Sunday, February 13, 2011

Overcoming Pricing Pain

Pricing a painting is painful. I am always at a loss about how to price my work. I can never figure out whether I am under pricing or over pricing.....Theoretically I know what I should be doing when pricing a piece. But when it comes right down to it, it is always hard. Most of us would rather just make art and not worry about the business end of it, but sadly we gotta make a living out of our art!

I think the first thing we should try when pricing is  to distance ourselves from our work.We should look around and figure out how other artists with our experience level (and doing similar works) are pricing their work. I mean, in the end people not only pays for a particular piece of art but our past accomplishments/experience as well. They want to feel they are not only getting a piece of art but also getting  bang for their buck. They want to invest in an artist who has been around for a while. We have to practically judge our standing in  the community where we are marketting our art and then price our's competively. My mom might think my painting should be priced in thousands, but seriously unless I am taking a broader view of the art community I am  are just setting up myself for failure.

I don't know about others but many times I end up pricing my art proportional to my emotional attachment to it. Just because an artwork has a special meaning to me, does not mean a thing to the dealers or customers! If we do that, we might end up looking like amateurs. This is something I am trying hard to overcome. If I charge $500 for a little painting because I love it and $300 for another, it will just make me look silly!  I have come up with a way to deal with this dilemma: I just don't put the work I am particularly attached to up  for sale! I assign it as "Artists Collection". Ingenuous, huh?!!

Over pricing can be avoided but what about under pricing? Specially emerging artists like myself tend to under price their work. We want to please the buyer and make a sale and end up treating our work as orphans! Again I think the best way to price is to look around and find out what artists of our experience/niche are charging.

 Recently, I chanced upon a way to price my work! What I am doing is actually giving myself a salary. If I charge say, $20 an hour and spend 10 hrs on an work, the price of the work will be about $200. And we might also want to add the cost of materials. That's a sensible approach, even though a little depressing. But when you are an emerging artist, you have to start somewhere. When I have acquired that experience and that CV, I will probably end up with a different formula to price my work.

 I was talking to another artist a few days ago, and  she told me how she prices her work. She calculates the square inches and multipiels that by 4 and comes up with the price. So, if the work is say 10x10, the price is 100x4=400. Of course there is always a little twicking involved. It seems like a practical way to do things!
So there! I would really like to know how you price your work.  Maybe that will give me some clues on pricing......!


  1. I feel for these problems! Pricing is soo hard! I too have been charging per square centimetre. It has taken a lot of stress out of it. The real problems arise when I have done really large (but not too detailed) painting and the price worked out to be horrendous! So I have created a couple of price levels for different qualities of paintings. A good tip I heard was if you have a show that sells really well, you can then increase your price per centimetre by 25%, and so prices keep up as your career progresses.

  2. Ishita, I price by the square inch too. I spent too many years in my previous life as a CPA keeping track of billable hours, so tracking time on each piece of art I make just isn't happening these days!!

  3. Lovely article Ishita. I wrote one as well on pricing not to long ago. You can check it out here when you have a moment:

    Pricing artwork can be really difficult. I try to do it based on material costs, time and size. So far I have found that using a "unit rate" which incorporates all of these really helps me to understand the pricing of my work.

  4. I love these comments!! It gives me some ideas on how everyone is pricing ! I am doing it by per hr rate! I am thinking about going by square inches...Plus frames! Frames are so expensive! I had a little painting framed today and the framer charged me $85! I am positively shocked:((