"When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.” Oscar Wilde
A few years ago I had the delightful experience of visiting Giverny, a quaint village 80 kilometers outside of Paris. Maybe you think,’ mmmm…. that name sounds familiar’, then it is probably because you have read up on artist, Claude Monet.
Some quick background info:
Towards the end of the 1800’s the convergence of three revolutionary innovations completely altered the way artists worked, having a profound effect on their art.
This all meant: MOBILITY
These innovations were catalysts to get artist out of their stuffy studio’s and heading for the countryside. The story goes that Monet was taking a train ride and as he looked out his window he saw the village of Giverny and he determined he was going to move there.
In 1890’s Monet bought a house and set up the gardens where many of his famous painting were made. The breathtaking gardens and house are open to artists to come and paint and draw. I spent an unforgettable day sketching and sitting in sunny corners, staring at vista’s that I had only seen and admired in the painting of Monet.
I later read more about Monet’s life and work. I discovered that Monet, despite his beautiful house and gardens, did not have an easy artist life. There are eyewitness accounts of Monet jumping on the train to Paris with paintings under his arms and going door to door to try and sell them. (Imagine helping out this struggling artist and just to help, bought one of his paintings….talk about a good investment)
Money or the lack of it has always been a pain point for many artists. When I ask artists what the number one reason is that they are not creating then it is invariably money.
Money was a topic that was off limits when I was at the art academy. It just did not fit in the same sentence with passion and creativity.
But the saying 'money makes the world go round' is true. We can’t do without it and it would be wise to develop a healthy relationship with money.
We will talk through tips, practical guidelines and a pricing formula so that you can gauge how your art fits in the market you are serving and if necessary, make the needed adjustments.
Pricing your art can be rather overwhelming and intimidating as it is difficult to put a price to something you make with such passion, conviction and enthusiasm.
Some artists even feel ashamed that they ask for money for something that comes so easy to them and what they love to do the most.
Other artists feel that the price they put on their art is a direct reflection of them as a person. The price is a value judgement of who they are.
Dealing with the mindset behind pricing is the first step in healthy pricing, finding a price that is right for your art and deal with limiting beliefs or those myths and lies you may be hearing in your head.
The overwhelm can really hit us when we can’t really gauge whether we are asking too much for our art or are undervaluing our art by asking too little.
Of course we are excited to have our latest work on show or presented on a website and what we want most of all is for somebody to fall in love with our painting and actually buy it.
If you have been a working artist for awhile then your probably had the experience of selling your art in public. If not, then just wait, this will happen to you….
'At the show opening of your new paintings, a certain individual just keeps staring at one of your pieces; hypnotised and spellbound. They just can’t get enough of it. You see them going back to the painting.
Eventually they walk up to you and introduce themselves while extending a sweaty handshake. They announce that they would love the painting. It would be perfect above their new couch in their newly renovated apartment and it is exactly what they have been looking for. It is love at first site. Then you hold your breath and you wait for the ‘BUT’.
The renovation cost way more than expected and they don’t have the budget to pay your asking price. Would you be willing to drop the price with the certainty that your painting will bring joy to many and be appreciated.'
Do you buckle to their sad puppy-eyed look or do you stand your ground feeling confident about your price and about your ability to sell your work.
Do you have the courage to say NO?
I am not saying that there is no room to negotiate. This is a given but to really slash you price and not to cover your own cost would not help you grow your art business.
I must admit standing strong is no easy feat. You know that your rent is due and that you need to top up your supplies.
Being really clear and confident about your pricing will be your lifeline in these vulnerable moments.
It is imperative to find your sweet spot when it comes to pricing because too high and you won’t sell and too low and you communicate that you don’t value your work and then others won’t either.
A huge driving force behind the pricing and value of art is demand.
To illustrate this point; just recently a drawing by Peter Paul Rubens, of a young man owned by Princess Christina, the late sister of our former queen Beatrix ,was sold at auction in New York for $8.2m including $1.2m auction costs. Prior to auction Sotherby’s estimated the net worth of the sketch at 3 million.
The sale had been widely criticised in the Netherlands because the drawing had not been offered first to the Dutch state or domestic museums. The buyer is said to be a very wealthy US collector, named by some as Leon Black, former owner of Chiquita bananas.
Whether you agree or disagree but 8 Million for a sketch? What drove the price? Why was it so expensive?
If paintings are scarce and sought after the price goes up. That is why art collecting, if you do it right can be a very lucrative investment.
If the room is empty, it is very difficult to sell. If there is an increasing demand for your work and you sell out every time then you probably will have to take a look at your price and steadily increase it.
If there is no demand for your work yet then it is wise to start to price your work modestly and see how the demand develops over time.
Be clear about your intentions.
Are you making your art as a hobby and you don’t really need to earn a living from your art?
Or are you striving to make this art a business and earn a regular income from selling.
These are two different strategies.
If you just love to create, you do it to relax or to bless others, then that is fine and you can play with your pricing or even ask people for a donation or just to cover your expenses so that you can re-invest it in art supplies.
