Art is only ever going to be worth what people are prepared to pay for it.

If you are like me, and simply do not have the status of a Picasso – then we have to be moderately conservative when establishing a price for our work.

This is especially true when you are first starting out.

So a good mindset to have is – “I would like to achieve such-and-such price for this painting”.

The thing is, we artists don’t really have much control over the price of any given piece we produce.

It’s always going to be up in the air.

After all, money is simply just an idea – and art is only worth what people are prepared to pay you for it.

The big tip is – keep producing work.

The more work you are producing, the more you have to sell – provided you are not asking “far-too-out-of-reach” prices.

Don’t be like me when I first started, only to finish a painting, then sit around to admire it for a week.

What tends to happen is the price value seems to keep rising in your mind.

The longer you are building an attachment to it, the greater the exaggeration of price value seems to increase.

Keep working and keep selling.

Avoid getting too attached to your work.

Don’t get attached to the whole idea of what you are worth as an artist, because you may very well be disappointed.

Think like a professional.

Every business starts off slow until it builds some momentum.

Does this mean that I have previously reset my prices based on price suggestions from buyers in the past?

Yes, I have.

I’ve had paintings sitting in my studio for over a year.

I would pull them out and take them to each exhibit, but still no sale.

It was only then I decided to swallow my pride and set my prices in accordance to what people were prepared to pay.

Finally, they started to sell.


A Handy Pricing Feasibility Tip

If you are really stuck, then consult your audience.

Let’s say you are exhibiting ten pieces of your work and you have determined a price range of $100 to $1000 for six of those pieces.

Leave the remaining four pieces unpriced.

In other words, hang the paintings for exhibit without a price tag.

Some people may be quick to say, “Well, people are simply going to compare the size of the painting against similar sizes that have price tags”.


People will compare sizes and determine a value.

But the idea is to test your market.

If somebody really likes one of the pieces without a price tag, they will inevitably ask you what price you are asking for it.

So, encourage them to suggest a price.

Ask them what they would be prepared to pay for it.

Before your exhibit, have a predetermined price range that you would be happy to let the paintings go for.

If the buyer nominates a figure within that price range, you have a sale.

I don’t necessarily advocate you use this method all the time.

But if you are battling with the whole pricing your art issue, this method could well prove to be helpful.


The Matching Fit

Sometimes it is a good idea to select the art in your collection to suit the event.

For example – if you are exhibiting your work at an event that has been well publicised specifically for visual artists (i.e. art on canvas), you essentially have a targeted market of buyers to sell to.

These people will be expecting to see visual art only.

I realise this sounds kind of obvious.

However, some events have a broad mix of artists.

Some artists will be selling jewellery.

Others will be selling metal works of art.

Some will be selling sculpture art.

Get the picture?

It’s more of an “art and craft” show – i.e. a real mix.

In these types of mixed art events, you are a part of that mix.

Therefore it may not be specific to your type of art.

So if you are exhibiting with other artists selling a diverse range of art, you will sometimes need to be a little flexible with your pricing.

One way around this is to speak to the organisers of the event when you first submit your entry form, and quiz them about what kind of art they will be expecting at the event.

If they tell you it will be broad category of art, then you can be prepared.

Likewise if it is specifically just for “art on canvas” art, you know you will have a more targeted market of buyers, and can prepare accordingly.

If it is an art and craft fair, I would suggest that you consider bringing along some work under the $50 mark.

Consider things like small charcoal sketches that you have had framed or smaller paintings.

I know of an artist who sells his work successfully in the $2,500 to $4000 range consistently.

Yet when he exhibits at art shows and festivals, he brings along very small 6″ x 5″ paintings in little black frames with glass covers that he sells under $200.

I should point out that his smaller, less expensive art is relative to the prices of smaller items being sold by other artists.

He is catering to the market.

He understands that exhibiting his work is not always about making big sales – it’s about getting people to leave with some of his art.

Leaving his creative footprint, so to speak.

Regardless of size and price, his art will be hung in yet another home as a result.

The homeowner’s friends and relatives will ask, “Oh, where did you get that groovy little painting?”

The point I am trying to make is that he is building his name and reputation as an artist by being flexible and open to the market.


Price Testing

One thing to keep in mind is that establishing prices can be challenging.

Granted, it may seem like a huge obstacle at first, but try to avoid getting too frustrated with it.

As you learn more about marketing your work, you’ll get a broader feel as to what people are prepared to pay for your work.

You may want to consider using different price points.

For example, test prices right under the breaking point.

The breaking point price for art and craft fairs is around $400.

This is probably the highest in terms of the impulse buyer range.

If you have priced a painting at $500, consider $495 instead.

Likewise if you have a painting priced at $400, try testing the price at $389.

Ever noticed how real estate agents set house prices at those crazy $299,000?

The buyers mind sees that the house is inside the $200,000 price range.

But of course, with a little investigation, we know full well the agent is trying to secure one dollar short of $300,000.

It is indeed all purely psychological.

It is a very common price-marketing tactic.

Is it clever or cunning?

Well, maybe a bit of both – but my point is to test this price strategy because in some cases it can work to your benefit.


Price Comparable

Another point worth remembering is to check what other artists at your exhibit are asking for their work.

I have made this mistake and priced my work significantly higher than all the other artists.

Was it ego?

No, not at all. I simply didn’t do my research and went in under prepared.

I sold nothing as a result.

The public had the option of buying quality art much cheaper than mine.

On noticing the neatly packaged paintings under the arms of people passing by, it didn’t take me long to realise where I went wrong.

I was simply asking way too much for my work.

