Pricing your work

It is important to remember that, in line with much of the knowledge within the visual arts, there are no right answers or standard formula for pricing your work.

As in any capitalist system, the price you can charge for your work is set by the market of people buying it, and not just by the person trying to sell. Naturally, that’s not very helpful when someone asks you how much you want for a piece of your work – a question you should always have an answer for – but by making selling into a negotiation from a starting point may help increase your sales and make you more comfortable ascribing a financial value to your work.

Material cost

How much did your materials cost?  Before you do anything else, you should consider your expenses in making the physical work and make sure to factor in covering them.  This will be your base on top of which you will add your artist fees and other costs.

Materials costs can in many cases be deducted from profits when calculating your tax.

Pricing ‘experience’

In addition to your costing for making work, another notion to consider when you are pricing your work is your own perceived value as an artist.

This ‘value’, difficult to pin-down and unique to each artist, is increased by milestones such as:

  • Years of practice
  • Professional accomplishments – previous sales, publications, sitting on awards panels etc
  • Major group or solo exhibitions
  • Residencies in the UK and overseas
  • Profile of the partners and organisations you work with
  • Your artistic reputation – press, publiciticy and awards
  • The increasing quality and complexity of your work

The more of these ‘markers’ you pass in your career, the more you justify an increased price to someone buying your work – and the more you can reasonably charge. Read more on experience and fees here.

Pricing degree show work

As with anything, there are exceptions to every rule, but by and large collectors (from big names down to family and friends) tend to be willing to pay no more than £1,000 for work at BA level and up to £2,000 for MA work.

If your work is exceptionally large, exceptionally intricate or your materials are exceptionally costly, then of course your price point will be higher than these guidelines.

Note that these are approximate maximum prices and not a value to ascribe to all your work, regardless of size, materials cost or quality.

Benchmarking

To have a clear idea about pricing your work, you also need to know what comparable artists are doing. Your peers could be considered as comparable artists to you right now; artists who are at a similar place in their career to you and whose medium is comparable to yours (i.e. if you paint oil on large canvases do not compare yourself to a sculptor who works in marble or video artist).

This research is important to give you a realistic and relevant view of the market.  If everyone else that you compare yourself to is selling work at between (say) £1,500 and £3,000 but you want to sell your work at £5,500, you may need to consider lowering your prices until your reputation or some other factor warrants the differential.  Similarly, if you are considering selling your work for around the £400 in this scenario, you might want to increase your prices (and your self-confidence in pricing your work).  In effect, you are ‘benchmarking’ your artworks within a pricing range and giving yourself realistic limits to work within.

Increasing your prices

Once you have established a starting price point, you will need to grow gradually upward from there over time. Prices for your work cannot go down without risking your market, as previous collectors will be left with work worth less than when they bought it.

This may seem obvious, but often recent graduates or emerging artists will price their work at the top of the ‘reasonable’ mark. Once that artist sells one or two works, they may think that they can start raising their prices. Bear in mind that you have your entire career to steadily increase your prices and earn money. This is a gradual and slow process.

Artists could consider increasing their prices somewhere between 10% -20% after each major milestone in their career such as:

  • After a major group show with significant other artists
  • After a sell-out solo show
  • After winning a major prize
  • After a successful year of press and sales

This article is exrracted from Medeia Cohan-Petrolino’s talk on pricing, below.


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