Pricing Your Art
A beginner's guide to pricing your art
TIPS & TRICKSHUSTLING
A question that plagues every artist - how much should I charge?
This beginner's guide will hopefully ease some of your worries.
No apologies in advance for the slightly aggressive tone.
Three rules to guide you
Rule 1. Be fucking savvy
Don't undersell yourself; don't belittle your worth. Be fair to yourself, dammit! You worked hard! Or at least you should have if you're really trying to make art sales your bread and butter. Charge a fair rate, accurately capturing your materials, time, and talent costs. Talent is the hardest thing to calculate, especially for artists, because we are (often) plagued with self-loathing or comparison. Just because you don't always think you're good enough or producing at the same caliber as some other artist doesn't mean you should diminish the value of your work.
As mentioned throughout this post, asking for advice or searching around and seeing what others are charging doesn't hurt. I often see artists undersell their work because they either don't want to charge too much or feel that people won't buy their work.
But, if you're just getting started, start at a reasonable price for the amount of time and resources you put into it. Commit to something for your first few markets, and if sales aren't what you'd hoped, adjust as needed. Remember that where you sell or what time of year can also impact your sales, so don't let a slow day bring you down or make you feel like you need to charge drastically less.
Rule 2. Be fucking fair to yourself
Rule 3. Know your fucking market
If you're starting in your art-making and selling journey, don't pay full price for your materials. It's just silly to do, particularly if you can avoid it. Scour the internet for deals, wait until Michael's has that 40% coupon, or see if your city/town has a creative reuse center. Maybe you can score some latex off of Facebook marketplace or snag quality paper from the trash cans of your local art college at the end of the semester.
Whatever it is, don't squander your investments into artmaking by buying shit full-price. At some point down the road, we all realize that we probably won't make a million dollars selling acrylic pour paintings at the local farmer's market (not a personal attack, but a practicality). So be fucking savvy. If you keep your expenses low, your profits will inevitably be high. You can (and should) consider the retail value of your materials when calculating the cost of your work.
This rule may not always be possible to follow. I understand that. If you're working in an expensive craft like screenprinting or ceramics, those startup costs to get equipment are rough and those materials are kind of always expensive. So, figure out where and when you can save. Being cheap doesn't mean you produce piss-poor work, in fact, it means you're producing better work because if you aren't stressing about money, then you have more time to be creative.
What are you selling, and who are you selling it to? What you sell determines your market, clientele, and consumer base. This is an important factor to consider when you're setting up shop.
Something I've observed as a consumer and an artist is that people fucking love ceramics. Who doesn't appreciate a unique, one-of-a-kind ceramic mug with a pretty glaze? Someone's hands make it, and it takes multiple fucking steps to take this element out from the earth and turn it into your next favorite coffee or tea mug. The consumer base for ceramics is wide as fuck. On the other hand, the consumer base for something niche like black-out poetry zines is probably a lot smaller. Also, zines can be and generally are a lot cheaper to produce. I would buy a nice mug for $35. I would not buy a Xeroxed zine for $35 even if it had the answers to the universe inside.
And this logic can be applied to other things. Folks love T-shirts, stickers, posters, and so on. We all love stuff, but the stuff we love to make isn't always going to be stuff everyone else loves. Know your fucking market. I make comics. That's a niche market, and generally, with comic books, there's a pre-existing bracket of pricing to determine how much someone will pay for some pieces of paper stapled together. It ain't no collector's edition Amazing Spider-Man #1; it's a contemporary and new piece of work that probably cost me hundreds of dollars to print, but I'm only selling copies for $3-$15, depending on the number of pages.
The overarching principle to pricing your art uses an equation of materials + time + experience level (market value). The rules below should also be considered in guiding you with that equation. This guide is more for beginners, so you, an artisanal craftsman who has logged 100,000 hours honing your craft, may not find this helpful.
The general rule of thumb for pricing your shit whether it's for a commission, a grant-funded project, or for your local market is: Cost of materials (x) Hourly Rate (x) Hours to Complete Artwork
But what should my hourly rate be, mom?: Well Johnny, it should be considered with two things: what's the economy like and where are you in your art-making career? Not unlike any job description you'd see out in the world, you must treat this like your job if you want to make money. So right now, in the year 2024, search for the minimum wage in your state. Good. Now, on top of that, consider where you're at in your career. It helps to search around to see what a beginner or mid-level artist is charging. Do you have fellow art friends? Ask them what they charge.
In my most recent line of work (dated 2023), I paid professional artists $32.35/hour and artists-in-training $11.47-$15/hour. I charge somewhere between $25-$30/hour, depending on my client and their budget.
Now, there are Art Pricing Calculators out there, which are helpful tools but they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. You can consider multiple things when determining your prices, not just when working with clients but also when considering how much money you need to live comfortably.
As always, I hope that is helpful as you start out. Go forth and price your art with confidence!
If anyone out there has any tips they want to share then don't hesitate to share them with us!