What I should have done is a little research and then brought my prices in line with my fellow artists.

After all, they were working in familiar territory and kind of knew what to expect in terms of prices.


How to Create Purchase Incentives

Some people find it very challenging to make a decision about a purchase.

In the mind of your customer, every purchase is a risk.

After all, most people have budgets and money is valuable to them.

The last thing any of us want is to purchase a liability.

This is why many people often hesitate when it comes to purchasing goods and services.

It could be said that “what you see is what you get” when it comes to art.

People either like it or they don’t.

However, as an artist selling your work, you still have a responsibility to help reduce the risk factor that often occupies a buyers mind.

Sometimes a little purchase incentive is all they need to encourage them to proceed with the purchase.


Provide Free Shipping

Rather than discount a piece of work, offer free delivery or free shipping to your customer’s home.

Make it a free bonus to accompany the purchase of a piece of your work.

Shipping fees can put people off – particularly if they are too high.

One way around this is to tuck the shipping fee inside the actual retail price of your art.

Of course, how much of the shipping fee you tuck into your overall retail price will depend upon how much you actually sell your art for.

You don’t want it completely out of perspective, because it will become obvious to your customer that there is no “bonus incentive” at all.

Compare it to a snake swallowing a pig… it’s very obvious where the pig is. But if the snake swallowed a mouse, it’s not as noticeable.

Bad analogy?

Perhaps… but I think you get the picture.

By removing what I call the “second cost” associated to a purchase, which is of course the shipping fee, you give the buyer a little incentive to proceed with the purchase.


Be Appropriate with Your Purchase Incentive

Quite often your potential buyer will not be ready to actually make a purchase.

They may simply be looking for a décor solution, or they may be setting out as a novice collector.

Therefore they may just be window-shopping in order to get a feel for what they might like and what is currently available.

In this situation, things like free shipping or discounts won’t really grab their attention.

What will give them the incentive to buy from you at a later date, is how well you can provide a solution to their lack of buying confidence.

How well you can educate them on making the right purchase decision?

In other words, if you can provide proof that you understand their situation (i.e. offering colour co-ordinated work to suit their surroundings or even a theme appropriate commission piece), they will be more inclined to contact you when they are closer to making a purchase decision.

Therefore taking you up on your free shipping offer or other purchase incentive.


Ask Your Buyer

Your greatest resource for purchase incentives can be found by simply asking your prospective buyer what they want.

Ask them what would make it easier for them to purchase.

By doing this you will discover a range of incentive ideas and you won’t spend a lot of money trying out different techniques.

Your buyer has all the answers you need, so don’t be afraid to ask them.


Art Pricing Formulas Don’t Always Work

When establishing prices for an exhibit, some artists have a tendency to price their work too low and sometimes too high.

There are a few ways you can overcome dealing with the whole pricing issue, and that is to do some research.

Consider the act of pricing your work as a learning process.

Have a look at what other artists are selling their work for locally.

Make sure you are comparing apples with apples.

What I mean is, if you paint fine art landscapes, avoid comparing the potential price of your work with an artist who paints big abstracts.

Visit local galleries, exhibits and festivals, and take note of the artists who are selling their work regularly.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of advice out there that says you should factor in an hourly rate, plus cost of materials, utilities, and then you’ll have a base price fixture to sell your art at.

The price of your art is going to be governed by the perception of value.

For example:

You may have physically worked on a piece for four hours and ended up selling it for $1200 or agonised over a beautiful seascape for two weeks and sold it for $250.

This is possible.

That is why I don’t advocate using just an hourly rate pricing structure as a means of establishing a retail figure.

People may ask you, “Hey, how long did it take you to paint this piece?” for which you can tell them how long it took.

If it didn’t take long at all, don’t emphasise that.

People like the idea that you did put some time and effort into it.

It shows you are a real artist and not someone who simply whacks something together just to try and make a sale.

In my experience, the people who have bought my art are not too concerned about how long it took to produce the piece.

They buy it because they love it – because they have an emotional connection to it or because the painting suited an aspect of their lifestyle.

They buy it because they can relate to it, not because I may have pumped 1700 hours into it.

Side note: I have never worked on a painting for 1700 hours despite some difficult pieces feeling like they did take that long to produce.

If a painting didn’t take very long to produce at all, and somebody does ask you about how long it took you to put it together, you can incorporate things like the time you spent on preparation sketches.

You can also mention you had to prepare the painting for hanging, treat the piece with varnish and frame it.

This will help to validate the work involved in getting the piece ready for sale.

Just remember my motto:

“Always have a marketing mindset. Keep it honest, keep it easy to understand… but be creative, informative and you’ll add perceived value to your business as an artist.”

When I first started out, somebody told me about using the hourly-rate structure.

I found it difficult to apply.

The reason for this was, I sometimes had 2 or 3 pieces on the go at once.

I would finish one painting, still have two on the blocks unfinished and would start preparing to commence a new one.

So in effect, it was very difficult to keep track of time on any given painting.

Sure, if I was really regimented about it, I could have kept a logbook and recorded the time I was spending on each piece.

But I have to be completely honest and say I am simply not structured that way.

Maybe I should be, but I seem to be doing okay so far.

Another problem you may encounter is if you start out by demanding your worth as an artist.

If you think you should be paid a certain price for any given piece you produce, you may be disappointed.

Check your ego at the studio door (wink).

Till next time.

Your art buddy,

Artist/Teacher/Wizard of Unactioned Light Bulb Moments

Free Course!

"How I Went From Zero to Creating & Selling 21 Paintings In 90 Days"

Latest Posts