments on this post are welcome.

I hope and trust there are some lessons to be learned here about how to price your art to make more money. Learning how to get out of your own way and being open to thinking about new ways in making art and managing your business are things you control that will positively affect your career.

As always, wishing all of you all the best!

Related Posts and Resources on How to Price Art

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Barney Davey

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

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