Pricing and selling your Art can be challenging. It’s sometimes hard to know how much to charge or what to say, particularly in the spur of the moment when someone, a friend or close acquaintance, comes into your studio and looks at a piece of your art and asks, “is this one for sale?”
There are of course no clear-cut rules or guidelines about how much you should charge for your work. It feels pretty damn good to make something, usually something that at the time it was made, you felt so unsure about, and have someone desire it. That feeling is so gratifying that on occasion I have felt like just giving it to the person for free. I have actually done this. But of course that doesn’t really serve you and all the practicalities involved with running an art/life practice.
Creating more and more value, not just in your Art but also in your Life, has to do mostly with your thinking. Here then are a few ideas that have helped me increase the value of my art.
Create a Price List and Hang it up.
Right now you know what you have sold your work for in the past. Often the sizes are varied sizes and the prices have fluctuated. No matter. Determine a list of ALL sizes from small to big, with prices based upon what has sold previously. Make sure the range of prices is based upon square inches, and that the price of the work increases as the size does. It must be accurate. Create this, PRICES ORIGINAL ART 2016, on your computer in word or excel, and then print it out and hang it on your studio wall.
This achieves several things. First you see it. It keeps it centermost in your mind. Those prices should never, ever go lower, providing you are showing up consistently and doing your work. Every year you want to raise them a small amount or at worst let them remain. The value others will pay for your work is not magically set. The price, the value of your work is set and created by one person: you.
Don’t tell them. Show them.
When someone, usually a friend – which makes it even harder – asks for a price, it is sometimes difficult to know what to say. Being the creator, the artist, means that you will – if you are actually really trying to make meaningful, pushed work – undoubtedly be sometimes slightly insecure about the value of what you are making. So this very natural, normal orientation of a serious artist possibly makes you not the best person to be selling your work. But regardless, the job sometimes falls in your lap.
So what to say? What I have found easiest is to basically say, “Well, the prices are all based on the size of the work. I am not entirely sure on this size but I can send you the price list” or if they are standing in your studio, then point at it on the wall and say “let’s walk over to it and read it!” That is it. You are done. The focus has left you, (thank you) and has become focused on a document that confidently states your prices. Like the Ten Commandments or even the NY times bestseller list, there is something very concrete about information that is seen instead of heard. It exists, it is real and it is solid. This is exactly how the pricing of your Art needs to be.
You are the steward of the Value.
Then everyone wants a discount. Even if they are looking at a price list somehow people feel like if they are standing in your studio and since you just love what you do, that somehow you don’t need to be paid in full.
So here is the rational behind not deviating too far from you price list…In other words, why you stick to that price list…
All those people who have given you their money for your art in the past are basically saying to you that they believe in what you are doing. They have invested in a piece of your Art. They took a big chance. You want them to see that over time the value of the art they bought goes up. If there is anyone in your art career, in your life really, that you need to keep in mind almost daily, it is all those who have purchased your Art. Respect them. In fact, cherish them. For many artists, me being one of them, I could not do what I do; I could not have the life I am living without their support.
When you discount or sell your work at wildly different prices you are disrespecting everyone who has ever purchased your work in the past. These people are trusting you to create value. You simply cannot sabotage those relationships. Your integrity is on the line, not just with yourself but also with your collectors; this is what you need to say to hold firm on the fixed prices of your Art. And since that person who is about to purchase your art is about to become one of those collectors, they too will understand and actually feel more confident in buying from you now. You will have gained their respect.
At the end – the clincher, so to speak – I always just say, “….there is only one direction these prices are ever going and that is higher. My work will never ever be less expensive than it is today” Just saying that to someone creates value. It also feels tremendously empowering. Try it next time. And just watch. 9 out of 10 times the checkbook is opened and a sale is made.
Whether a gallery sells your work or you do, you are ultimately the one who sets the standard, who has to believe in the importance of what you are making. The prices, the amount of money you are given for what you do is just another way, a simple restatement of the importance of not just your Art but also your life. And like your prices, because your time remaining is only lessening, your art as well as your life is only getting more valuable, more precious with every passing day.
In gratitude, Nicholas