!GWAK Guides: Selling and Pricing your Art | Amber Bardell

If you’re new to selling your artwork, you might have some questions about how to price it. This guide aims to provide some tips and key ideas to get you going. The most logical way to price your work is based on time, labour, and cost of materials. Pay yourself an hourly wage that you’re happy with, then add the cost of your materials and make that your sale price.

Hours worked + cost of materials + additional value = Sale price

Artists are often advised to double the cost of materials in order to make better profit. Though I think this is deserved, consider the environment in which you are selling your art; sometimes, ramping up the price will prevent you from making any sales. Unfortunately, pricing tactically is often part of the process too.

Establishing an hourly wage is an important part of this process. Your skills as an artist more than likely surpasses those required to work in a standard, minimum wage retail job. As a selling artist, you are a professional (congrats!), so pay yourself a wage that is realistic to potentially live on, shows self respect and reflects your skill.

That additional value is made up of a variety of things and is really up to you to decide on. Some examples include:

  • Unusual and rare techniques and materials (authentic or traditional methods which can be more expensive)

  • Economic climate at the time (try not to let this drive your prices down though: valuing yourself, and your skills, goes beyond this, as it shows self respect. There will always be buyers prepared to pay the price if you can convince them it’s worth it)

  • Setting where work is being sold: this one is open for discussion, but some artists change their prices based on where they exhibit, due to the kinds of buyers it will attract. Different galleries will take different amounts of commission, so this can happen naturally. In this case, don’t try to keep a consistent price in every venue if the commission changes drastically. The most important thing is you should always be getting a minimum amount of profit (make sure to consider and decide this!).This said, it’s a bit of a paradox. Many galleries will urge you not to change the price of your art as you exhibit in different locations, as it can look unprofessional from a consumer point of view. Of course, taking commission into account is crucial and you should definitely factor this into your price, but if you’re aiming to stick to a certain price scale all over, make sure this allows for the larger commission takers, so that you won’t be taking a loss from some galleries compared to others. Other options for selling include online sites such as Etsy, or your own website: these spaces take their respective commission and you need to treat them in the same way.

You should always pick an overall price for your work which you are happy with. If you add everything up, and think the price is too low, don’t be afraid to increase it. If you aim to become a ‘commercial artist’ with consistent sales, your work should increase in value over time. Having an awareness of this possibility is great, but don’t try to force that expectation on your initial prices. Significantly overpricing with this mindset could lose you a lot of sales-you can’t sell your first work for huge money on the premise that ‘I might become famous’. Be patient and focus on building up the image around your work and yourself as an artist to increase your value organically.

As a general rule, it is great to work on creating your unique niche-something that attracts people to your work. Don’t try too hard to be niche for shock factor, as it could alienate you and lessen your chances of people actually wanting to own your work. Pandering to sales often involves building a portfolio with a consistent style, and sometimes having to make pieces you know there is a market for, even if you'd rather be doing other things. This is especially important if art will be your main source of income; sometimes, you need to draw a line between creating the more obscure work for yourself, and making pieces that will sell. For example, a potential buyer may see your work at an exhibition and take your contact details in hope of seeking more work from you in that style. Being able to replicate a process for a client’s desire or having more work for them to see which is similar but not exhibited could be the key to a sale. This said, make each piece unique too, we don’t want to see tons of near replicas - unless you’re going for a Warhol pop-art thing. Most art buyers won’t want to purchase something which feels like a replica of all the other pieces they’ve seen from you. Grow and change organically with each work.

Value from Exhibitions

As people start to get better known, they grow more worth as an artist, through the exhibitions they’ve previously had work at. As you begin to exhibit more, the galleries and places you exhibit at should be listed in a CV to show your experience.

Maybe you’re not at this point yet, but I think it’s great to understand a little about climbing the rungs of the commercial art ladder-it may come in handy later on.

We really want everyone to get paid fairly for the work that they do at !GWAK which is why we are giving you our advice on pricing your own art. As usual, our team is here to give you additional guidance if you’re uncertain about these sorts of things so don’t hesitate to get in touch! We also have a follow-on piece coming up with illustrator Will Baker, giving us an insight in to his work and how he prices it, so keep an eye out for that.

EDITING BY WILL BAKER @willbakerillustrator