How to Price Your Art: Finding Your Market & Bargaining with Buyers

Hello my name is Brainard Carey and today I’m going to present a short talk – a video for you on how to price your work or price your paintings or other visual art.

I’m an artist and an author. I’ve written this book New Markets for Artists, which came out in 2012. And I’ve written this book, which is the best seller Making It in The Art World which came out in 2011. Both books are designed to help artists build their professional careers, whatever that means, in the visual arts. And in the case of the book what that means is doing what you need to do in order to be a professional artist. It has (it means) different things to different artists because artists have all kinds of mediums and ways of working in different parts of the world. But essentially it means, for the purpose of the book, developing your professional career – doing what it takes to be a professional artist.

Today we’re talking about how to price your paintings, how to price your artwork. To begin with, if this is a question for you, not knowing how to price or where to begin pricing it, then most likely you haven’t sold very much artwork. If you haven’t sold very much artwork and one of the questions that you’re having if you’re involved in open studio or an art fair or any process – like people coming into your studio where they may be interested in purchasing work. If you need to price work now, what you have to keep in mind is that what’s very important is that you sell the work. It’s important to come up with the right price – not too high or too low ideally. But essentially, you’re an artist that wants to sell work and this is the time when you’re trying to figure out what prices should be so that it will sell well.

So, one way to figure this out is to look at what other artists are selling their work for. If you’re showing work, let’s say, in an open studio or a cooperative gallery or some situation like that, you can look at what other people are selling work for. And that’s a barometer of the general range that your work should be in.

Also, it’s okay to bargain with people somebody comes into your studio and they’re interested in your work or they’re interested in commissioning a work from you. What you have to do is decide how much it is that you want for it, ideally, and I would go high. Let’s say he looked around other artists who are selling work like yours and have the same history as you, same history of sales, then perhaps you can go a little bit higher than that. And tell the person in your studio who wants to commission something or buying something that this is the price. It’s $5000. If they gawk at that and say that’s a little too much for me, then the way to get a sale is to either lower or say to them, “Look for $200 this is yours.” And they’ll say “For $200? What do you mean?” “For $200 down – as a down payment you can own this work and we can work out payments however you want. If you want to pay me a $100 a month, whatever it is.” You give them the painting or commission when it’s done.

So that’s one way to manage a sale. It’s to start high. If people are surprised by it, sell it to and offer to sell it to them in time, over the course of time. And ask for a very small down payment to begin with. Another way to think about selling your work is developing a real market for it. And you know the old saying is always whatever the market bears, you know, whatever people would pay for your work is what it’s worth. It’s what it should be sold at. So how do we know what the market will bear – what that means is what have you sold work for before. If through your studio you sold a few paintings for $500, then that’s what the market will bear.

Another way to find that out, in a very real sense, is by artists like Abby Ryan and others who are selling work on eBay all the time. I talk about this a lot in my book. I’m not saying eBay is for everybody but it is a very real market. So, she would put up painting every day at D-Day – very small painting, 4×4 inches, for sale. The first year, first several months, some would sell, some wouldn’t. And it would sell for very little, under $100. As it grew and she kept posting every day – this is like over two, three hundred postings a year – which is pretty impressive, what happened is, people started buying them. And when people started buying them and the cost went up and they were spending $200 or $300 on a painting that was the market value. And the reason that was a very real market value is because other people started spending $300 for paintings or $400 – it would stay that value. So, every day she put up a painting, it would be for that price. Eventually what happened with her is, after two or three years the paintings started selling for $700 or $800. And to this day that’s about their market price. That’s what they all sell for every day. Because she’s established a real market on eBay.

So, in conclusion how to price your work, it’s something that is very individual. But there is a real economy out there. And there are real buyers out there. So, if you’re about to have a show whether it’s a cooperative gallery, regular gallery or non-profit space, your studio, studio tour or anything like that, look at what other people are selling work for. Not what they’re asking for. Have they sold work before for that price? And in general, bring people into your studio, ask for more and see if they’re interested. The line to use is, “Would you like to own this work?” If people are interested, if they say “Yeah, but I can’t afford it,” say, “Well I’ll work something out with you.” The piece is $2000, but you can have it for $200.” Again, as I was saying, you offer them a payment plan of $200 down. That’s the other way to resolve pricing issues and whether or not people can afford it.

Thank you for listening today. You can ask questions if you like. You can like the Facebook page that’s down below and ask questions on there. My name is Brainard Carey and thank you for listening today.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.


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