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“How much should I sell my art for?”
Too often, I find that artists asking that question don’t have a good sense of what their work is worth and are vastly undervaluing their art.
Case in point: I have a client who was recently offered a commission for $2,000. It sounded great on the surface, but when we dug into the details, we realized the project would run six weeks and prevent the client from doing any other work. Projecting out based on that one project, this artist would make less than $18,000/year. Basically minimum wage.
Your work is worth more than that, isn’t it? I certainly hope you believe it is.
So how should you price your art?
Subjective vs. Objective Pricing
Artists frequently price their work subjectively, meaning they give it a price based on what they think its value is. But price and value are two different things.
Value is what an artwork is worth to somebody. It’s subjective because many factors go into the value of an artwork, such as the owner’s sentiment towards it, rarity, age, etc. When we say something has a “market value,” that’s basically what a piece could get in a market. But that doesn’t always mean it’s what someone is willing to pay.
Price, on the other hand, is objective. Or at least it’s based on some objective measures. Price is a function of supply and demand (I know…economics terms always make me groan, too). As an artist, you control the supply of your artwork and you can influence the demand (see blog post: art marketing plan).
How to Price Your Art
Luckily, there’s a relatively simple way to price your art (the objective part), though it does require a little bit of math.
First, you need to consider what the cost of your supplies are. That includes all the items you need to make your art (tools, materials, etc.) but it also includes things like your rent for your studio, electricity and heating costs, etc. Basically, anything that you need to create your work should be included. This is where tracking your finances comes in handy.
Secondly, you need to figure out your hourly rate. Even though we don’t like to think of ourselves as hourly workers, this is an essential step to coming up with a fair market price for your work. To calculate this, consider what you would like to make annually before taxes. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say $52,000/year.
To calculate your hourly rate, you need to divide the annual salary by the number of hours you work each week. First, divide your annual salary by 52 (there are 52 weeks in the year), and then divide that number by the number of hours you work. For argument’s sake, let’s say 40, since that’s the standard for full-time work. Here’s what that looks like:
$52,000/52 weeks = $1,000 per week
$1000 per week/40 hours = $25/hour
That’s your hourly rate. Now, consider how long it takes you to complete a single piece of art. Let’s say something took you five hours to finish.
5 x $25/hour = $125
But that doesn’t account for things like supplies. Let’s say it costs you $50 in supplies to make a particular piece. Thus, your total cost would be $175 (your labor and supplies). It’s important to note that this should be considered the base price. Don’t forget you have to add in other factors like a portion of your studio rent, insurance, marketing costs and other overhead items. The price needs to be closer to $300 (labor + supplies + overhead)
Ultimately, how you price your work should be a combination of objective (the real costs like labor, supplies and overhead) and subjective (the desirability, rarity and non-measurable things) approaches. It should meet your bare minimum of what you need to make to sustain yourself as an artist, of course, AND you can also take into consideration how others feel about your art. The good news is, that could be a whole lot more than you think!
If pricing still feels a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. It takes time to figure out your numbers. It can also be helpful to have someone to talk to about it. Feel free to reach out for a chat if you want more space to think out loud with someone.
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