How Do I Price My Work?

Picture of Money £50 notes

A confusing topic for most, there’s no really easy answer to this question.

It’s something we’ve had some (limited) experience with at ArtFest HQ and also something we’ve read a lot about. However, neither of those things help much or qualify us to provide the advice and guidance below!! These are just some thoughts to consider that might make the whole thing a little easier and hopefully give you a starting point for figuring out what to sell your work for.

Pricing your Work

So where to start?

If you like it you gotta put a price on it…

First things first. PUT A PRICE ON YOUR WORK (we’ll get to what price in a minute) – but create some labels, make them nice and clear and make sure that they can be seen by your eager visitors who are looking for something wonderful to grab them.

Even if they’re interested, a lot (most?) people will be too shy to ask for a price. They’ll assume, either that it’s not for sale, or that it’s so expensive that there’s no point in asking.

OK, fine – so what should you charge?

The Short Version

  • Pick a price that you’d be happy to let the work go for.
  • See if you sell anything.

Yup, that’s about as complicated as you need to make it.

There will be a price, below which, you’d frankly rather not sell the work – that’s your minimum price. You can obviously go above that if you think you can sell for a higher price but any lower and you’ll be annoyed at actually having sold something – not a great place to be.

The Longer Version

There really is no single formula for doing this, but there are a number of things to bear in mind.

  • Your work is worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. In some respects, it doesn’t matter how long it took you to make, how much it cost you in terms of materials, or what you think it’s worth. If no one will pay what you’re asking, the price is wrong.
  • One approach to finding your minimum price is to:
    • Set yourself an hourly rate (you need to decide what your time is worth)
    • Work out the cost of your materials
    • Factor in any premium for how much you like the work/how much you do/don’t want to sell it
    • Your formula would then be:
      • hourly rate x no.of hours + cost of materials + premium
      • As an example, let’s say you think your time is worth £15 an hour, the piece takes 20 hours and materials were £30. You’d end up with (15 x 20) + 30 = £330 + any premium.
  • Size matters! Bigger works tend to sell for more than smaller works (by the same artist). So one approach might be to find a piece where you have a firm idea of a price and then extrapolate from there, based on size. For example, you have a 20 x 16 inch painting that you think is worth £600. This would give you a rough price per sq inch of: 600 / (20 x 16) = £1.875.
    • A smaller canvas might be 10 x 8 (80sq inches).The price of this would therefore work out at about 80 x 1.875 = £150.
  • Works on paper tend to be worth less that paintings on canvas or board. Again, there’s no hard and fast formula for working out a relationship between these. You could just use the same formula as above and see where you end up, as generally speaking it’s quicker to produce work on paper (although not always).
  • The Venue. Think about where you’re selling and who you’re selling to.
    • If you’re selling work in a gallery, typically customers are more open to buying art and expect to pay a higher price. The gallery will also take up to 50% commission  – so again, work tends to be more expensive.
    • Contrast that with ArtFest – it’s a street fair with a mixed audience and the price they’ll be expecting/willing to pay, is likely to be lower.
    • An important note, however, is that if you are in the position of already being represented by a gallery then you need to price your work consistently (perhaps with a special show discount). At the very least you need to consult your gallery to see what they are comfortable with.
  • Higher or Lower?
    • On the one hand it’s better to start low and move prices higher as you find you’re selling
    • On the other hand – don’t go too low. Many artists starting out typically start off too low and under-price their work. This is your work – your precious, hard won, original work. Be confident in it and don’t be afraid to set a high price, if you think that’s what it’s worth. If you think about it, when you see something that’s too cheap, you view it as exactly that – cheap (and of poor quality)!! – I didn’t say this stuff was easy…
  • Finally, taking all that into account, you should end up at a price for your work.

Have fun with it! – if you’re just starting out, maybe go for the cost (minimum) price, add a bit and go from there.

It’s not all about the Money!

PLEASE remember, it’s not ALL about selling, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t sell anything. Whilst the starving artist thing is frankly over-rated, we’d probably all being doing something else if we were motivated by making as much cash as possible!

There’s so much more to get out of the day – meet other artists, see all the other work, talk to people, try stuff out, learn in a friendly, safe environment and hopefully have a really good day 🙂

Is that it?

Well…if you want a longer, more detailed look at how the art market works and some thoughts from a gallery owner on how to price work, check out Alix Sloan at the New York Academy, talking to students about pricing their work.