by Carolyn Edlund
Do your art prices remain constant whether selling directly to collectors, online or through a third party? Here’s why consistency matters.
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When you have set prices for your artwork according to a formula that pays you a fair wage for your work and includes profit, you can grow your business. It’s important to know that your prices are competitive in the marketplace, but also allow you to earn what you’re worth. If prices are arbitrarily, without regard for your costs or the perceived value of your work, you may be cheating yourself. Or you may be inadvertently overcharging and missing potential sales.
Knowing how to price correctly at the start will help you to:
- Include a profit margin on everything you make
- Calculate your price by charging per square inch (or linear inch) for like products, in a systematic way that makes sense to customers
- Be competitive in your chosen marketplace
- Spread your price points for a collection that offers something for your customers, regardless of their budget
- Keep your prices stable, and increase them when appropriate
Sometimes, artists don’t realize that the price is the price is the price regardless of where the art is sold. They may vacillate on pricing depending on the circumstances. This also happens when artists lack clarity about pricing basics.
One artist declared, “I’m no longer working with galleries, so I’m cutting my prices in half since I don’t have to pay their commission.” What he forgot was that when selling directly, he expends time, money and effort, just as a gallery would. If he’s selling his work at half price, he would be performing all of those marketing and sales tasks without payment for his labor or compensation for his expenses.
Knowing how to price and staying consistent with them, puts you as the artist in control. You know how much to charge and why. And, even if you choose to have a temporary sale on your work or offer a discount to a collector, you are aware that you’re not losing money. Your regular retail prices remain unchanged.
What can happen when artists lack pricing consistency?
- When prices fluctuate without a clear reason, your existing collectors may feel that they got a bad deal. If they paid more and your current prices are lower, your work seems to have gone down in value. This discourages repeat sales, and creates distrust.
- Unfairly competing by undercutting the prices of your wholesale customers or galleries is a big problem. It may give their customers the impression that they have an excessive markup or are overcharging when actually they are not. It’s a recipe for ruining your relationship with those vendors, especially if you are selling online or at events in their local area.
- Unstable prices give the impression that the artist is not a professional. Customers may believe you don’t have a good handle on how to price your work, or you don’t understand what it is worth in the marketplace.
- Every time you arbitrarily set prices, you are at risk of underpricing your work and not being profitable. Losing money on sales of your art sets your entire business up for failure.
When you art is priced correctly and your work is selling, your business is in balance. You will be earning and making a profit. Have confidence in your prices, and be able to defend them if asked. Then, stay consistent with pricing across sales venues and platforms. This type of transparency will serve you as the artist, your collectors, and any third-parties who also sell your art.
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