Pricing Art accurately

...or how not to proposition your values

 2019-11-14 02:29 PM by
Pricing Art accurately

Not all of you will know this about me but since long, long before I got hooked on mosaics, I have been involved in flea markets, either as simply a vendor or stallholder, or as an organiser.

In 1991 I was between jobs and trying to get pregnant.  Under the circumstance it did not make sense for me to find a job that I was only going to be in for a few months but I also did not want to just hang around the house so I started making things to sell and found myself a stall at the local Rotary Flea Market.

Markets & Mosaics

Since then I have sold second hand clothing, soft furnishings, plastic homeware, sweets, toys, beads, scrapbooking goodies, handmade jewellery, frozen chicken, original art, breakfast rolls, potjiekos and of course my mosaics at flea markets in such diverse places as Cullinan, Hartebeespoort, Hillcrest, Johannesburg, Kriel, Leslie, Midrand, Nelspruit, Parys, Pretoria, Springs, Stilfontein, Umhlanga and Uvongo.

I organised the stalls for a church fete in Leslie and for two years running, the annual entrepreneurs market at our local church.  Right now I am involved in the arrangements for the Christmas Market at the Centurion Art Gallery.

What does this have to do with mosaics?

Very little directly, but anyone who has ever sat at a flea market stall, waiting for a potential customer to engage with, will have experienced the scenario where a person walks by your stall and almost sneers: “I can make this for half the price”.


Take it from whom it comes

Over the years and only after a bit of emotional falling apart and re-grouping, I have developed my standard response: “Really?  Then I should increase my price, it is obviously too cheap if it is only twice the cost of materials”.  A comment like this clearly does not consider time or ability.

Sometimes people will also ask "How long did it take you to make that?", as if that will allow them to determine if your price is fair.  I love this quip quoted by Melanie Sharp on the Craftsy website as a response to this question, from her 63-year old artist friend: "...63 years...".

As artists and makers we tend to be very sensitive about our pricing.  No-one knows better than you what you paid for something.  No-one knows better than you how many hours you invested in creating any piece.  Yet we tend to allow people who have none of this perspective to prescribe the value of our art.  We need a paradigm shift.

Think about it this way: There are good doctors and there are bad doctors.  Yet all GP’s charge the same rate for a consultation.  If a medical student invested more and became a specialist he can charge more than a GP, but there are good specialists and better specialists yet they all command the same rate.  The difference is that good GP’s, like good specialists, will be more popular and will earn a higher income by sheer volume of clients.

Naturally we cannot price our mosaics quite as linearly as a doctor can price his consultations.

If you are a full-time mosaic artist, your art needs to pay your salary.

So that is your starting point: What salary do you need/deserve?

How many pieces can you make in a month?

Value yourself

Divide your salary by the number of pieces (using the time taken to create), add cost of materials and that should be the minimum you should charge for the work.  This is a very basic cost calculation – the formula may be more complex depending on your other expenses (if you rent studio space, for instance).  I would recommend you research a few different pricing models like the one offered by Lou Ann Weeks or the one on the Craftsy website.

As you develop a reputation and become popular and even sought-after, this pricing model will become redundant and you will be able to price at the higher end of the scale.

The biggest hindrance to accurate pricing is artistic insecurity.  A small number of us have very, very healthy ego’s and do not suffer from this affliction but if you do, the best thing you can do is not to sell your art yourself.

Investigate potential outlets, determine your pricing scientifically without allowing emotion into the equation and let the sales staff deal with consumer psychology.