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Easy Hacks for Pricing Your Artwork

October 04, 2020 by Elena Atkinson-Sporle

Kingas.grapes, photo: Stefan Joham

You’ve finally found your unique style and are beginning to tell stories through oil paints. Your newly refined collage textures are excitedly waiting to complete an enthusiast’s collection. Now all you have to do is price your artwork…

Pricing non-commission artwork can be one of the most complex tasks for artists, especially for those at the very beginning of their careers. Often the prospect of putting a value on our work inhibits us from selling our work at all – but it doesn’t have to be so draining. We’ve gathered some industry-used formulae to help make pricing your work easier. Happy pricing!

Why is pricing so difficult?

As artists, we make ourselves vulnerable through our art. Our pieces display our inner-workings, stories and identities. It’s a challenge to overcome emotionality and price this work objectively.

Beyond emotionality, the price of artwork varies drastically in today’s market. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where in this price range you should aim.

Photo: Jonathan Weidenbruch

The dangers of over/under-pricing

It’s crucial to be in the right ballpark with your pricing. Price your work too high and it’s unlikely you’ll find a buyer. You’ll feel rejected – a damaging affair for new artists. 

Think about why you’re over-pricing – are you emotionally attached to your piece? If this is the case, do you really want to see it go? Make sure you check your ego too.

Set your prices too low and you could be doing yourself and other artists a disservice. With so much competition in the art market, it can seem tempting to lower your prices and sell yourself and your work short. This mindset, however, has led to buyers thinking they can get art for next to no costs. Is this an arts community you want to be a part of? 

Additionally, bear in mind that the public perception of what is worthy of time and attention is directly influenced by price. It’s a fundamental rule of economics – goods are only as valuable as we perceive them to be. 

So, let's start evaluating!

Here are a few industry-used formulae to help calculate a ballpark range for the price of your work. Whether you paint, draw, makes collages or use digital means, here are some easy, universal methods to find a suitable price for your art.

3 main variables contribute to the pricing of your work:

  1. Time – how many hours did it take to create the piece? This includes planning, research and production time. Keep a journal!
  2. Experience – where are you in your career? Do you have a big following already or are you pricing your first few marketed paintings?
  3. Costs of materials

To achieve the most educated evaluation of your artwork, consider working with all of the following formulae and comparing the prices you get for each. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find a sweet spot in the middle of the figures.

1. Do Your Market Research!

Base your pricing off comparable artworks.

Research the price of artworks from artists working similarly to you. Find pieces by such artists that are comparable in size, colour, style and materials. Consider the reputation of the artist, their geographical base, and their production rate. 

Where possible, visit the artworks and artists in person. Enquire as to how they calculate the price of their work. Once you have an idea of all this, you can start to set your artworks at prices within a reasonable range!

2. Height, Width and Reputation

Here’s an easy art-pricing formula from artistsnetwork.com: (square inches x your price per inch) + (cost of materials)

  1. Height (e.g. 10 in) x Width (e.g. 8 in) = y square inches (e.g. 80 in)
  2. y x set amount appropriate for your reputation (e.g. 80 x €5 = €200)
  3. + material costs (e.g. 200 + 50 = €250)

Pros: your pricing will be fairly consistent.

Cons: time isn’t a variable.

The following formulae rely on you establishing your minimum wage. Consider the following when determining this: What is the minimum wage for artists in your region? Where do you consider yourself in your career? Beginner? Novice? Experienced? How much will you be taxed?

Start low and ask yourself, “Is this an hourly amount I’d be happy to work for?” Keep going up until you find a comfortable price for you.

3. Hourly Salary

Cost of materials + (hours x wage/hour)

(e.g. 50 + (10 x 20) = 250)

Pros: This is the formula favourited by many artists. Short, sweet and simple.

Cons: Size isn’t accounted for. A larger but less labour-intensive piece could end up being half the price of a smaller, more intricate piece. This may confuse your customers.

4. The Linear Inch

Square inch (useful for individual commission works) 

(Height (in) + Width (in)) x wage/hour

(8 + 10) x 16 = 288

Pros: factors in both time and size

Cons: Be cautious – if two of the same sized paintings took a drastically different amount of time to paint, customers might not understand the price disparity. Prices should be somewhat comparable.

Final Thoughts!

Have artworks for sale at multiple price points. Sell cheaper labour-light work alongside your masterpieces.

Be consistent! It should be easy for the customer to see why your pieces are priced as they are in relation to one another.

Be transparent with your prices. Make sure customers know how much they can expect to pay for your work. The cost shouldn’t be a secret!

Have confidence in your pricing and stand by it.

Respect your work, be confident and set up healthy relationships between yourself and your clients. 

Check out some of our favourite visual artists!

The littlebig.art platform is packed with amazing visual artists. From N.D.C.M‘s golden collages to Kingas.grapes‘ Corona Portraits, there’s inspiring works in all sorts of media.

Have any pricing hacks you’d like to share with us? Write to us on Facebook or Instagram!

Ellie Atkinson-Sporle
Content Creation, Storytelling

Ellie is a storyteller for littlebig.art. Originally from the UK, she earned her BA Music degree from Falmouth University in 2018. Ellie fell in love with Vienna while travelling and has been performing, writing and exploring here ever since. Storytelling and initiating discussions are two of her greatest passions.