Tuesday 5 March 2013

Some tips on pricing art - and other practical things!

I had a question today from an artist who has doing my UnEarth your Creative Nature eCourse and is now in my #creativebeings group. I'm especially proud of this particular 'student' as I know she's bravely overcome a lot of blocks to put her work in the public domain!

The question was about pricing artwork.

This is a tricky one.  I have my own views on this, which I will now divulge.  These views have been formed through selling my own work, running and gallery & craft shop and through being somebody who loves to buy handmade things.

Some art we see for sale at The Art House is gorgeous, but priced so high that nobody will buy it - at least not here.  

On the other hand, some artists price their painting, jewellery and other handmade items so low, in a desperate bid to sell quickly or from a lack of confidence, that they're literally giving away potential earnings.

Indeed, may of us have ACTUALLY given away work because of our many money blocks, I know I have!

So, how DO you price your work?

Brace yourselves, possums, for this hippy is also an experienced entrepreneur running a £100K+ nonprofit, and we're going to get business-y for a moment (disclaimer - I'm not giving professional biz advice here so don't sue me if my ideas don't work for you, m'kay?!).

You are the best and only good judge of your prices.

Ultimately, you need to value your work so that you are rewarded for your time, skills, materials and the time spent marketing it. If you want to earn a living from your art, you're going to need to approach this with a clear head and be willing to get the calculator out.

Setting a price is a fine art, so first of all give yourself permission to learn as you go, and change your pricing as you need to. Don't set anything in stone - keep all offers, sales agreements and so on short term so that you are free to tweak them.

The steps I describe later may seem intimidating, so for somebody starting out trying to sell just a few pieces, I'm going to offer a shortcut.  In truth, I think the shortcut is the best way, in many respects.

Imagine, or do it for real if you like, putting your work for sale on a 'pay what you can' basis, or putting it up for auction. If you CAN do this for real, it's worth it, in my opinion, to get clear in your mind what you're happy to sell you work for. See it as an investment!

So, either put a piece up for sale on a 'pay what you can' or auction basis to your followers, or imagine yourself doing this. You can use ebay for this, or just post on Facebook if you have a Facebook page (if you don't, go do that now and read this later - trying to sell work without social media on your side is going to be tiring and I won't help you do it, hunny bunny!).

Now, imagine (or look at the actual prices, if you do it for real) what people choose to pay.

What feels too little? You'll spot this feeling very quickly, as your response to the price will be either horror, sadness, anger or indignation.

What feels too much? Why does it feel to much? What sort of feeling is 'too much' giving you - guilt? Pressure to perform? Fear? Or do you genuinely, honestly feel that the person wouldn't be getting their money's worth?

If the answer to 'why' it feels to much feels at all like you're under rating your work, re-examine (clue, it usually is!).

This should give you a good figure to be starting off with! In fact, it's my belief that you can sell for years using this method alone, trusting your inner wisdom to guide you to a price that is a 'sweet spot' for you.

Here's a more complicated version, which you don't have to do all at once and can implement as you go.

Firstly, inform yourself about your market. Take a look what others who do similar work are charging, just for research purposes. This is NOT so that you can undercut them, or price the same, but just so that you can position your own work in relation to what else is out there, and learn from what else is around.

Never, ever let your prices be dictated by what others are charging or what you think your customers will pay.

Yes, you read that right.

YOU decide your prices. Once you know what you are happy to be paid, the rest is down to communication.

If you take the time to identify what your work is really, truly worth, all you need to do is convince your customer to believe the same thing you do. Tell them honestly what they are getting for their money. Share your process, your ideas and your unique identity as a person with your customers.

Make a connection.

Evaluate your work in terms of it's strengths. How unique is it? Where and how would it be used? What sort of person will like it? What is special about it? What would owning it feel good? Why? How would somebody's life be improved by this art?

In short, WHY is it worth the amount you've chosen?

