*Guest post by Victoria Rose Martin.
Recently I asked my college design students “what’s the hardest part about being an artist?” The top response was pricing your work. I know I’ve discussed the topic of pricing in the past but it’s well worth mentioning again. Why do we artists find placing value on what we create so difficult? When we go to the gas station the man behind the counter doesn’t say “oh this petroleum has been in the ground for a few thousand years, I should give it to you for less.”
During our class discussion I opened a page on Etsy showing graphic design services available. I pointed out several designers who can build a site on Wix for a very affordable price. And a web design student chimed “why would anyone pay for that when it’s so easy to do?”
And that brings up a great point. Not everyone is a designer or an artist. Perhaps they’re too busy and they don’t know how to use the software or they feel their design skills aren’t up to much. Or maybe they just don’t want to do it.
We creative types must stop selling ourselves short. You have a valuable skill and you deserve to be paid for it. Here are 5 pointers to help you gain the courage to not just sell your work, but sell it for what it’s worth.
- If you’re just starting out or unsure find a book that can help you explore your options. Or go online and Google other artists you respect and see what they do. While it’s important to know what other artists in your field are charging for their work it doesn’t mean it’s precisely what you have to do. Let me clearly state that there is no rule that says you must charge less than everyone else. Are we so desperate to make any money that we must low-ball everyone else? Do you think when a museum is selling a Picasso they say, “Oh, it’s so blue… who’d want to buy it?” In fact, I’ve been involved with clients who raise an eyebrow when something is priced too low because some people may read less important when looking at the price tag.
- Maybe you’re a single mom or on a fixed income and every penny of your paycheck is accounted for. Perhaps, like me, you can’t afford a painting for $5,000. Well, I can assure you that there are a lot of people who can. It goes back to knowing your target audience. For example, if you’re making little baubles with images of pop stars they probably won’t sell for a whole lot because generally 13 year olds don’t have a large budget to purchase art. Ask yourself the all-important question: who’s your target audience? And build your marketing strategy to fit that clientele. Still want to offer a lower end option? Invest in a decent printer or use an online printing company such as MPix, Society 6, or iPrintFromHome and sell prints of your work. Or if you make jewelry use a less expensive material.
- So many times I hear my students say “I will open my online shop after the next painting”. Why do artists constantly chase the next best thing? Instead tell yourself that you are a lot better than you were a year ago and price your work accordingly. If you wait until you’ve reached perfection you’ll never sell your art. And if you’re stressing out over selling the original, photograph the work and make prints to sell at a lower price point. Please, just stop waiting to make money from your art.
- Stop worrying that you’re going to price yourself out of the market. Actually, this is something I’ve dealt with lately. During a conversation with an acquaintance they asked me a really smart question, they said “how can you afford to sell your art so cheap, it doesn’t even make sense?” Later on I thought about it and started running numbers through my head. Just say it takes 5 hours to sculpt a form. Then I dry it, sand it, glaze it, fire it, and fire it again. Creating postcards and hangtags and other marketing. Then I look at the materials the cost of clay, glaze, and the electricity to fire and maintain a studio. And then I thought of the past 25 years I’ve worked with clay and all of the experience I bring. Combine that with all of the mistakes I’ve made and all of the wisdom that comes along with it. Seriously, in hindsight I believe there were workers in sweatshops earning more than I was. Know what you have invested in the work. If you paint perhaps you could charge by the inch so a 5 x 5 inch canvas sells for less than an 18 x 24 inch piece. Just don’t short change yourself.
- And finally, please do not apologize or feel guilty for selling your work. I have heard students say “I sold the piece for $150 because I felt guilty and that’s what I paid for the frame.” Actually if you think about it they didn’t really sell the painting, they sold the frame with a free piece of art.
Have you ever been in a store and see something you love. But you don’t buy it. You go home and kick yourself because you can’t get it out of your mind. Yes, it might have been a bit more expensive thank you had hoped. You just have to have it. But now you have to slog across town back to the store and pray it’s still there. People probably feel that way about your art. People usually buy art because it speaks to them.
If you find people are low-balling you on original pieces, make prints and sell those. I am not saying don’t be flexible when needed, just please don’t give your work away. And for goodness sake, do not feel guilt for charging money.
Artists often dream of making a living from their art. So what can you do to help increase the value of your art? Gain exposure by entering shows and using social media to advertise your work (without being a spammer). Read art magazines to keep up with trends and know where the market is heading, and look at books on the business of art. Create branding pieces like business cards and brochures. But most importantly believe in your art. If you don’t value it, who will?
Victoria Rose Martin is an artist and designer currently living in South Florida. She is the Department Chair for Fine Art and Graphic Design at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Florida. You can visit her website at: VictoriaRoseMartin.com.
Check out 2015 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market for more best practices for selling your artwork.