Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control, we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
I am so excited! I am going to be in my first art show, and I have no idea how to price my things. I really don’t care that much about making a lot of money, and I don’t need to sell the things, but I’d sure like to. I just want to ask a fair price that is not unfairly expensive, but also not so cheap it’s unfair to me. Is there a formula people use to decide? Any advice you can give would really help.
Dear Excited Artist,
You should really be proud of yourself that you got into an art show! Competition is pretty high, and it’s no small feat to create something that is nice enough that a gallery would let your creations represent their reputation. Congratulations.
Having said that, I am going to prepare you for the fact a lot of people LOVE original art and would like some for themselves. Some get sticker shock because we are all used to posters we buy cheap and slap up on the wall. Department stores are selling mass produced canvas transfers at rock bottom prices, and all of this is much less expensive and labor intensive to produce than artists making one of a kind originals, so it costs a lot less to buy. So, I completely understand the desire to NOT price too high. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing what you created goes home with somebody, and if the pieces are inexpensive enough, you will get sales.
On the other hand, I agree, underpricing is not fair to artists. You put a lot of time, passion, and love into the things you make, and there is nothing else in the whole world like your art. That is worth more than money.
I like the fact you are in no rush to sell. It sounds like you are practical enough to know that you might be taking things back home from the gallery with you.
There are actually lots of different formulas you can use, the trick is finding what seems right to you.
Some people total up the cost of supplies and double that to decide what to charge customers. But if you spent twenty hours working on something that cost ten dollars to make, twenty dollars seems pretty low.
Then again, if you pay yourself by the hour, say ten dollars an hour for twenty hours of work, that makes the cost two hundred dollars added to the ten dollar cost of supplies. I have never used this formula, myself, because the things I make typically don’t sell for that much, although yours absolutely might.
Then, remember to file on your taxes how much you sold, so charge sales tax as well.
There are also gallery fees to take into account. If your gallery takes a 30% cut, you will want to factor their thirty percent in also.
Truthfully, though, there is also a very easy way to get ideas. Find various other artists with similar pieces, and compare their prices.
For example, I was asked to crochet fingerless dragon scale gloves and discovered people pricing between fifteen and fifty dollars per pair depending on size and cost of materials. I have a few different sizes I make and have them priced between twenty (for kids) and up to forty dollars per pair for adults. I have sold two of the thirty dollar pairs and have two pairs in a shop listed at forty dollars. The shopkeeper said thirty dollars is not enough, but we will see if these do sell for that price. If not, we can always mark the price down.
If you still cannot decide how to price your goods, speak with the gallery managers and see what they would recommend.
You are just beginning the journey as professional artist, and you are allowed to learn and adjust prices and policies as needed. Have fun, and again, congratulations!