You’re finally at a point where you’re ready to start selling your art, but you have no idea where to begin. Or maybe you’ve been selling your art for a while now, but you’re worried you’re not asking enough for your work and are failing to make sales. The art world can be a strange and difficult place: tastes are fickle, dealers are dismissive and the economy is down. Sometimes marketing yourself and handling money feels uncomfortable because those aren’t the reasons you became an artist in the first place. Let’s take a look at some common mistakes artists make when trying to sell work, and how to fix those mistakes:
1. Charging Too Little
Never undervalue your skills as a working artist. A good rule of thumb when pricing artwork is:
Cost of materials + (hourly rate x hours spent creating)
Size doesn’t matter. Sometimes a beginner’s mistake in selling artwork is to price solely based on size, ignoring the cost of materials and other factors. What if you’ve created a very small piece, but used a ton of high quality oil paints, gold leaf and expensive glazing mediums? You’d probably want to charge a decent amount of money for it just to break even on your costs. Let’s pretend you want to sell a painting. The total cost of your canvas, paints and mediums is $75, your hourly rate is $22, and you spend 30 hours creating the painting. Let’s do the math:
$100 + ($22 x 30) = $760
You should be charging approximately $760 for your work. You might want to adjust the price up or down depending on additional factors. If similar work is selling for a little less than that, you might have lessen your asking price. If you have never sold a piece before, you might want to charge quite a bit less—it’s easier to start low and raise your prices later. If you have a great exhibition history, some local name recognition, and have been selling for years, you can ask for more. And if your work is framed, don’t forget to factor in the price of the frame! You can also factor in overhead costs like electricity, rent and advertising.
Using a consistent formula makes it easy if someone approaches you about commissioned work. Instead of guessing at a price, you can confidently tell them, “Well, my rate is $22 per hour, my hourly estimate for your commission would be X, and the cost of materials is Y, so the total estimate would be about Z!” This kind of confidence is important whether you’re doing everything on your own or selling through an art gallery.
2. Offering One Price Point
Maybe part of the problem is that you are only selling artwork in a limited price range. Are you pricing each of your pieces between $600 and $800? You might want to try creating a new crop of pieces that are less than $200. You will reach a wider audience if you offer artwork at various price points. For example, if you only sell large scale paintings, you could try offering smaller paintings or drawings at a much lower price point. You will make your work more accessible to a wider audience if you diversify your pricing. Also, if someone buys a small piece now, they may want to invest in a larger piece later.
3. Price Inconsistency
It’s best to start low and slowly raise your prices over time, but what if you’ve started too high? It’s important to be consistent in your pricing. Let’s say you were selling large-scale watercolor paintings for $2,000 each. Business was good for several months, but the economy took a turn and suddenly no one wants to buy paintings at that cost.
You can’t suddenly turn around start selling similar work for $1,000. Anyone who previously bought your work for the original price is going to feel like they’ve been ripped off, and it could hurt your reputation. If you do not currently offers works at different price points, it might be time to try that out.
4. Lack of a Web Presence
The beauty of the Internet for visual artists is that your audience can now be anywhere and everywhere. Even if you live an area where art galleries are hard to come by, you can still get your art noticed online. There several websites where you can display images of your work and sell giclée or other digital print reproductions of 2D artwork. You can also find potential customers on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Using social media is also a great way to keep in touch with other artists and find out about exhibitions, grants, workshops and other happenings. Following arts organizations and galleries on social media can open the door to opportunities that might not be listed in the newspaper.