Four Pillars of a Strong Art Pricing Strategy

Published Sep. 13th 2011

Which of the following statements do you hear most often about your prices?

“You’re asking HOW much for your art??”

“What a bargain! I thought it would be much more!”

Neither is ideal, of course. . . the best price usually lies somewhere in between these two extremes.

When a potential buyer looks at your work, price is not the first thing they’re interested in. First, they decide whether they like it enough to want to know more. If they do, then they’ll want to know about the price.

And then, without necessarily having clear reasons, they will make an assessment of whether or not the price is too high, too low or just right.

A few weeks back, in 6 Art Pricing Mistakes to Avoid, I wrote, “The trick is that in order to sell, we need to bridge the gap between the value we put on our art, and the amount that someone else is willing to pay. And however you decide to bridge that gap is your pricing strategy.”

Regardless of how you sell your art, you are in charge of your pricing strategy. To bridge the gap, and to ride out the ups and downs of any economic climate, you need to build up four pillars to support your art pricing strategy:

• Your Attitude
• Your Art
• Your Audience
• Your Art Market

Let’s break it down piece by piece.

Your Attitude

Start with an attitude that your art is worth selling, otherwise no price will feel right to you. A big part of sales is self-assurance, so be confident about yourself, your art and your value. If you do not value your work, neither will others.

At the same time, keep an attitude of respect for your audience. Without that respect, no price will sound right to them. The key to closing most sales depends on people liking and trusting you. If you do not value your viewers, it’s unlikely you will build relationships that lead to sales or representation.

Your Art

Always know the actual costs and overhead expenses of creating your art. This means assigning a value to everything in the creative process, including hard costs (everything you pay for) as well as soft costs (the value of our time as if you paid yourself wages).

You need to keep records for taxes anyway, so this should be the easiest part of pricing.

And of course, keep track of your actual sales. The highest sales price you consistently get should become the minimum for your next series of work.

Your Audience

What makes your art (or you) more valuable to your collectors than any other artwork they have the option of purchasing? If you don’t know this, it will be harder to “pitch” your art in terms that will connect with what your audience wants.

Learn about your audience’s past art purchases. What is their threshold for styles and price points; how, where and how often they like to buy art? With this knowledge, you can more easily overcome pricing obstacles by negotiating a payment plan or suggesting a smaller piece that fits their budget.

Your Art Market

In tougher economic times, sales may be slower, fewer, or simply less predictable. But there are always collectors and dealers in the market for the “right art at the right price.” Stay in touch with them until they are ready buy or exhibit the kind of art you create.

Research recent sales of comparable art. Galleries and serious collectors are especially interested in similar sales as tangible proof that there IS a demand for your work. Know your niche market—who’s in it, where are they showing, and what prices are they getting for their work?

You’ll find that art dealers and collectors have a built-in sense of the factors that create value in all types of work. . . and part of your job is to be equally well versed, so you can set prices that are appropriate and timely.

When you do the research and act on it with confidence, your prices WILL be received favorably. It’s not necessarily a simple task but if art is your career, then it’s definitely worth working at.

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