Increase Prices for Your Art (Perhaps)

It must be something in the air. Pricing art has been on the minds of a number of my clients in the last few weeks. Almost all are interested in raising their prices and almost all of them should raise their prices.
Raising prices isn’t something I take lightly or recommend frequently. In fact, just a few weeks ago I was at an exhibit and was aghast at the high prices on one emerging artist’s work. Increasing your prices happens only after you’ve taken into account a number of factors. Here are six to consider.

Keith Bond
Keith Bond, Oakley Winter. Oil on linen, 20 x 26 inches. ©The Artist

1. You did the math and it just didn’t add up.
You finally sat down with a pencil and paper and figured out that you’re paying yourself $1.50 an hour. Stop that!
2. You compared apples to apples and yours is the rotten one.
When you compare prices, look for similarities in style, sizes, and medium by artists who are at a comparable point in their careers. Also (and this is often overlooked), make sure their art is actually selling! Prices don’t mean a thing if the work hasn’t been selling. If you go through this exercise and find out that your art is the cheapest, consider it a wake-up call. Being the cheapest is not necessarily a good thing.
3. You can’t keep up with the demand for your art.
Helloooooooo. If you can’t make enough work to fulfill commissions and orders and maintain inventory to show at galleries or art festivals, you need to raise your prices. It’s the law of supply and demand. (Hey, I remember something from my econ classes!)
4. You discover uneven pricing.
If you look at one of your price sheets and notice that there isn’t enough difference between two sizes or two disparate media, consider raising the prices of those that seem too low.
5. You have or have added work that requires more effort.
Some artists have art that they consider easier. It’s faster to make and might even be formulaic. These are on the low end of your pricing scale. Then there might be another line that requires more research and attention to detail. You would charge more for this work. Ditto for commissions. Whenever a project requires that you create sketches, maquettes, or make a client happy, charge more!
6. You’re dejected.
You know you aren’t getting paid for what your art is worth. You’ve earned your stripes selling art over the years, and you’re tired of hearing how “affordable” the work is. It turns your stomach to sell your art so cheaply. When you no longer enjoy making or selling art, it’s time to make changes.
FINAL WORD: Pricing is one of the most difficult decisions for artists to make. While raising prices in tough economic times seems counter intuitive, you always want to be sure you are being paid what you’re worth.

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12 thoughts on “Increase Prices for Your Art (Perhaps)”

  1. Alyson,
    If any of your readers live near Houston, the Professional Development Seminar will be sponsoring an hour long program about Pricing with 6 speakers using various media from gold and diamonds to paper. Then we will continue with an informal lunch discussion.
    We will go from pricing formulas to intuition and the marketplace.
    I hope some of you can come. Here is the program below.
    Bruce Baker: The Art of Selling
    Discover the Four Sales Steps that turn a browser into a buyer. Navigate around that troublesome discount issue, and make the sale. Whether you sell from your studio, galleries, wholesale or retail craft shows or via a website this program provides valuable tools for selling your work.
    Not Just Another Pricing Lecture: A Dialog about Pricing Your Work
    Pricing is a key element in finding markets, generating sales and achieving financial success.
    What labor rate should I charge per hour?
    Am I charging enough? Too much?
    Did I take all my expenses into account?
    Will the wholesale price permit a reasonable retail price?
    What about discounting?
    The list of questions can be endless and keep you up at night.
    Our speakers include a variety of perspectives and approaches:
    Marlene Ritchey, Guido Schindler, Jennifer Trask, Kiwon Wang, Francesca Vitali.
    Come to the PDS to find answers to your pricing quandaries and work towards a balance sheet that produces income!
    LOCATION: Hyatt Regency Houston
    1200 Louisiana Street
    Houston, Texas
    TIME: 9:00 to 12:00
    FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY by an informal lunch with our speakers. Bring your lunch. Our lunch discussion starts immediately.
    Jump into the conversation, participate in the dialog.
    Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions. Harriete Estel Berman

  2. Forgot the DATE for the Professional Development Seminar.
    March 12, 2010
    LOCATION: Hyatt Regency Houston
    1200 Louisiana Street
    Houston, Texas
    TIME: 9:00 to 12:00
    FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY by an informal lunch with our speakers. Bring your lunch.
    Our lunch discussion starts immediately.
    Jump into the conversation, participate in the dialog.
    Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions. Harriete Estel Berman

  3. Thanks! I raised my prices this year. I did it for 2 reasons. 1) I hadn’t raised my prises in a year in a half yet everything I use, from brushes to auto expenses has gone up. A Lot! Even if I sell the same number of paintings I did 18 months ago, I’m making less money. That’s bad business. 2) I looked around and found that I’m selling my work for less than other comparable artists. That make my work look less valuable.

  4. I’ve been debating raising the prices for my commissioned portraits. While I know they’re worth more and that other artists are charging more or similar work… I’m not established enough yet.
    Guess I’ll focus on getting more clients before I try to increase the price. As soon as I work myself out of time, prices will be going up.

  5. I too raised my prices late last year. It had been 3 years since I’d established my prices as a painter. I sold more paintings last year than in any year before, received an award in a museum venue and was accepted into a new gallery, so I felt a price increase was justified. I am continuing to sell work at the higher price which is a big relief. K. is right, expenses in everything have gone up. Nobody is going to give us a raise, it is up to us to evaluate our situation and decide when to increase prices.

  6. I know a lot of people never consider also the shipping expenses, insurance and Paypal perhaps along with their commission, costs etc. This seemed to be my failure until repricing for 2010 especially since foundry prices have jumped in the last four years. I sculpt so am dealing with a lot of weight and had been just guessing from invoices in including my expenses but now I weigh piece with packing included and there is quite a difference and the insurance prices have gone up it seems. In a bad economy you sure don’t want to underprice yourself so badly that you are not even breaking even. It is hard to think creatively and work on the black and red at the same time. I am also spending 2010 trying to see where I might tweak some things to cut expenses…knowledge is power. Thanks Alyson for bringing things to light for all of us and encouraging us.

  7. Pingback: Get a Grip on Why People Buy Art — Art Biz Blog

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    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Pat: Not at all! If you can’t keep up with demand, you’d be silly not to raise your prices. It’s basic economics.
      I didn’t say raise them so high that people won’t buy. But the smart artist will raise them when demand is great.

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