“How much do you think I should charge for my artwork?” Is a question I get asked on a regular basis so I thought I would address it properly instead of giving the same convoluted response over and over again. The short answer to this question is that there is no right answer. That’s probably what you wanted to hear though is it? But what if I said to you “you should sell your work for a thousand pounds per item” how would that make you feel? I have been fascinated with our association and emotional attachment to money for a long time, it’s something that isn’t easy to overcome but it can be something that changes your whole career. For most of us money isn’t a particularly comfortable subject, especially if we talk about how much our work is worth.
The main reason for this is that we attach it to our own self worth. Sometimes we might think to ourselves “my art isn’t worth that much! It only took me a few hours to put it together!” We may even resent artists who charge lots of money for their work and are featured in high end galleries, looking at them as sellouts. If this is true for you, you must ask yourself what the chances are of making a good living from your work really are. If you resent people who are successful (consciously or subconsciously), you won’t ever feel comfortable be paid lots of money for your work and therefore the chances of it happening are very low. Even if you do manage to get paid what you consider to be a reasonable amount you will sabotage yourself and it won’t last for long. The psychological theory of self sabotage is fairly well known but best exemplified in the context of money. Many people have negative beliefs about money or specifically in this case selling their work for a lot of money. Due to this our subconscious mind will do everything in its power to stop you from reaching this goal as it believes it will have a negative impact on your life or endanger you in some way.
Therefore there are 2 main things to consider with this question; the psychological aspect (the most important) and the practical / logistical side of things i.e. where are you going to sell your work and who to.
I firmly believe that 20% of your achievements are a result of the actions you take and 80% are the result of how you think about them. As creatives our psychology is extremely important, we have to be willing to fail, be thick skinned, determined, passionate and that’s even before we have mastered a particular skill or craft. Creative Life is about teaching artists the importance of psychology within a creative context and providing the tools and resources to help artists earn a living from doing work they love.
You have probably heard the story of Picasso and the napkin in one form or another but this is my version; one day Picasso was sitting in a cafe doodling on a napkin when a woman came over and said “Sorry to interrupt but I just had to tell you how much I admire your work”. She then noticed the napkin he has been doodling on and asked how much she could buy it for. Picasso replied “One thousand pounds” the woman looked shocked and said “a thousand pounds? It can only have taken you ten minutes!” to which Picasso replied; “No Madam, it’s taken me my entire life”
We often overlook the time and effort we have put into getting where we are now and just focus on the work at hand. No matter what creative field you work in, the one thing that will change your life for the better is to acknowledge the value of your work. It is an accumulation of all of your efforts since you first started exploring that field. The hard lessons you have had to learn, the time spent learning what did and didn’t work, all of those times you worked for free, they all contribute to the artists you are today.
You must also acknowledge that your work does not represent your value as a person, no amount of money does. You are represented by your personality and your actions as a human, that and that alone is who you are, your work is an expression of a thought, feeling or mood you had at a particular time. It is a representation of hard work, skill acquisition and commitment to a craft. What you produce is a unique work of art that could not have been produced by anyone other than you as no one else has had the same experiences and exactly the same skill set. At the end of the day, your art is worth what someone is willing to pay for it and what it means to them, there are plenty of ways to determine that.
If you are interested in the psychology behind the value of work be sure to check out “How to add more value to your work” by Oli Anderson.
The practical side of deciding how much to charge for your artwork
The second part of deciding what price to sell your work for is slightly more practical and logistical. This completely depends on the type of work you are selling but for this example I’m going to use a physical piece such as a painting or photograph print.
1: Where is your work going to be exhibited? This again plays largely on psychology to an extent but is one of the most important factors that determine how people value your work. The respected galleries can charge very high prices for their work due to things such as location and reputation, that is why it’s so hard to get in them!
2: Is there currently any other artwork on display? How much is it advertised for? Does it sell? Who you exhibit your work with is another important factor to consider. Like a band supporting a big artist, people assume that you have to be of a certain quality to get that spot in the first place (unfortunately that isn’t always the case)
3: How much do you need the prints to sell for to support your lifestyle? Is it something you are doing for exposure or do you need it to pay some bills? What’s your end goal? When you are first starting out it may be better to just get your work out there wherever you can in order to gain some exposure and feedback on your work. As you progress as an artist and your work gains more recognition think about the sort of venues and galleries that will help you take your career to the next level.
The important thing to remember here is that your personal value is not attached to how much you charge for your artwork. This is one thing that causes a lot of artists to be discontent. Whether it’s makes them afraid to put their work out there because they don’t want to be judged or if it means they can’t decide what price to put on it, associating your self worth with the price of your work only has negative affects.
Change your beliefs and you can change your life.
What do you struggle with when trying to price work? Did this article help? Please let me know in the comments below!