For artists who want to grow their art business and make a living from their art then you need to be more intentional about your pricing strategy.
Let’s have a look at 13 factors that will influence the price of your art. These guidelines will help you get the right price for your art.
*This episode is predominantly about selling art that hangs on a wall. If you make sculpture or other art forms then you use the principles of these factors and apply them to your art form.
Many artists choose to count the number of hours that they work on a piece, decide on an hourly rate, add on the materials and framing and voila they have their price. This is an interesting method but it does have its drawbacks. A creative process is never the same. Sometimes you simply take longer than other days. The amount of sleep, the weather or your hormones can all affect the time and energy you can spend on a particular piece. If this is your only guideline then there will be a great fluctuation in your pricing. In order to sell consistently, radiating trust and stability then your prices need to reflect this too. I would keep a record of your hours even if it just to see how you are growing in your productivity. Just keep it at the back of your head.
Your price will also be determined as to where you are selling your art. Are you selling your art at a booth at a Farmers market? Or at a show together with your artist friends? Are you selling in rural setting where art is not yet widely appreciated or as you selling through a prestigious gallery in New York. The geographic location of where you are selling will influence how much you can ask for your art.
Are you painting in oils or acrylics, use cold wax or mixed medium, add gold leaf or use scraps. Your technique and the materials you use will determine your pricing. Are you going to frame your work of leave it unframed? Framing can easily add 200 euro’s to your art piece. Materials and your techniques used will of course influence your price.
Do you rent a studio or do you work out of your basement at home? What overhead costs do you have? How about tax? Do you do everything alone or do you have a VA helping out. Make a budget of all your expenses, your overhead and divide this into a day rate. This is the minimum amount you need to earn. If it takes you 5 days to make a painting, then you need to make a calculation and add this to your pricing equation. Take this into consideration or at least keep it at the back of your mind. What do you need to keep your art business going?
5. Level of work
A big influencer of your pricing is the level of your work. Are you just starting out or have you been painting for a few years and you have reached an intermediate level. Or are you advanced and have been working for many years and are selling well in your area, but also in your country or even abroad. Later in this episode when I walk you through the Pricing Formula I will be more specific about the different criteria and it will give you a clear and healthy framework in which you can gauge your level.
If you are selling your work through a gallery you need to take into consideration that it is normal for a gallery to take a 40 - 50% cut off the price. Gallery owners are looking for collectors and will consider offering a 10 % discount as leverage and incentive to potential buyers. This discount is also worked into the price and hoping they will be coming back for more. These are important price points to take into consideration.
If you are working through a gallery make sure that you go prepared and have the money conversation. Don’t let the flattery of being asked or selected, numb you from having a serious ‘money’ conversation. Decide what you want to earn on a painting and make clear arrangements about what they will do for you. How big is their network? How active are they on social media? What other artists do they represent? What pr and marketing are they going to do for you? Do you feel a connection? Do you feel valued and appreciated? If not I would be very cautious about asking for their representation.
In podcast Episode 14 Leonie E Brown talks about how she works with galleries and the things you can look out for. I will link to the episode in the podcast notes.
7. Direct selling
If you have chosen to represent yourself and sell directly to your public then you of course have far more control over the prices that you ask. It is only you that needs to be satisfied with the asking price. The is important to consider the demand and market you are operating in. The Pricing Formula will help you determine your pricing.
8. Selling online
The internet has changed the game for art selling. You can now finish a painting, take a photograph and put it up for sale in a matter of minutes. The platform you are selling your art on will determine your pricing. If you are selling via Etsy, Saatchi and Saatchi or Facebook, the platform's will all have a different audience and appeal. This will determine your price range.
Do some research. Have a look at what other artists in your genre and your years of experience are doing? What are they asking for their work? Are they selling?
There are thousands of artists selling their art online and you will be a small fish in a big pond. If you have chosen to sell your art online you need to be very strategic and intentional to get traction and attention. This takes lots of hard work as you really need to up your online marketing game. What can you do to draw attention to your art? How can you stand out?
I have to think of a fashion designer I know. He was having a hard time selling his new collection. He decided to think out the box. He asked some of his friends for help and had a pop-up fashion show in a bike tunnel in Rotterdam. The bikers would get off their bikes, start taking photos sharing online what they were witnessing. His clothing was getting attention of the locals.
Maybe you need to go out and do some plein-air painting or be the first artist to paint a painting while jumping out of an airplane (with a parachute of course) and create a stir.
Social media is a wonderful way to get attention and start to cause a buzz.
Check out Episode 18 How to use Instagram Stories to sell and promote your art.
It often surprises me that some bad art get such good attention and why some good art gets no attention. This often comes down to marketing. Loud marketing campaigns can really sway public opinions. Don’t be afraid to make some noise just don’t hurt yourself or get arrested.
9. Working in a series
Are you working in a series and have you sold the main pieces of this collection? Maybe there are some pieces that have not sold that well. You can negotiate this prospective buyers? Offer a discount.
