by Diana Fayt
“As promised, I am back to talk about pricing. I have thought about it over the past couple of weeks. I realized that this is an enormous topic, one that should not be summed up on one person’s blog post. Oh and one more thing. I am only stating my views on the topic of pricing. These are some of the rules of thumb that I have learned from others along the way and through my own experience. I salute and honor all creativity however one expresses it and feel it all has value. How much is it worth monetarily in the that big world out there? Well. lets try and figure that out together!
My first bit of advice is to find your category. By this I mean, are you a career Artist, will you be making work for the rest of your life? Are you a Fine Artist/Craftsperson? Are you “crafty” meaning you love to make crafts in your spare time, you are not making this your life’s work, but you would like to sell what you make. These are important things to figure out. When pricing (and placing) work these things do matter. For instance, I do believe a person who is dedicated to lifelong career of being an Artist, who consistently and systematically works to build a career, has a regular studio practice and has ongoing shows does articulate a level of commitment that imbues value to their work differently than say those of the weekend crafter. It is only one factor though. We can factor in education as well, though the jury is out (my own personal jury) on this as I do embrace the Outsider Artists of the world and don’t believe it is entirely necessary for all people to jump through the flaming hoops of the artistic academia, to prove that they are “real” Artists. Though education can’t be overlooked. It does show commitment. Those of us who have passed through those hoops and felt the flames of heat on our backs, can’t deny it’s influence on our development as Artists and take that aspect of our commitment seriously. In some circles your work won’t be considered if you do not have the academic degrees to back it up. Next, how long have you been making your work? Are you just starting out? Have you been at it for two, ten, fifteen…twenty years? How long have you been showing and selling your work? Have you been published? Once you have figured this out then that will help you place yourself in your category.
Second, figure out your costs. This is the nitty gritty. Expenses, I mean all expenses, materials, time, rent, photography, travel and everything that goes into making your work. Once you figure out the costs figure out how much time it takes you to make your work. It may vary from piece to piece but get a general idea of the time you spend making your work. Then give yourself an hourly wage for that time. Now this is a tricky one. This might be heavily influenced by where you live and cost of living in your area. I, for example, live in a very expensive place, which translates to a higher hourly wage for cost of living. Do the math figure out (as close as possible) the costs to make a piece.
Third, do some research. Find out what others are charging for an item comparable to yours and by made by people in your category. Look in stores and galleries, take a look at what is being sold online. Take note of the pricing. This can get confusing too, but I do believe if you have figured out your category, taken into consideration where you are at in your career, know your costs for producing the work and how things are priced out there in the world you will get a clearer idea for pricing your own work. Also take into consideration that you might be selling the work at wholesale prices, which constitutes fifty to sixty percent of the retail selling price.
With that said, there are a lot of mixed messages out there. It used to be (as I like to say in the olden’ days, which really was not so long ago) that the boundaries of Artist and the value of work were much more clearly delineated. The Internet and things like Etsy are quickly blurring those boundaries. Suddenly everyone who has ever done anything creative is an Artist. Well yes and no. Just because I make a spreadsheet on my computer and do an analysis of my production costs, does that make me a financial guru? No, it means I did it because I can (and I have a computer program to help) but not because I am an expert in the field. There is a distinct difference.
Okay, now that we have category, costs, done our research on what the going rate is for something of equal value, figure out a fair price that will pay you for your time and cover your costs. I would also like to emphasize that it is very important to give yourself room to grow with your prices. Don’t price yourself too high at first. If you are just starting out it is acceptable that your work be slightly lower than that of the going rate. If you find after doing your cost analysis that it is not possible for you to recoup your expenses as well as pay yourself then maybe consider not making that work to sell. Sometimes we love exquisite materials, which in turn give us exquisite prices or the amount of labor it takes to execute the piece makes it impossible for us to sell the work for what it is worth. If that is so then I would consider making this type of work for special occasions such as a show or a special order from someone who understands the value and is willing to pay for the added cost.
People will (and should) look at your history as an Artist. Emerging Artists are not expected and should not have the same prices as mid career or mature Artists. You think my prices are high, take a look at Ruth Duckworth. One of her cups sells for at least $1200, one of her cups and so she should, her work is phenomenal and she has the resume to back it. I have a long way to go before I can ask for prices like that. I have to earn it, prove my commitment and most of all, make good work. However it is never in your best interest to lower your prices after you’ve put your work out there. It devalues your work. Also, don’t under price yourself. By doing so you not only do a disservice to yourself but to other Artists in your category as well. Once you put your work out there with a price tag on it, you become part of a greater community and it is very, VERY, important to value yourself, your work and in doing so you uphold the same ideal for your peers. I feel very strongly about Artists getting paid for their time. Too often it is assumed that we do what we do because it is “fun” and in turn is translated, as “you should do it for free.” We all know the truth, so many of you have written to me with your truth and the reality of that truth is that until we take ourselves seriously no one else will.”