Going from Part-time Artist to Full-time Artist? It May Help to Adjust your Prices

by Dan in Misc > Art Opinion

Published Sep. 17th 2007


I’m sure I don’t have to mention it, but there’s an extreme range of art prices online—from low-priced $50 paintings to high-priced artwork of $10,000 or more.

Sometimes I wonder if those artists truly realize how many paintings they need to sell each year to make a living from their art.

For instance, artists who sell paintings for less than $100 really have their work cut out for them. . . Creating hundreds and hundreds of paintings each year is a tall order for anyone, especially if you’re depending on those paintings for your livelihood.

And while some of the daily painters do just that, many artists who want to transition into full-time art have no desire to follow that business model.

So if you’re a part-time artist figuring out how to go pro, consider this: what if you raised prices on your art to the point where you could live off of your art alone?

Obviously that price point will be different for every artist, yet it’s easy enough to figure out for yourself. Just grab a piece of paper and a pencil (or a calculator) and go through these three steps.

1. Write down how much you’d like to earn each year. Keep it reasonable—whatever you’re currently making will probably do just fine to start with.

2. Put down the number of paintings you think you could make in a year. If it’s simpler to figure out how many paintings you could make per month, then do that and just multiply that number by twelve. As a part-time artist, you should already know how long each painting takes, right?

3. Divide the salary you wrote down by the number of paintings you feel capable of making. In a perfect world—where all your paintings sell—that’s the price you need to charge per painting to make a living from your art.

At this point you may need to ask yourself some tough questions.

For example, is the price on paper so extremely high that you doubt anyone would buy your paintings? Perhaps you need to paint faster (completing more paintings per year) so you can charge less per painting. Or maybe you just need to improve as an artist and create more demand for your work before you can charge that much for your art.

On the other hand, it’s always possible that the price on paper will be much lower than the prices of your current artwork. Perhaps you’re charging more than you have to, or you simply over-estimated how many paintings you need to create each year.

There may be other conclusions you can draw from your own circumstances, too.

Whatever your situation, the purpose of this method is to simply give you an idea of the price you’d need to charge, according to the number of paintings you think you could make each year.

After that, it’ll be up to you to actually make it happen.

Thanks to Rafi for pointing out in this article that there are other ways to earn a living as an artist, too (prints, teaching, etc). His comments also convinced me to edit this article in order to say that this method is best used as a guide, or a way to set goals for yourself, rather than figuring out exact prices for your art.

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