October 11

How to Price Your Art to Make More Money

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How to Price Your Art to Make More Money

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.

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. The truth is you will struggle most of the time to get $2,000 for any of your work.

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In this case, you have set the highest price for your work is $2,000 for buyers and yourself. 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 costs 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, practical ways to raise your prices.

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

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 significantly benefited from your posts and podcasts. I just read your article ‘Self Limiting Beliefs,’ and it 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.

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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 can do a consult for me then, I will explain my dilemma a bit further.

BARNEY:

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

OLIVIA:

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

I 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 six years of online marketing, networking, and studying the business side of art.

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Through all this work, it has opened doors for me to exhibit in Italy, the 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 euros.

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. 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 realize that my pricing just doesn’t match up with 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 realize this is not my marketplace, and that is why I went global. But I also wonder if my low pricing and self-limiting belief hinder 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 allow myself and other artists to showcase our work to an interested audience from our 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 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 consulting fee. I appreciate your time and knowledge, and I have not been able to find someone here that can advise me in an unbiased way.

BARNEY:

You 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 in your price ranges. It 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 efficiently 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 which can and would buy your work if they knew you and your art. You 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 can 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 the best thing happened—the piece sold at full price.

Last week, an interior design company purchased this artwork for the 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 in my career and future.

A straightforward piece of advice = 350% price increase!

 

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 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 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.

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 a synergy between her comments and this post. She said 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 way and being open to thinking about new ways of making art and managing your business are things you control that will positively affect your career.

As always, I wish all of you all the best!

Related Posts and Resources on How to Price Art

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About the Author

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

Barney Davey

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  1. Hi Barney, I think this is a great idea, and I had a plan to do a 48×96′ diptych for some time, but now with your suggestion in mind I will do it and price it accordingly. Thank you, Dan

  2. Barney, thank you for this blog post. I think it is very important to do as you said. And, Lori is one of those people I follow whenever I can read something she has said. Lovely person and artist! I started the last year doing exactly as you said above, creating larger works that can be priced in a different price range and appeal to a different audience. I also have your book!

  3. I love this advice. I’m in pretty much the same situation as Olivia, although in the U.S., not Australia. Despite all the years of learning about marketing, your advice to have a high priced piece with no expectations of selling it is brilliant and huge congrats to Olivia that it it paid off. In thinking about it and the way people’s minds work, it makes perfect sense! My work takes a LONG time to complete so making a living is difficult. At this point, I’m selling prints, not the originals, as I focus on building a body of work with a consistent theme, approaching it as Lori is doing, with no intention of selling…yet. I do have one question. Once that single high-priced painting sells, what then happens to my work from then on? Do I raise the prices to the same level? Or raise them significantly but not equal to, while creating another unique high-priced piece? I think I may have answered my own question! The sale of the high-priced piece allows me to increase the price of the rest of my work, then the next unique piece is priced a little higher and the pattern repeats, increasing prices each time. Am I making sense and I am I understanding you correctly? This discussion is eye-opening to me! I don’t do shows very often any more but I happen to be leaving in about ten minutes for a one day show at a private residence. Probably too late to put your advice into effect, but definitely giving me a very positive state of mind as I approach the day! Thank you so much, for this and all your wonderful advice over the years. Love your books too!

  4. I’m struggling with this topic. I made a modest, price increase with all of my paintings in early summer, and sales have plummeted since then. Also, I’ve added a 10% mark up for custom work. Now, I get views and likes, but not income, despite having an interview come out in a national, mineralogical magazine (for agate paintings), which I thought would help.

    I don’t want to lower prices–I’m already around $.32-$.35/sq. in. for many of them (the smaller ones are more often .50/sq.in. The June price increase was necessary. But, I’ve started making a series of small works on unstretched canvas that take less time to make and have a low material cost. These, I think, I could sell for less as a “gateway purchase” for collectors. Also, I’m considering adding much larger poured pieces (time intensive and with a higher material cost) and charge a higher price per square inch for these. Even if they don’t sell, they could set a higher maximum price, like in your examples.

    What do you think about different pricing scales for different kinds of art made that vary greatly in time involved and material costs?

    1. I can’t see how a modest price increase would tank your sales. Did making those changes cause you to lose faith in your prices. Are you inadvertently showing a lack of confidence in your prices when you offer your work? Or, is something else happening that affects your prices? I can’t predict what will happen when you mix lower prices for smaller, lower quality material works. To me, pricing is about integrity, authenticity, and transparency. If your prices make sense to you and you can articulate them without having to give a dissertation on the differentials, then go for it. Otherwise, rethink what you are doing to stay consistent. I also don’t see how adding lower priced work will help sell your more expensive work.

      1. Thanks, Barney. I appreciate the reply. Sales slumps like this can be discouraging. But, I don’t think I’ve lost faith in prices. If anything, I’ve gained some confidence. I chose to change them because I feel the pieces are worth more than I was charging, especially the custom ones with multiple edits.

        I wanted to clarify a bit. The higher end, higher priced, larger pieces on wood panel that take a few weeks to make are what I will be adding to try and sell my currently highest price medium-size wood panel work. I see that strategy as somewhat similar to when you suggested Olivia make her “monumental” sized art to raise the price ceiling. My lower end series of sketches on unstreched linen canvas is just an attempt to sell some quickly-made but still nice originals to the current “favoriting but not buying” social media audience. But, you’re definitely right that those are not likely to appeal to high end collectors and are not aimed at them. I’ll test whether these sell any better than F.A.A prints aimed at the same segment of my audience.

