When I decided to take my art to a professional level, I had no idea what I was doing or where to start. I How do I price my work? How do I know what to charge the client for half a tube of paint? What if they can’t afford it? The list of questions go on. Through my experience though, it really is completely up to the creator and what they believe the price of their work should be. Only the creator knows what needs to go into what they create and only the creator knows the true cost to do so. I began selling my artwork in 2015 as that is when I did my first appearance at a showcase that was held at George Brown at that time (thanks Samantha!). I was also working full time in the legal field, so I was not pricing my work the way a full-time artist would if they were only dependent on this one source of income. I was not keeping track of my time, expenses nor energy that went into the pieces I was creating either. I would price my work at an amount that I thought my client base could afford and not for myself or my work. I did that for a few years, and it did help me grow my audience quite a bit to the large number it is at today (and I am very grateful as it still grows now!). However, at a certain point, I had to realize that I should be creating work and pricing it at a price that was fair to the client but more importantly fair for me, the creator. No one goes into Apple sensibly and bargains with a sales associate on how much they're willing to pay for an iPhone. You just pay the price, because it's what you want. I had to teach and allow myself to be comfortable with the fact that my art is the item that is wanted and bargaining is not on the table (at the discretion of the artist). With all this being said, here are 4 tips on how to price your work and know your worth:
1. Keep Track of Time.
It may seem like a simple task, but I know what it's like to get excited about creating. You get the material, you have everything ready and you just want to start! You’re in the zone and its amazing! A few hours go by, and you start to wonder… what time did I start this? How long is this taking me? And these are the questions you should know the answers to. When you start any project, keep something handy near by to document your start time and end time on the project. It could be your phone, a timer, or even just a piece of paper you write the time on. Regardless of how you track the time, the point is it needs to be tracked. When you are showcasing your piece in a gallery, a lot of people ask ‘how long did this take?’ to which the answer being “I honestly have no idea” is not acceptable. Tracking your time is also very key in being able to price your work accurately. Anyone interested in your art is going to ask you this question and it will look better on you as a professional artist and to the potential customer that you know everything about your own piece, including the time it took.
2. Calculate your Hourly Rate
If you are a creative that does one type of creation only (which is great!), it will be very easy for you to set an hourly rate that works for your craft that justly portrays your services rendered. If you do multiple kinds of creations with different mediums, like myself, then you may want to do your hourly rates a bit differently for your range of products. For example, I create paintings on wooden canvases, stretched canvases and sometimes canvas boards. All of these are differently priced, have different material and a different outcome. In my opinion, wooden canvases last longer and are less likely to have a hole punched through them (I hope) so I would price my hourly rate for a wooden canvas piece higher than I would say a canvas board which is the least expensive to paint on. Conversely, if I am drawing something, I would price a drawing I do with markers differently than a painting I do with acrylic paints. The way you charge for your time is completely up to you, the creator, as it is your time and energy you are pricing. Time is also a key factor is figuring out an hourly rate. If something will take only an hour or two to create, my rate will be at 100% charge. If I am doing a large painting that I know will take some days or weeks to complete, I will lower my hourly rate because the time spent will end up being very high. Because you are the master of your own hourly rate domain, you can really rate yourself at whatever you want, but keeping it fair for the client will always keep them coming back or saying your praise for how fair you were on the pricing for a 5 ft tall canvas that took a month to complete.
3. Know the Material Costs
Always, always, always pay attention to what your materials used costs. You could have the same red acrylic paint tube for the last year that you may have lost the receipt for – google it. Find the price. Write it down. You, the artist, paid for each part of the materials that are going into your art. You paid for the canvas, the paints, the brushes, the pencils, the resin (if you’re into that like I am) etc. If you paid for it, it is an expense that also needs to be incurred by the client accordingly. Figure out a cost that is fair to both of you. For example, if I paid $20 for a tube of premium paint and I use about half of that paint tube on a commission, then I am charging the client $10 for the use of that paint. All materials used should be calculated and included in the price of each piece you create, no matter the creation.
4. Know Your Worth
It is easy for a client to say that they could get someone else to create what you create, but cheaper. Although this may be true, it is not always the art that makes the art. It is the Artist. Always know your worth. Just because another artist also paints city landscapes, they most likely do not paint it with the same materials that you use or with the same experience you have had doing it. Most importantly, another artist isn’t you. When it comes to art, the selling point is half the art and the other half is the artist. If people enjoy you as a person and a creative, they will be more inclined to work with you than another artist who may be less expensive. Don’t take this for granted. Always know your worth and show it. You know best what you had to do to get to this point in your artistic career and only you know what you can get out of it. So make sure you do! I hope that these tips are helpful to those looking for some guidance in pricing artwork or any medium of creative expression. I know in my experience, I am always happy to work with client's budgets to try and come to a middle ground so that they may be able to enjoy my work but I also ensure that I am paid fairly for same. Art is an amazing thing to share with others and those who truly love it for what it is will always do their best to work with you on buying what you're trying to share - so never sell yourself short! Thank you for reading + stay ORANGEinal!