Look at the practical stuff, too. Work for sale should be durable, professionally presented and you'll need to look at packaging and delivering it properly, too. Unless you are using a site like Red Bubble o print and package for you, you will need to make sure you have a good quantity of bubble wrap, padded envelopes and stiff card to protect work in transit.

Your service should be professional and you should make your customer feel excited and special to be owning your work. Think about decorating the envelope, including a handwritten note, sprinkling glitter, wrapping with something interesting.... let your customer be delighted by the package when it arrives.

This personal touch is why handmade is better than mass produced.  Many mass produced items look very similar to handmade, so you need to make sure yours has something special, to justify the bigger price tag.

Think about why people buy handmade art. Communicate this to your customer. Tell them why your work is different, special and worth the price.

Good luck!

How do you price your work? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below.


  1. Nice post Jani.

    I price in a few different ways for my work. Most of my work is either knitted, crochet or sewn, so it is a little different to price, but the basics are the same. I add up the cost of materials used and the amount of time taken to make each item. I also calculate in some overhead costs, such as heating and lighting the area I work in and the cost of running the sewing machine etc... I try to cost fairly for those buying the goods but also to be fair to me to cover all my costs and make a little money as a wage. After all I support and fight for fair trade for other producers and crafts men and women, so I need to apply that fair trade to myself too.

    I only disagree with one thing in your post and that is the glitter in envelopes and parcels. I know a lot of people dislike opening envelopes to have glitter fall all over the place. It can cause these people not to come back and re-order from you (I learned this the hard way).

    If you want to include sparkle in you parcel put it in a small ziplock bag so they can choose if they want to sprinkle or not. You may think "I don't care if someone that grumpy doesn't come back to order from me", but remember it is not only grumpy people that dislike glitter getting sprinkled all over the place. Some people have health issues that involve having to have clean rooms (eg home dialysis) and anyone that is glitter addicted will know that glitter gets EVERYWHERE no matter how careful you are. People with pets or small children that like to lick up this stuff, hate it. Vet bills for pet treatments are expensive if they eat something scratchy and sharp like metal confetti and sitting in A&E with small children... well you get what I mean. Basically there are good reasons some people don't want confetti/glitter falling out of a parcel, so be kind to them and allow them the choice not to have that happen when they open your parcels.

    1. That is some great glitter advice, thanks :) I forget that everyone isn't quite as happy to have a glitter-sprinkled home as I am!

  2. When I started out it was hard to know what to charge. So i started putting stuff up on ebay with a start price of the materials I'd used plus some postage. This was a fairly good way to get a gauge of how much to charge.. however the big thing I've discovered is location and venue are the real determining factor. If a violinist busked on a street corner he'll earn a few pounds, if he plays the Albert hall he'll earn hundreds. Art is much the same, and the venue can really effect the price. My website sells my work for much more then as much as I used to sell it on ebay (which is like an internet carboot sale). My advice build youself as a brand, and get seen in the best places, and price accordingly.

    1. This is VERY good advice Sam! I agree, eBay is an interesting place to start (from what I'm told) but it's far better to build a good site and sell from there. Your site and Facebook page are an excellent model for 'how it's done' :)

  3. Thank you for this Jani and friends. I am struggling with pricing as most of the value is in the time spent and the uniqueness of my work, both of which are difficult to value. A Dorset Button pendant can easily take 3 hours to make. I am also finding the pricing of workshops really difficult, how do you value a skill? I like the pay what you can idea and will try it with a few pieces as a test. I have set up an Ebay account for the business and only use it to buy materials etc. Not sure if it will work for selling but again I will do a test. I am thinking a lot about potential customers and feel I need to get my stuff seen by people who will appreciate where the value of the work lays rather than showing it to people who want to pay car boot prices... this is the tricky part and I'm working on how to present my work to appeal to that audience. When I have some wisdom to add here I promise to share :)

    1. Hi Clare - I'd love to work with you on this, sometime! There are plans for a Creative Biz Planning sesh at The Art House soon :)


Want to stay in touch?