Thursday, 7 July 2011

How To Charge the Right Price for Your Work

'The Rainbow Painter' watercolour and ink illustration


I wanted to write about how to price your work today; it's one of those subjects that can be quite mind boggling if you're just starting out on your creative selling venture, but also an icky one for those who are already selling their wares and don't feel as if they're getting the right price for their lovely stuff.

Moolah is a funny subject, and most people feel a bit self concious talking about it - luckily I'm not one of those people and I'm happy to share my thoughts and some little bits of wisdom on the subject of selling online with you here.  I have learnt many lessons along the way, and I hope what I'm going to share with you will be useful.

First off, there's a story.

Once upon a time there was an artist who used to paint bright and colourful pictures.  She wasn't confident about selling her work so she would give it away for free.  If someone in her family, or a friend said they liked a painting, she would give it to them and this went on for some time.  However, an emptiness and a slight feeling of annoyance was growing.  The artist knew that alot of effort had gone into her paintings, and she was thrilled that other people liked them, but the balance of the energy exchange was all out of kilter.  

For 100's of years, people have used money as a tool of exchange - in the olden days, people used to trade in 2 piglets for a cow, that kind of thing...but nowadays we tend to use cash.  Whichever way you look at it, it's still an exchange which keeps the balance happy.  What's the balance?  it's this:  You and your customer both receive value from your product ~ you get some well deserved moolah for creating something marvellous, and your customer gets to become the new owner of your marvellous creation.  Balanced energy exchange ~ all happy ~ Hurrah!! 

So anyways, back to the story:  The artist here who had been giving away her work and getting nothing given back in return, was starting to feel pretty lousy...and she realised that in order to feel better, and for the beneficiarys of her pictures to feel better too, then she had to start charging a price for her work.

So how do you work out what the right price is?

This can seem like the hardest thing in the world to work out, but it's actually pretty easy.

First off, you need to work out your costs and come up with a total.   When I say costs, I mean things like materials and sundries such as box canvases, paints, mounts for prints, paper, printing inks, shipping materials, postage costs etc...Time is also a factor that you might want to consider.  Many artists find that they earn below the minimum wage per hour when they divide up the price of their painting by the number of hours it took to create it!  Write everything down in a notebook; you might be surprised by how much you are spending (both materials and time) when you see it all written down in front of you.

Now, you need to figure out your profit.  No point spending all that precious time and energy creating something hot, just to charge the recipient for the materials it's cost you - you're not going to feel too great unless you're earning something for your effort.

If you're still unsure what to charge...

HOT TIP: Have a look online at other artists or craftspeople who's work is of a similar nature and level to your own.  You can easily find these people by visiting Folksy or Etsy.  See what they are charging for their products, find the average and use these prices as a guideline when pricing up your own work.  It doesn't hurt to do a bit of homework and see what the competition is up to.

Next question you want to ask yourself is: "Does this price feel right to me?"

Does it make you feel good?  Does it feel uncomfortable, like it's a bit too much?  Does it feel like it's not enough?  Only you can be the judge of this; only you know what went into the item you're pricing, so listen to your gut on this one.
The right price will feel good, and that you're getting what the product is truly worth to you.  When you get that feeling, that's your price - but feel free to tweak it accordingly.  

I often revisit my own gallery pages and investigate the online marketplaces to compare how my stuff sits in relation to others.  I don't want to price myself out of the market by charging too much, and I don't want to underprice myself just for the sake of saying I got a sale (a sale under those circumstances is a bitter sweet affair I can tell you!).  Whilst in Cornwall recently I made a point of noticing what galleries were charging for prints and originals - the recession is showing and generally the prices of original art is down a tad and I like to make a habit of keeping an eye on the market.  I sometimes have to change my prices if the cost of my materials, or shipping goes up.  It all has to be reflective or I'm making a loss and that tips the Balance into the negative for me.

I hope that this post has been of help to some of you who have been struggling with making the first steps at selling your work - listen to your instinct and don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth.

Big love
Julia x

BIG PS:  Thank you SO MUCH for all your gorgeous and kind comments about the magazine feature, it made my day to discover and read them all!  Have a happy weekend, see you soon.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts on a tricky subject! It's so nice when people like your work, that it is tempting to give it away (we all do it!) but it's even nicer when someone is happy to pay a reasonable price, which reflects all the skill and effort that goes into a little work of art. Well done on the magazine article too!!

  2. Thank you for an interesting post. It is really hard trying to price work and I think you have hit the nail on the your gut.

    Apart from selling my art for cash, I think the old fashioned way of exchanging something is also good. A friend of mine wants to do some healing on me (she is just becoming a practicing teacher) and in return I am doing a painting for her. We both benefit and don't feel like we are taking advantage of each others talents!

  3. Absolutely Helen, that's a great point - trading in that respect is also a great way of keeping the balance, and both parties getting something that they want out of the process. Thanks for sharing!