Or maybe you have an older work or studies or sketches you can of course price these differently than a finished work. Just be clear in how you communicate this. Be clear about what is is and why you are asking a certain price for it. It is important to be consistent in your pricing. You can’t ask different prices for the same piece. If you are trying to sell a piece online or at a pop-up shop or through a private sale then your price needs to be the same in all instances.
10. Condition of your work
Maybe a piece is slightly damaged from taking it from show to show. You can offer this piece at a discount or even allocate a certain part of your older works for rent. This can be a nice source of income and you can rent them out again and again.
11. Is big better?
There is a general understanding that larger works sell for higher prices. Many artists fall into this trap and decide to paint really big pieces so that they can add to the asking price. This has a downside as many buyers simply don’t have the real estate space to put up a painting as large as their car. Really know your market. If people are buying your art to take with them after a vacation, then size matters. They need to add on the shipping and insurance costs or otherwise it need to fit in their suitcase or vehicle.
There have been surveys as to which art sells better. If this interests you then art with bright colours especially red seem to sell faster than paintings in duller darker tones...interesting.
Artists have also been advised to remove the sold pieces from their website gallery and put them on the portfolio part of their website. Buyers that were surveyed felt they were choosing from the leftovers and did not have the best of the pick. Something to consider.
Are you going to make reproductions? How 'unique' does your art remain - if you start selling it everywhere, the value for a collector or for someone who wants to buy something unique, decreases. I know artists that choose to never sell their originals and just monetise on reproductions, in all shapes and sizes. The selling of reproductions or licensing your art can be a great source of income.
Maybe a client has seen one of your painting and loves it but wants something just a little different. They want it custom made. Before you commit to a price. Just give yourself some space to think. Thank them for their interest and tell them you will get back to them within a day or two (or whatever works for you). A commission is generally higher than a readymade piece.
You need to take into consideration:
You really need to think before you commit to a price. Once you have fixed the price there is little to no wiggle room.
These 13 factors will influence your pricing. In the podcast notes I go through all 13 and you can see what is relevant for your art pricing.
Besides these influencing factors it is good to use a pricing formula. There are many pricing formulas out there and you need to discover and experiment what works for you.
This is a formula used by many European artists and it uses the centimeter measuring unit not inches. If you want to use this formula you first need to convert inches to centimeters and then you are good to go!!!
It is time to look at that formula you can use to determine and substantiate your pricing.
There are many formula's out there and is is just one of them. In order to get your price right you need to do some testing and experimenting. You have to discover if the formula works for you. Do some experimenting and see if this adds up for you.
1. First you ADD the length + breadth of your painting (in centimeters)
I cm = 0,39 inches
150 cm = 59 inches
Remember: If you are working in inches then FIRST covert your height and breadth of your painting into centimeters and then add the height and breadth into total centimeters.
Say you are working 59 inches (Height and Breadth) first convert to 59 inches cm = 150 cm width + 150 cm high = total 300cm
2. MULTIPLY this Total by your Experience Factor:
These are divided into 11 categories.
Here is a list of how you can determine your experience factor:
Now take the total of your height and breadth and multiply it with your experience factor.
300 cm x (Experience Factor) 5 = 1.500 euro for an oil painting of 150cm x 150cm unframed
You can really tweak your price by adding or subtracting a Bonus Factor (this is usually between 1,1 - 1,5 %)
Add a Bonus Factor when:
€1, 500 x 1,1 (%) = € 150 (bonus factor) = €1,650 .-
Subtract a Bonus Factor when:
Then you can deduct the bonus factor from the total:
€1, 500 - 1,1 (%) = € 150 (bonus factor) = €1,350 .-
You have to do some experimenting to find out what works for you. Does this price add up to what you were thinking? Or is it way off? Does the price feel right? What does your gut tell you?
It is important that once you find your price you are consistent and not fluctuate too much. Don’t raise your prices too often, once a year and never with more than 10%. Unless you are selling out quickly, this may mean your prices are too low and you need to do some adjustments.
You will know if this formula is good for you when you are selling steadily. You have found your sweet spot.
Find 5 - 8 artists that are working in a similar style, in a similar geographical area and have similar years of experience. Do a google search on them and their art.
Find out if they are selling, how they are selling and at what price. You can usually find price lists online or ask when you visit a gallery where they are exhibiting. Put their work through the formula and see how that adds up. How does your work compare to their work.
If you are uncomfortable talking price and money it would be good to practise. Make it a point to get confident naming your price especially now that you know what you are asking is a good price. Make a script as to how you will respond when people ask you.
'How much does it cost?'
Stand in front of the mirror and find the words. Do this many times until you can say it without stuttering or looking at the floor.
If you have a smartphone, then make a video of yourself. Observe your body language, your eye movements.
The next step is the practise with somebody. Ask a friend or family member to help. This may feel weird but it is a great way to get comfortable talking price. Something you can practice and learn.
If you want to find out what your pricing sweet spot is then download this free worksheet. The questions and exercises will help you get your art price just right.
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