When I first started selling my artwork (what feels like many moons ago now!) I would more or less triple my material costs and leave it at that. It worked for a while … but it was really only a starting point and definitely not one I could maintain if I was to take my career seriously and continue on as the professional artist I am now. If I did that now it would seriously undervalue my final product (in fact you wouldn’t be seeing my artwork today, I’d have folded years ago). Doing it is way this for ever, if at all, would have a serious detrimental psychological effect on not only yourself, damaging your self-esteem, confidence and business … but also on your customers too. If they don’t see you valuing yourself enough, then they won’t value you either.
The trick is in finding the balance and your position within the marketplace … if you charge too much you won’t make many sales, and if you don’t charge enough you won’t be ‘make it happen’.
You can easily work very long hours indeed and still earn less than the minimum wage if you forget to fine tune this bit.
So, the first thing you have to do is figure out the fixed foundational costs associated with selling your work. And incorporated into this are many things that can be easily overlooked. Things like studio costs including rent, insurance, phone, mobile, electricity, storage costs, business rates and depreciation costs on equipment. Marketing costs. Exhibition, submission and hanging fees.
Then you need to work out how much salary you would like to earn in a year. Add this to your fixed costs and then divide this by the amount of hours you are going to be making work that you can sell.
For example: if you would like to earn let’s say £15k, and your overheads are £8k, then you will need to cover £23k.
So then realistically as a new artist you will need to be spending about two days a week painting and three days a week marketing (I know, amazing isn’t it … everyone has this amazing fantasy that artists have such a wonderful life just sitting at their easel all day long!). So then you will have say 48 weeks (allow yourself time for a yearly holiday, very important for not only your sanity but your creativity too) x 2 days x 7 hours = 768 hours per year. Then you divide the £23K by 768 hours, which makes £29.95 per hour. If you then would spend 25 hours making a piece, and the material costs would be £42 then your calculation will be 25 x £29.95 + £42 = £790.75 as your cost price (right there can you see the difference between simply tripling your costs and factoring everything in … £126 compared to £790.75 … a HUGE shortfall!).
The thing is though, art is not all about facts and figures … it is an art form too! And that’s when things can blur if you’re not careful … so don’t let that happen … start by looking at what other artists are selling their work for. I would suggest though that you take a good look around on the internet worldwide as well as your local area – you want to get a broad perspective (more on that later). Work out where you want to position yourself in the market place – this creates an expectation from your clientele. And you need to work out, if you want to place yourself high up in the marketplace, have you got something ‘extra’ to add to your work that will distinguish it from everyone else.
So now, taking all this into consideration, you have your cost price. But that is not the end of the story. Things are changing in the art world rapidly and all the time at the moment. Nobody is really sure where things are going to settle right now, if at all. There was a day (and I’m talking within my lifetime) when if you were an artist you would always put your artwork into a gallery and rely on them for sales … but those days are over. Many galleries have closed down over the last 5 years and more are still following. More and more the artist is relying on their own marketing, mostly using the internet, but also putting in the footwork themselves by holding their own exhibitions (and with these you have to often pay quite large rental fee so that has to be factored in too) and taking part in local and regional fayres etc. Yet for most things are still in the middle road and people are relying on taking both routes, like me. And that is where things can get tricky, and you need nerves of steel to stay the course.
When you use a gallery you have to bare in mind their commission and add this to your price too. They can take varying rates up to 60% plus VAT. The thing is, if you are using one at 30% and another at 60%, and you are selling the work for yourself, the rule is that you have to price your work the same in every gallery and selling it yourself -so you end up having to price all your work according to the 60% markup. And of course the problem with this is that that then your work could be seen as very expensive.
And this is where confidence comes in. I have seen far too many creatives undervalue themselves and their work. They are too afraid to charge the right amount because they love what they do and they can’t wrap their head around the fact that it is OK to do this and charge an appropriate price for their work, and be able to live off it comfortably. The reason I mentioned earlier to make sure you look at prices that artists are charging worldwide is because I have all too often seen local communities follow each other in the pricing spiral downwards … I have seen too many lovely pieces of art and photography priced up and for sale on the wall for a ridiculously low price, where I know they are only making about £5 on their cost price, which does not even cover their time. Apologies if this sounds a bit harsh, but not only does this ridicule all artists gifts but it also lulls the paying public into a position where they feel they can undermine all artists value by mocking confident pricing and quite frequently only then have a willingness to pay rock bottom prices that do not warrant a living wage. I’m sure all you artists out there do not want that for yourself or any other artist … so please, I ask you to take note of this, whether you need the money from selling your art or not, and consider it carefully when you next put on a show … what you do has an effect on all other artists, whether you like it or not! Let’s support each other by pricing all our art confidently!
So remember, value yourself and the customer will value you … and you will have a thriving business.
If you would like guidance in your art career why not consider taking on me as a Mentor.
Lots to think about … and take action on!
Bye for now, Liz
© Liz Shewan, all rights reserved 2015.
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