How to price and market art work?
September 30, 2013 3:44 PM   Subscribe

I've decided to try selling some of my art work, however I have no idea how to go about valuing my art work. I'm also not sure of the best place to sell it or how to market it.

I've decided to sell some of my best art work to enable me to buy more materials so I can paint more and possibly start making a bit of pottery. However I've never sold any of my work before, so I'm at a loss as to how much it's worth. So I was wondering if other artists could let me know how you price your work and also how much you'd think my work is worth. Link is in my profile.

Also where is the best place to try to sell it? I've been thinking about Etsy but I'm aware there's a lot of other peoples work on there so I need to stand out. This brings me to my next question. How should I market it to try and get people to see it?

I'm aware that there are lots of people trying to sell work and that mine may not sell. However I thought I'd give it a try. I'd spoken to a gallery owner earlier this year who said that he thought the ink and watercolour studies are saleable. So I've been trying to focus on that style since. Some of the work I'm selling was the work leading up to me developing my style, hence why there's some variation in the way the pictures look.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get a booth in a community art fair, the kind that takes place in the street or a park on a weekend, mixed arts and crafts scene.

Price often depends on the size of your artwork. Smaller is less expensive than large. Are they framed? Then charge for the frame.

How long does it take you to make one of these? An hour? Five hours?

Watercolors of animals by an unknown artist: maybe $100 for a small study.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 4:06 PM on September 30, 2013


I've never sold any of my work before

Then it shouldn't be too much, unless the materials are very expensive. Do you have a market for your art, or do you need to create one? If you have a market, find out what they're willing to pay. If you don't have one, find the market that artists producing art like yours, with a similar quality and a similar level of reputation (i.e. small) use, and check out prices in that market.

Also, gauge how serious that gallery owner was. If you think they were serious not just being politce, reach back out to them, and ask them if they will sell your work. Note: first time artists into small galleries will probably get sold on consignment (i.e. they take the art, if it sells you get money; they don't buy it outright and then on-sell; it can take a long time, sometimes forever, to sell). Also, galleries take a large cut, and that's as it should be, because they play such a critical role in marketing and selling your art. If you have a ready made customer base, you will obviously get more money in your pocket per piece on Etsy or whatever. However, you may not sell as many pieces.

It really depends on where you want to take your art and what you want to do with it. If this is the fledging steps of a career for you, be aware that serious artists can never lower their prices. You can always go up, but when you go down you are saying to people that your work is not worth as much as it once was - no buyer of art wants to hear that. So you need to be careful about your pricing and ensure you have a pool of buyers that are prepared to pay more before you increase your price. Note, this only applies to artists selling into and for the art world.
posted by smoke at 4:49 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saleability has less to do with the appeal of your art, and significantly more with your marketing capabilities (while you are living).

That's the difference. That means, either learn how to market (excellent copy in your Etsy store as example, wonderful verbal creativity when showcasing the art in live situations, praise by independent parties), or partner with someone who knows this cold.

Don't cheapen your art. You'll never be able to properly valuate it if you do.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:55 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've had success selling on Etsy, and I agree that it's a great starting place for testing things out. You need to have a full shop to be found (I'd aim for at least 50 listings to start) and in a variety of formats - different sizes of prints, but also think about other 'products' your art could become: note cards, calendars, textiles, tote bags, cell phone cases.

There are a lot of seller resources within Etsy you can learn from. I also agree that you have to price your work fairly. Here's a good read on pricing your work from Etsy. It took a lot of spreadsheets and process timing before coming up with a fair price for the jewellery I sell. When I took a hard cold look at the numbers, I realized I was working way below minimum wage and that the prices needed to double for the business to be sustainable. The funny thing is - sales actually increased after I increased the prices.

Good luck to you!
posted by Pademelon at 5:08 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the answers. Smoke the gallery owner said he'd be willing to put some of my work in his front window. However he really liked the ink and watercolour studies (thankfully they're my favourites too) and he said to go away and try doing one a day for thirty days to get a good selection. Unfortunately a lot of stuff happened this year so I've not had the time to do this. Plus I'm almost out of paper, hence why I thought I'd sell some of my older stuff that I like to try to raise a bit of money to get more materials.

