The Price Is Right

Recently I made a social media post asking for folks to post their art business questions.  And boy, did I get a lot of responses.  Thank you so much.  Here is the first one in that series.

Artist Rosie Garcia asks “How do you price work, for example if you sell through a gallery or not. Do you have same price either way?”

That is a very good question and one that I get asked a lot.  So let’s look at some pricing tips.  I have 5 helpful pricing tips and #3 definitely answers Rosie’s question.

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1.  Separate Feelings From Facts – I don’t know about you but for me, when it’s time to price my work DOUBT shows up in a big way.  I often hear my brain say things like “there’s no way it’s worth THAT much!” or “I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for this, it’s not that good.”  Doubt creeps up.  Stop that shit right now!  Galleries, collectors, and patrons don’t get to see your feelings and your doubt.  They are looking at prices based on external facts.  They see the market (other art like yours), size, materials you used, and hear your story as to why you created this piece (artist statement).  They aren’t inside your head being told it’s not worth it.  So when you are pricing get in the mindset of basing you prices on facts NOT feelings.

2. What ARE the facts? – You need your work to cover a few costs.  Your time and materials should be factored in.  It also helps for you to go do your homework.  Look at other art that is similar in your area and see what it is selling for.  Does your work fit into that range?  Are people buying it at certain price….Should you charge more or less?  Also look at work you have sold in the past….is your pricing consistent with older work.  You can do some research and figure out the numbers that may work for you….You don’t have to pull the price out of thin air.

3. Set It And Forget It – I know it sounds like an info-mercial.  But I have a policy that when I am done with a piece I set the price based on facts….and THAT is the final price.  It never changes.  Why?  Well mostly I want my prices to be consistent for my collectors and my galleries.  I wouldn’t want a person to buy a piece at a gallery for say $1000 and then go to another gallery and see the similar series paintings for $600.  That collector would feel stiffed and ripped off.  ALSO the galleries that find you changing your prices may not want to work with you ever again.  This is also true for my Open Studios shows.  The price is the same at my Open Studios as it would be in the gallery.  My good friend Jennifer Farris the Owner of STUDIO Gallery told me a bit of wisdom years ago and I live by it.  She said “You deserve 50% of the sale for making the art, and someone deserves 50% of the sale for SELLING the art.”  So if a gallery does their job and works hard to sell your painting they totally deserve it.  And if you work super hard on your open studio and make the sale….YOU deserve that half.  So keep your prices consistent.

4. Stand Behind Your Prices – Once you have done the research and homework.  You have factored in all the things like costs, times, materials, other art, etc.  You have a a number that looks right….feels right…and is backed up by the facts.  You may also want to get some outside help.  You can ask your peers if your pricing seems on target.  You can even talk with the gallery owners and curators sometimes and find out if your pricing fits for their gallery.  Often times I have found that I was undervaluing my work (see tip #1).  So don’t be scared to ask for some outside help.  And once you have it….stand on it.  You are the only person that makes work like yours.  You have worked for years to get to where you are now in your art journey.  You have spent countless dollars on supplies, bills, and education.  You have put in so many grueling late night hours perfecting your thing.  You have a style.  You are bold.  You are strong and courageous and you believe that your work is worth it and you have the facts to back you up.

5. Overall Prices Of Your Body Of Work – I tell artists this next sentence a lot and sometimes i jars them a little bit…so get ready.

“You don’t owe it to anyone to make affordable art”

I hope that doesn’t scare you.  Here is what I mean by that.  Over the course of your art career you are hopefully going to make a LOT of art.  Some big things….some small things.  Some good…..some not as good.  You are gonna price things wrong sometimes….and sometimes you will nail it.  Many artists I talk to tell me that they make art that is cheap for their friends and family.  And when they talk about it you’d think they didn’t even cover their costs.  That only hurts the artist.  As artists we don’t always have a lot of income steams….so undervaluing your main source of art income only hurts you.  Price things correctly. If someone likes one of your larger more pricey pieces but cant afford it….maybe they can afford a smaller piece or a commission.  You are going to make art with all different price points and sizes.  Maybe one of the other price points will fit their budget.  Maybe they aren’t that serious about it in the first place.  I mean…if someone is really in love with a piece….Nothing is going to stop them from having it.  So keep that in mind when you are looking at pricing your current body of work.  You owe it to yourself to get this right.

