Do you struggle with pricing your artwork? Do you often feel like you're underpricing, or maybe even undervaluing, your artwork? It's an all too common problem for artists. If you can relate, I have some good news and some surprising news for you. The good news is that this doesn't have to be your story. The surprising news is that we're going to have to address a mindset issue that's probably been holding you back.
Over the years, I've learned that if you are struggling with pricing as an artist, it rarely has anything to do with the value of your work, the quality of your work, or what people are willing to pay you. What I have found to be the case is that 99% of the time, the major roadblock when it comes to pricing is YOU, or more specifically, your MINDSET.
No matter how talented you may be or what kind of local art market you live in, at the end of the day it all boils down to what you believe about yourself and your artwork. Don’t worry, I’ll explain more as we keep going, but first I want to start here.
Let me challenge you to take a few minutes and do a little self-assessment. Be honest, even if you don't like your answers. The point of this little exercise is to find the root cause of why pricing your art is such a struggle.
Now, take a moment and ask God to show you the common thread that runs through all your answers. What is one thing that is most responsible for the problems you've had pricing your artwork?
I know for me, when I started, it was a struggle to figure out how to price my artwork effectively so that I could make money as an artist. One thing that I did learn over the years was that if you don't value yourself and your art, then that same discounting of yourself and your artistic giftings will be reflected 100% of the time in the price that you put on your artwork. Take a moment to let that sink in while I share this story.
After I moved to Asheville, North Carolina, and had become a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild (the second oldest and most prestigious fine craft guild in the country), I had an experience at one of my first shows with them that exposed my false thinking and highlighted the need to change my mindset. Being a new artist in a group in such a prestigious group, I decided to push my pricing to where I felt comfortable, to a price point I thought people would pay based on what I would pay. My mindset at the time was something like, "If I wouldn't pay more than this, then I won't price my work any higher than this." At the time, it made sense to me.
Well, I had a beautiful sculptural piece there with me that weekend. And as I started working the crowd, and people are coming up and talking to me, this one guy came up and started circling that piece. I tried to hold my excitement back just knowing he was falling in love with the sculpture and that I was about to make a sale. Everything was going well until he looked at the $200 price I had on the piece.
The guy finally engaged me and asked, "Well, are you the artist?"
I said, "Yeah!"
He said, "Well, this is a really beautiful piece, a really special piece."
I said, "Well, thank you so much.”
He said, "You know, people come to this kind of show because they are looking for something that is really, really special."
Now in the back of my mind, I am thinking the whole time, "This guy is going to totally buy this piece! He is driving himself into the buyer's lane right now."
I said, "Yeah! Yeah! People do come to this show because it is a beautiful show."
He said, "Matt, can I be honest with you?"
I said, "Sure! Sure!"
He said, "You have been doing this a lot longer than I have; you have got a lot more experience than I do, but I'll be honest with you. $200 really doesn't say "special" to me." And then he walked away.
I have a friend that had the same thing happen when she was selling a piece of pottery. She had priced her art at $150, but a prospective customer mistakenly thought that the piece was priced at $1,500 and was eager to take the piece home. As the customer took the piece up to the counter to check out, she was informed that it was only $150. Normally you'd think this would be a good thing, but the customer who was willing and ready to buy a $1500 piece of pottery refused to buy it now that it was only $150.
Why do you think this happened in both of these cases? I believe it all boils down to perception. From the artists' point of view, we both priced our pieces based on what we perceived our value and the value of the piece to be. Again, this made perfect sense at the time. But to both potential buyers, their perception of our art, art that they wanted to buy, was damaged by what they perceived to be a cheap price.
For me, this experience was an excellent opportunity to reach out to God and allow Him to challenge and change the mindsets I held around the pricing and valuing my work. As I grew in this area, I began to gain the confidence to start pricing my art in a way that set me apart.
If this resonates with you, then I challenge you to take your own pricing and value mindsets to the God and ask, "Lord, am I charging for my art based out of fear, or am I charging for my art based on being a business person, being confident in what You have called me to, knowing that I need to make money and make a profit to sell?"
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend.
Thanks for reading.
For a detailed explanation of pricing artwork, check out my guide to How to Price Your Art: The Definitive Guide for Pricing Artwork for Visual Artists.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.