I'd also approached a gallery in Cornwall last year to ask what they thought of the work so far. Again the person I spoke to said he could imagine them selling but not in his gallery. He said that in Cornwall people want sea scapes more than anything else. He suggested finding somewhere where horses are popular. However he'd only seen my earlier, bright work, not the ink and watercolours.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2013


So basically what I would tell you is that Etsy is the marketplace, not the marketing. It's a big marketplace that will attract thousands of buyers you'll never reach, so that's aces and you do want to be there.But yes, it is very crowded. However it also makes setting up a store really easy and is very cheap at 20 cents per listing and a 3.5% of the item price when it sells.

But again, it isn't the marketing. You can market your Etsy store very inexpensively using social media: a Facebook page you invite everyone you know to like; a Twitter account for your artwork; a Tumblr or Wordpress blog for your business.

In terms of pricing, are you selling prints or originals? Watercolour prints seems to mostly sit in the $20 - 40 range. Pricing for originals are higher but seem to have a lot to do with size, so you should browse to get an idea.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:47 PM on September 30, 2013


It's so much harder without an inventory, whether to sell on Etsy or at an art fair. If nothing else, use whatever scraps you have lying around to do very small works. You would want to have those for lower price points because people without a lot of money who like your work will want to support you.

One option is ACEOs (2.5" x 3.5") which people collect. Some popular artists on etsy sell ink and watercolor ACEOs for $25-$40 (I've seen acrylics or oils for $55+ - no idea if they sell), and there are a lot of collectors. (On the other hand, of course, a lot of people are doing this!) I've had some luck with $12-18ish for ink ACEOs. But Etsy really is quite, quite saturated. If you are new or have a small inventory, it's so easy to be lost in the throng.

I believe some folks sell small works on DeviantART, but I have no experience with that. There are a lot of other marketplaces but you really need to do a lot of work to help people find you. It seems some folks do very well with just a few very popular pieces that are printed, as someone mentioned above, on a variety of things like computer stickers, t-shirts and many sizes of prints.

It's rough out there. But give it a shot. That raccoon just kills me! Oh! And if you've got even a little inventory set up by Christmas (might as well!), you can put your shop in the Mefi Mall. :D

(On preview, what DarlingBri said about martketplace v. marketing.)
posted by Glinn at 6:54 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Work sells very differently depending on the location. Online, compare similar types of work and see not just what people are listing them at but what's actually selling. Offline, visit some galleries/art fairs in the region* you'd sell them in and again, see the range of list prices and position yours at the low-mid level.

Type of sales arena matters. At art fairs/festivals, people want smaller works for rock-bottom prices. Ideally postcards/magnets/prints that you can sell for $2-$20. Galleries, people will pay more (but the gallery generally gets a 20-50% cut and your presentation - framing, documentation, archival quality, etc. - needs to be at a higher level). If you do have the opportunity to sell at a gallery, I'd take it. For their cut you get more exposure and their connections and efforts in selling it. Smaller work will, as a general rule, sell for less than bigger pieces. Watercolor/inks will sell for less than oils/acrylics.

When/if you have made a name for yourself as an artist your prices will also go up. You do that by consistently showing/taking art classes/winning grants and residencies/developing a professional website/being talked and written about as an artist/etc. Until that happens, though, people aren't buying your work as an investment but instead are just getting a cool piece they like. The latter doesn't pay as well.

Since I don't know your market, I'm pretty much guessing as to what you could sell the work for. But I'd say you can sell your small studies (less than 12x16") ranging from $25-$75 (maybe add $10 to the price if you frame them well**) and bigger pieces ranging from $100-$125. I think for your work the order for least effort/highest reward would be 1) gallery then 2) online/Etsy then 3) art fair/festival.


*I can sell the same type/quality painting in NYC for $2000, Philadelphia for $1500, and Baton Rouge for $700, because that's what the buyers are willing to pay in each place.

**Poor/cheap/inappropriate framing detracts from your piece and is worse than no frame at all both in terms of getting the highest price and also in recouping your time and financial cost for the frame itself.

posted by vegartanipla at 8:47 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


A link for serious art makers: Price Your Art Realistically
posted by artdrectr at 11:40 PM on September 30, 2013


Thank you all for your answers, I've learnt a lot from all of them. I'm off now to do a lot more research and preperation.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 12:14 PM on October 1, 2013


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