  5. Barney, this is an excellent story that shows that we can up-level our career with commitment and taking action!

    This artist found success in raising her prices by 350% for a few reasons:

    1 – She was determined to find an answer as to HOW to solve the problem of getting higher prices
    2 – She came to an expert for advice
    3 – She made a COMMITMENT to taking the advice and implementing something NEW
    4 – She took ACTION and did it

    Thanks for sharing. I might just use this example in my next Artist Mastermind Workshop!

  6. Barney, I work in South Florida and have been working in oils since 2007 when I had my first show. I have had sales in the $1200-$2200 range and recently did a 60″x60″ which I had in a gallery asking $18k for. I insisted that I needed to get 5k from the sale because it was such a large piece with a lot of work and needs to be trucked every show.

    Now galleries I am working with are wanting to price it at 6k. So I am having the opposite problem. I am game, but they are not.

    1. Pricing has to make sense to all involved, including artist, gallery and buyer. You can’t ever allow your work to sell at a price that loses you money. Either your galleries need to reconsider, or you find an equitable middle ground, or look for galleries that can support you and your prices.

  7. Thank you for this article. I completely understand the ideas behind this. But for me, I guess I wonder how you get yourself out there to these people that are spending this kind of money. Is it all over the US? I am in Southern California and I have a website and an Etsy.com site.I sell locally and get great feedback everytime I do a show. I also do Facebook and Instagram but do you think that these ways of getting myself out there are attracting a lower income clientele? I am sellling but my prices are pretty low (in my opinion). And, I sell mostly prints and smaller originals because of their price. Most galleries are taking 50% so I tend to stay away from them because I don’t make that much from each gallery sell.

    1. You get yourself out there by doing targeted networking. If you are not famous, you have to hunt buyers. Random networking and marketing is a waste of time. Figure out who is buying your higher priced art and research to find more people like them and work on getting to know them, getting them on your postal and email lists, and invite them to view your work. My Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book has chapters on Networking and Local Marketing. A good gallery should get 50%. They spend lots of money to display your art. If a gallery can show 100 pieces and has a rent, not including all other expenses, of $5,000 per month. Your art on display costs the gallery $50 per month just in rent. If you have a gallery that can get repeat sales of your art, you should use them. Don’t drop your prices in direct sales to lower than what a gallery will sell it for. That is devaluing your prices, dinging your integrity, and taking money out your pocket. If you are not paying a gallery in the form of commission, you should be using that same money to market your work.

  8. Good article! My price ceiling is definitely affected by the gallery- they make those decisions and would never support a 350% jump because it wouldn’t make sense or be fair to existing collectors. I’ve shown a lot, but lack significant press or awards. Do you think these elements are part of the logic used to support increases? If so, does your book include any tips on how to get them? It’s frustrating to think that even large scale works are going to be limited to incremental price increases for the foreseeable future. Thanks!

    1. Awards and press help, but you can’t always wait for those things to happen. The article talks about expanding your price range. If you are only selling in galleries and they won’t accept larger pieces, it is harder for you. No one, including galleries can stop you from making your masterpiece and putting a much larger price on it. If you sell it that is wonderful, but even if you don’t you have increased your top range which should help you increase your other prices. Incremental prices increases take forever to make significant jumps. You need exponential jumps. My book does not get into pricing. It is about how to find collectors and keep them.

  9. Hi Debra,

    There is a lot that goes into pricing one’s work. You hit on a bunch of them in your comments. Retooling may be just the tonic you need. I hope it works for Lori, you and any other artists who might be inspired by the post, or by Lori’s thoughts, too. Thanks for sharing the post. Best wishes!

  10. I would like to talk with you. sales are static for the first time in 40 years…………I am in a good location for my painting inspiration, NOT for sales and don’t have the warewithall to get it out to other areas……..

  11. I’m using FineArtAmerica as a fulfillment site. With a regular full-time job, I just don’t have the time to process purchases myself. I’m assuming I should price my photos based on top-sellers in FineArtAmerica. I want to be careful about pricing myself out of the market.

    Thoughts?

    Love the guerilla marketing book. Makes total sense. I’ll have to ease into that networking thing. Not my forte, but I’ll work on it. Baby steps. 🙂

    1. Hi Brett, Using pricing based on competitive research is a valid way to assess what you should do. Just be consistent and as you said, don’t price yourself out of the market. No one said networking is easy, but it can be done. Moreover, when you are only targeting certain people or groups, it’s easier than just hanging around chamber of commerce or general networking meetings. That’s a waste of time.

  12. Pricing my work causes me undue stress at times. This was great advice and helps take the pressure off . I generally price around the 1.00 per square inch. But lately have seemed to dip between .65-.85 just to compete with one of the online platforms I sell on. I rely on my sales for my income and sometimes get a little caught up in the sale. Again doing the same thing and expecting different results is a no win. Pricing some of my larger pieces higher and then finding my proper audiences sounds much more appealing,
    Thanks

  13. Recently, I branched out of my comfort zone in my “canvas”; from card stock, wood, ceramic tile, concrete, and wood to actual stretched canvas. Ranging from 5×7″ to 8×10″, even 4″ square gallery wrapped canvases, I just don’t know how to begin pricing. Suggested at $1 an inch seemed extremely high for an 8×10″ canvas =$80! Help!

  14. Hi Barney
    I’m having a renewed look at our (my wife and I) art situation. We have a Gallery here in Australia that is targeted by the mainly “grey nomad” tourist market, which is all very well for the souvenir and gift line trade, but not sufficient for our artistic efforts. I intend to purchase a couple of your books soon to kickstart a new approach to matters.
    Cheers
    Ian

  15. Wow – such interesting reading ‘ and weirdly last week someone gave me a huge canvas – masterpiece about to be created… thank you

    1. Hi Olivia, It’s great to hear from you. I’m so glad you took my advice. I’ve updated the link to your website, which is gorgeous. Thanks for your comments. All the best!

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