I am sure I could spout off plenty of more things about pricing your work.  Heck I am sure I could talk my way into a book deal about pricing.  Artists all over the Bay Area have asked me for pricing help.  It is a topic that comes up at every workshop I give, even if it’s not a workshop about pricing.  Take these tips and go forth.  You will get it right.

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As for more questions, I would love to hear what you wanna know about art inspiration or art business.  Please Comment with a question and I will work to get in on the blog.  THANK YOU!

How to have a Victory with Open Studios!

Here in San Francisco we are just a few days away from open studios. (Mine is on Oct. 12, 13, 14….oh man)  ArtSpan’s SF Open Studios is largest and longest running Open Studios program in the country. This week I am frantically making lists of the things I need to do, and fighting off the panic. As the co-chair of ArtSpan’s Open Studios committee I get asked a lot of questions on how to prepare for the event. Over the last 6 years of doing it I have a good amount to share. Here are some key incites that will help you to have a some victories with Open Studios.

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First Stop – The Toolkit – Did you know that ArtSpan volunteers have comprised a toolkit to help you succeed at Open Studios?  It has a wealth of information in it.  Anything from postcard designing, to sales receipts and what food to set out in your studio.  If you have questions….hopefully its in the toolkit.  So stop there first.  One of my personal favs in the toolkit is the timeline….showing you when you should be ordering postcards and getting ready.  I find that super helpful.  Check it out here…

Check The  Variables… – Look…there are things you can control about Open Studios and things you cannot control.  You can say to yourself I wanna sell all of my work and make ‘X’ amount of dollars during my Open Studios.  But that is not something you can control.  There are things on your list that are NOT variables.  Like, you can invite 50 people by phone.  You can go door to door and tell all ten of your neighbors about your Open Studio.  You can give out 100 postcards to people.  You can make sure that the coffee shop down the street has SF Open Studios Guides.  Do you see where I am going with this?  You can do action items that are attainable and if you do that to the best of your ability you will have a successful open studios.  Which brings me to the next piece…Victory.

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Defining Victory – What does it mean to be successful at Open Studios?  Is Open Studios a good place to sell your work?  Can I pay my bills with this event?

Certainly for each of us the answers vary greatly.  I have always approached Open Studios as a ‘get to know me’ event.  Since I can’t control if people buy my work or not, I tend to not look at it as a SALES event.  My mission is to show people my work and studio and get them acquainted with my story.  I work to get names and emails onto my mailing list.  I give out commission information.  I talk and tell stories all weekend.  I work really hard to invite a lot of people to my event.  And I curate and present my work in the best light I can so that people can enjoy it and start to follow what I do.  And if that is your goal and you put in the time and work….you win.  Even if no one buys a single painting, you nail all the things that you can control and have a victory in that.  THEN when someone does buy a piece of work its like a bonus round.

Approaching the event this way has really helped me on the days that there were no sales.  It has helped me see that maybe I didn’t make much money one day, but I did get 46 new people on my mailing list….and as I have managed that list over the years, some of those people have followed me and come out to shows…and even now collect my work.  So for me, Open Studios is about playing long-ball.  It’s nice to sell stuff…and I usually do well with prints and things, but its really great to meet new collectors and get people excited about what I do.

Now I know this approach may not work for all of us.  Some folks are in this event to pay their bills.  More power to them and I hope they kill it.  Even still….look at the things that you do have control over and make sure that you do that work.  Then you will have a victory either way.

I hope to make it out to all of your open studios this year.  Its a huge event.  Go kick buns.

See you soon.

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SF Open Studios  – Check out over 800 participating artists over 5 weekends of SF Open Studios.  Its a huge part of the SF art community.  Artists are happily welcoming YOU to their studios…so please check it out.