There isn’t much certainty around how to price your art, but two things are clear when it comes to pricing.
First, it’s a struggle for most artists. And, second, there’s a good chance that your prices are too low.
The difficulty with pricing art is legendary. You’re not the only one who doesn’t have it all figured out.
Even if you’re confident in your prices today, it’s almost guaranteed that you will question them again within a few weeks or months.
You heard it here first. You are not the only artist who has doubts about pricing.
And these doubts are compounded when your art isn’t selling. I’ll save that topic for another post.
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Your Prices Might Be Too Low
Knowing that the reservations about your pricing may always exist, let’s move on to that second thing. The probability that your pricing is too low.
Many artists—especially those who are just starting out—undervalue their art. Their work isn’t priced correctly to be able to split 50% of the sale with a gallerist, art consultant, or anyone else, let alone make a profit.
Artists who price their work too low are making things difficult for other artists who are pricing their work appropriately for the market and who need to make a living from sales.
It’s not good to be the “cheapest” artist.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you would be happier getting higher prices for your art. But you don’t know if your art warrants it or if this is the right time. You’re scared to make the wrong move.
Fear not! Here are 5 reasons to raise your prices and how to do it.
to raise your prices.
1. The numbers reveal the depressing truth.
You’ve done the math and it’s depressing.
After taking into consideration everything that goes into making your art, you realize that you’re paying yourself next to zippo.
Nobody wins when you aren’t even covering your costs, let alone paying yourself. You must raise your prices.
2. Your pricing is uneven.
If you notice that there isn’t enough difference between two sizes or two disparate mediums, consider raising the prices on those that seem too low.
It’s hard to account for different mediums. Or for work that needs framing and work that is on canvas, especially given that works on canvas often have a higher perceived value. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)
Yet, it’s easy, over time, for pricing to become skewed. Time to make adjustments and raise prices where necessary.
3. The cost of your materials has increased.
This is a no-brainer. If it costs you more to make it, you should be charging more.
Back in 2011, I followed an artist who was increasing her prices due to the soaring cost of silver. She wrote an explanatory email to her list, in which she shared a detailed graph showing the price of silver’s dramatic incline.
The graph made it much easier to understand. We can comprehend the big difference from $4.50 an ounce to $30 an ounce, but it’s even more dramatic to see a sharply ascending red arrow off the right side of a graph.
Aha! We get it. Her material prices have gone up.
If it costs you more to make it, you should be charging more.
4. You can't keep up with the demand for your art.
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. (I retained some knowledge from Econ 101.)
Being in high demand sounds like a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem—especially when your prices are too low. You are justified in raising your prices when there is more work than you can handle.
5. You start selling through galleries or another new market.
You might be selling well on your own and come to the conclusion that you want your work to be in galleries. Or to be handled by a consultant. You realize that you must split the sale with someone else.
But (Doink!) you didn’t factor a commission into your pricing.
Best business practices warrant that you include a possible (future) 50% commission in all of your pricing. If you haven’t done that, you need to face the music and increase your prices tout de suite.
And … Let’s hope you don’t have to raise them 50% at once because that’s a shock to the system if they’ve been selling well at the lower prices.
Now, here’s how to put your new prices out there.
HOW TO RAISE PRICES
Commit. Take action.
If you sell through galleries, other retail spaces, or consultants and want to raise your prices, schedule a conversation with those in charge. You need their input because they know their market and what it will bear.
You want to know that they believe they can sell the work at higher prices.
If they agree, it’s a win-win. You make more and they make more.
When You Only Sell Directly to Collectors
If you only sell directly to buyers, you can raise your prices after doing your homework and meeting one of the criteria above.
Upon opting to increase your prices, make sure you have a plan to put all of the pieces into place.
Keep in mind that higher prices are usually only on new work. Will you stick to that rule of thumb or be raising prices on work you already have in inventory?
Rip off the Band-aid and go forward with confidence.
Always announce your decision first to previous purchasers of your work—giving them an opportunity to buy at your current prices.
They will understand your situation so there is no reason to be afraid of telling them.
What to Say to Collectors
Your collectors are the people who have been supporting you. You want to do everything to keep them happy and in the loop. Consider wording similar to this.
Things have been going very well for me, which is good news. On the flip side, I can’t seem to keep up with demand, so I need to raise my prices.
Because you’ve been such a valuable supporter, I want to offer my work to you at current pricing for the next 30 days. After that, my prices will increase by x%.
Of course you must be specific about which work the price increase will apply to.
Contacting them in advance and giving them an opportunity to add to their collection before your prices go up makes them feel special. It also build trust. They’ll have confidence, based on this one interaction, that you’ll always do right by them.
Collectors should feel good about investing in your art early on in your career. They’ll be delighted to know that you’re successful enough to raise your prices.
This post was originally published October 27, 2016 and has been updated with the edition of a podcast episode. Original comments left intact.