“Got to decide how much to charge. I worry about making the wrong decision, but if I don’t do it I guarantee 100% no sales” This is the struggle of Amy. And… thousands of other artists. How to price your art to make people want to buy it but at the same time make a living? That’s a tough one! However, there are a few techniques you can use to make this process easier. Also remember: nothing is set in stone.
We’re not at school
Setting the price is a trial and error process. There are no good or bad decisions, we’re not at school. Remember: this is your business and you can do whatever you want! Another question is, whether it works, but this is another topic. If you decide you sell exclusive pieces to luxury collectors and you charge 10x more than your competitors, do it. Example? Read about the most expensive photo ever sold. Do you think your art is not good enough to be sold at such prices? The photo mentioned above is very controversial as thousands of people have a very similar one – in fact, practically everybody visiting Arizona’s Antelope Canyon. So why was it sold for such a high price? Well, this is marketing. And the artist’s ego (Peter Lik is known for controversial, expensive photographs).
You can always change your mind
What if after some time you realize your price is too high or too low? Well, guess what? Nothing! You just change it! Again: this is your art and your business! You can also use the price change to your advantage in your own marketing. For example, if you decide to increase the price, you can create a promotion: “Last few days before the price gets higher. Don’t miss it!”. Here. Nobody will judge you for making a mistake. Quite the opposite, people will appreciate what a smart marketer you are.
Now, let’s get to the point…
How to price your art?
1. An hourly rate
This is the first option you should consider when you price your art. Some artists base their prices on the number of hours they spend on a project. You can decide how much you’d like to earn per hour, count all the time you’ve spent on creating the piece of art and simply do the math. And if it’s a commission? Well, you have to estimate the time you need for it or you can charge the hourly rate. However, you have to give at least the estimated amount to the client – nobody likes price surprises.
2. Check your competition
It’s good to know how much your competition is charging. Why? Well, if your prices are way higher or lower, the clients may get confused and it doesn’t look good. You can put different prices than your competitors, but your clients have to clearly understand where the difference comes from, e.g. “We use only the highest quality wood imported from Japan” (I’m totally inventing here). Or: “We want to support the local craftsman so we use the paints created handmade in the home workshops” (Again, totally inventing just to give you an idea).
Coming back to your competition. If what you do is not so much different from what the others do (considering the time, materials, etc), try to find out the range of offers and decide where do you want to place yourself: on the higher end, the lower one or somewhere in the middle. Remember, the price is not everything. Actually, many studies show that price is a determining factor in the buying decision more rarely than we expect. It is also a way to position yourself: if you charge more than others, you position yourself as a luxury, fine art artist, and a high-quality specialist. But it all depends on your target audience (if you haven’t already determined yours yet, make sure to read How to find your target audience?). If your ideal customers are not art collectors and they just want to have something nice in their house or they need an affordable, but a unique gift, they probably won’t pay a premium price. This way we arrive at the next point…
3. How much people are willing to pay?
The competitors’ research is not everything. You may be surprised by how much people are willing to pay for your product. I know it might not be easy, but try asking people from your target audience how much they would be ready to pay for your art. You may discover they value what you do more than you do and they would be happy to pay double of what your competition is charging. In such cases, just go for it, price your art high and don’t care about the rest of the market!
4. Consider all the costs
You have to know how much it costs to create every piece of art – not only how much time it takes, but also what materials you have to buy. You also have to consider the bills you pay, taxes, etc. Keep in mind that some things get used with time and in every commission or job you have to earn a bit of money to be able to change them when the time comes. For example, in my case as a photographer, I have to consider that my camera is not immortal and the more I use it, the faster I’ll have to buy a new one. I also have to keep in mind all the costs of lenses and accessories that I may need to buy in the future to do my job well.
5. What feels good to you?
What if they are willing to pay much less than you expected? Then you have to analyze the whole situation. However, I’ll give you a piece of advice from my personal experience: never charge less than you feel your art is worth. I know, we are all desperate to sell sometimes, but trust me: if you do it, you’ll feel so bad you’ll regret making that sale in the first place. If you charge less than what you feel your work is worth, you destroy your self-esteem and after a while, you’ll start hating your art and you won’t feel like doing it at all, even if you love it! Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve learned to reject jobs, even if they could bring me some income, but if they are worth much more and if they’d cost me a nervous breakdown, they’re just not worth it. Setting the price, listen to yourself, check how your body feels about it. My dad told me once: “All the bad decisions I’ve made in my life were those when I didn’t listen to my intuition”. So trust your gut!
How to charge commissions?
“Aleksandra, but these techniques work for somebody who sells ready artworks. What if my services are more complex and I can’t immediately estimate how much time and work they’ll take?” Good question. In such cases, you can charge an hourly rate, but still, you have to give the client the estimated number of hours. You can also set a basic price and explain to the client in advance what is included in it and that if there is more work required, you’ll charge an additional fee. This happens often for example with website design. Of course, the client prefers to know the price in advance, and it’s totally understandable, so try to estimate the price the best you can. However, there are still services where the unexpected may happen and if you explain it to your clients in advance, they’ll know what to expect.
Now you know how to price your art. Combine the techniques mentioned above to find the price that sounds good to you and if you change your mind, just change your price. Remember, don’t get too stressed about it! You’re turning your art into a job, it’s your dream come true! So enjoy every step of the way and improve as you go! It’s not a test!
Do you have any comments about the topic? Any other ideas or techniques that you’re using? Share them in the comments! And make sure to share this article with your artist friends struggling with pricing their work!