Friday, April 11, 2008

Weekend Chat Line...The pricing question?

Abby, Asleep on Daddy's Shoulder:
This was one of my first portraits...Well, it was first after I drew it four times!

I had three people send emails this week asking that I present the one question that as artists we all struggle with at some time or the other...What should I charge?

"How do you set your prices"...I'm going to give my contribution to this question and hope others will chime in, giving some feed back on how you arrived at your starting prices and the thoughts or formulas you've used as you raised your prices.

When I had enough confidence to start selling my work, I checked out what others artists in my medium were charging for portraits and used that as a guide. I set a price schedule for my commissioned portraits that I thought I could live with...that was neither at the bottom or at the top, knowing that I could raise it later...and I priced my original still life drawings using the same price schedule.

What I charged for my originals that first year paid me about seven dollars an hour after presentation expenses (mat, glass, frame ect.) were deducted. My Originals started at $185 and LE's were $49. I used a 5x mark-up to figure the print price.

I have increased the price on my originals considerably over the years, but still use the 5x mark-up as a guide for pricing my Open Edition Prints (presented with a backing board and packaged...$30-39). My Limited Editions are double the price of the Open Editions...(presented in a double mat/certificate of authenticity and packaged). Artist Proofs are double the price of Limited Editions...(presented same as LE's).

**I feel the prices on my original drawings are now comparable to others of the same quality and such that if sold in a gallery I would be satisfied with my 40-50% commission. Also by using a 5x mark-up for prints I can afford to wholesale them to retailers and still make a profit.

One thing that I firmly believe is this...your price should be your price...regardless of where you sell your art. Consumers resent one price on the web and another at a gallery and yet another at art fairs. Your price should be consistent across the board.

This is a very simplified explanation, when you get into it there are many other things to take into consideration depending on the medium you work in and your venue and hopefully others will comment on these things.

So I ask you: When you were just beginning, how did you decide what to charge for your art? What formulas, if any do you use today? How do you know it's time to increase your prices?

We need some words of wisdom for new artists.

The "Chat Line" is open...
I'm is anxious to hear your thoughts and ideas on these questions. And as always, please feel free to comment on what others have to say.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Website ...Marsha Robinett Fine Art
My Squidoo ...Drawing Techniques

PS...make a "Point"...leave a comment.


Anima said...

Another excellent post! And I completely agree about having consistent pricing across all venues.

My pricing strategy has been to use a variety of formulas to get a range of prices and then settle on one that's reasonable and that I can live with. One of the calculations uses materials plus an hourly wage. Another uses a cost per square inch. Etc.

Marsha Robinett said...

I agree, using a formula takes the guess work out of pricing and gives you a logical pattern to follow.

For me in the beginning it was coming up with a starting price to build on. In the end after doing some research I found that for my originals I had to just bite the bullet (pricing my work somewhere in the middle of others working in my medium).

Pricing my prints was much easier...having been in the retail business before, I understood "markup".

Thanks for your input on this question. I know it's been helpful to others.

Jennie Norris said...

Marsha, Thanks so much for this post. This has been one of my biggest obstacles to date!! I guess I really need to start doing some research and talk to as many people as possible on the subject.

You gave a ton of great information to give me a good starting point. I will keep checking back to see what others have to say on the subject too.

Again, Thank you. Your blog has been such an inspiration for me.

Jeanette said...

This is always such a thorny subject isn't it? And partially because we haven't got the same tangibles as other products. We create something out of nothing so can't really do a breakdown of components then add markup. Or can we?

When I started, I worked on a formula of putting a price per square inch on my drawings. So a 9 x 12 piece was 108 sq inches and I charged $1.00 per sq inch = $108.00 This was low and barely covered framing costs,but it allowed me time to get my work out there.

The price went up after a year or 6 months and goes in increments of .25 per square foot til I am at the point of value of other artists doing similar work and of course what the market will bear in my region.

Teresa Mallen said...

I came at the pricing issue by identifying a benchmark. I looked for someone in the same geographical area that was working in the same medium as myself. I took into consideration the size of their work, framing quality, subject matter and I also honestly compared my work to theirs - i.e. was my work at the same level of quality. I also was interested to know whether or not this person actually made sales at their shows. Fortunately I was able to find such an artist. Even with this info, I still priced my work, at my first show quite a bit lower than hers. I was influenced by the common wisdom that states that unknown artists seeking to make a name for themselves must price their work lower initially. I don't know if this was necessary. I raised my prices a bit for the next show and then the next until my prices reached a level where I thought they should be.

So my advice would be to establish a benchmark for your work. I was fortunate to find another coloured pencil artist exhibiting in my area but if I hadn't I would have chosen a watercolour artist to compare to - a paper medium, framed with glass, similar size pieces, similar subject matter etc.

I would also suggest that initally people not get too concerned about their hourly rate. I have heard time and again that we need to value our work and we need to pay ourselves first. Of course we need to value our work but I don't quite agree that this has to be monetary.At least not initially. My priority was to make enough income through sales and teaching to keep my wee business afloat. I took the approach that I wanted to run my business 'in the black'and that at the very least my expenses should be covered. Any profit would be rolled back into growing the business. Obviously one cannot quit the day job with this approach.

Still, I took as my benchmark in this, other small business owners. It seems quite common for small business owners to forego paying themselves a good salary in the early years as they put everything back into the business, either to make it grow or to pay off expenses. Obviously the goal is to become successful enough at what you do so that you will one day pay yourself what you are worth.

This year one of my goals is to invest money into my business with regards to marketing. I am committing to paying for quality advertising, glossy postcards etc. This is basic business 101, you have to spend money to make money.Timing is critcal. Don't waste money advertising if you don't have enough to sell. For example I have now created enough courses to make it worth my while to get my name out to a broader audience and I am working on a line of prints. You get the idea.

Some artists seem to be intimidated by business. Most of it is common sense. Sit down, do some planning, set some goals and grab a calculator to see how you can make some of those goals happen.

Finally, I would also suggest that people put setting prices into perspective. While it is an agonizing process at first, it will get easier. It probably isn't as important as we make it either. I mean we can deliberate over $50.00 - $100.00 one way or the other until we want to quit the show altogether. Yet it probably matters most if we have managed to find a venue where we can connect up with 'our customer'. Now if we could find the magic answer to that one...!!! Perhaps another chat line topic? Hope this was helpful! :-)

Marsha Robinett said...

I'm glad you found this question helpful, do keep checking back perhaps others will comment.

Thanks for such a great explanation of your pricing process. I've had email responses to this question as well...saying how much the information has been appreciated.

Perpetual Chocoholic said...

I love the work you've got posted with this post.

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