    J x

  4. Hello Julia! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience! This subject is in deed difficult! There is no way to get enough for some hand made crafts, because they just need so much time. Then we have to think that we make them also for our own enjoy. But anyway we should feel comfortable to give our work away for the price we get, other wise it's not use to sell. I think when someone respects our efforts to create, they will by it happily for a suitable price, if not, they can by something from the 'super market'.
    I'm so happy to be able to share thoughts with you, Julia! Have a wonderful time and I'm waiting to show my "Summer" craft!
    xxx Teje

  5. Your post is quite timely... we go to our first ever "fair" on Saturday, to show off our wares... I'm still not feeling sure on prices (or the fair in general really) I do NOT even want to write down what I spend on arts and craft supplies, i probably faint... but maybe i should ~ probably a very good wake up call! :) I am right at the very spot you mention about emptiness and annoyance!
    Thanks for sharing all your thoughts and tips and ideas ~ you are just what doctor ordered!! :)

  6. Oh you are so wise and wonderful with all your really heartfelt posts Julia, thanks so much xox

  7. Very wise words - I think there is often a tendency to undercharge when you start out, but I agree with you entirely. And what you say is applicable in other fields, too - we went through similar discussions when deciding what to charge for our B&B, which is quite unique and special, so difficult to compare, but it does get easier with experience.

    Pomona x

  8. This post has a strong resonance for me Julia. Many years ago I designed and knitted sweaters and other things to a high standard My neighbour asked me if I would do something for her and perhaps she would pay me £3.00 for it? Needless to say, I declined her offer especially since that sum included the cost of materials. It is better that you price yourself into a market, not under it.

  9. Thanks for your tips! I´m dealing with this subject right now.


  10. Wow, this is something on my mind *a lot* lately! I am gearing up for applying for my first (juried) art fairs this summer. While getting everything ready, I find myself really uncomfortable with pricing my work.

    I don't want to underprice it, because I know how much time and effort I put into it. And it seems like pricing it too low will cheapen it, if that makes any sense.

    At the same time, though, there is a part of me that isn't entirely sure that people will like my work enough to pay for it. It's all rather scary to me, to be quite honest. Kind of like putting myself out there on display and hoping others will find me worthy.


  11. Thank you for your words of advice. You are so right pricing is very tricky and something I struggle with enormously.

    Congratulations on the magazine feature I hope it leads to someone new discovering your work :)

  12. thankyou, i found you post really interesting, i have been trying to work out the prices for a few items that i have been getting together for a stall in August. I have took a sample to show and i must say i was abit surprised how little people wanted to pay, Prehaps they are just frugle at this time but hey i think they are worth a little more, like you said its good to look at what other people are doing which are similar to yours. ps well done for the mag article i have just been to another blogger who was in the same article x well done x

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  14. That is all well and good and of course it makes some sense. However, people are often not prepared to pay for the labour that a hand crafted item costs. A good example is a pair of knitted socks - no one wants to pay for the hours it takes, plus the £8 or so the raw materials cost. Not when you can buy them so cheaply. You can probably even get hand knitted ones made abroad for comparative pennies. Very few craftsman/women and only a few artists can get fair costs for what they have made. Because the costs of production are so high (and they are because raw materials are ridiculously expensive - often much more so than a finished mass market product); it means you end up making an elitist product that only the very well off can afford. That makes me very unhappy. Good quality hand made goods should be available for all while allowing the maker to earn a decent living. Places like etsy enable people to sell their wares but mostly the prices barely cover the materials and sometimes not even that. Great for the purchaser but heartbreaking and demoralising for the creative person who makes the product. There doesn't seem to be an answer to the problem unfortunately - people refuse to pay unfair and low prices as it is. Put them up and people will not buy at all.

  15. Hi Julia,

    What a great post (loved your little story...think we can all relate to that one).

    I've been reading back through posts I have missed (been sooo busy lately, but hopefully that has all settled down now).

    Love your new Creative Life ...

    Jacky xox

  16. A tricky subject; thanks for your thoughts on this. I kind of agree with Anonymous. In an ideal world, people would be happy to pay the true worth of a hand-made original, but in certain areas of the country this is not going to happen. We still have to labour under the established art/craft edict too, where paint is art and textiles is craft. Good post though - and sorry that I have to be so negative.

  17. Thankyou Julia. It's odd that I sell mine for peanuts yet allow (and expect) galleries to sell my paintings for hundreds. Hmmm I think it's a confidence issue with me :)xx

  18. Great blog post and well done on your mag feature, I saw your lovely painting in it today in a Sainsburys :-) Price is a hard thing to work out, my hairclips won't make me much money at all as they have a ceiling price but I do so love making them and knowing they are making kiddies happy wearing them :-)

  19. Helloeee! First let me congratulate you on your magazine feature, wow brilliant!! Fab post on pricing work, its a very big issue I find. People sometimes don't realise how much work goes into something handcrafted and it can be quite disheartening sometimes, although with sites like Etsy and Folksy etc you know people are actually looking for Handmade items, so thats a good thing! Well done again,it must be wonderful to see your work in a magazine xxxxxxxxx

  20. Thanks for your thoughts on this Julia - it is tricksy.
    I can have 20 people tell me I'm under charging for my work - then one comment on feefo that says 'small for the cost' and my confidence plummets! Made more tricky by the fact that notonthehighstreet takes 25%! (yes, working towards own day)
    I also wonder if some people think something is worth more if its expensive - and am often flabbergasted by the prices people are prepared to pay on NOTHS!
    I worked out my hourly rate recently and decided a little price rise or 2 was in order - so a timely post for me!
    Thanks, as always
    fee x

  21. How very true your post is. I have decided to call my things 'reassuringly expensive'. I put my prices up recently so as not to undercut Galleries, and find that people are still buying. Sometimes things that are too cheap don't sell because they are undervalued. I may come unstuck but I have just put very high prices on my exhibition work mainly because I don't want to part with them just at the moment.


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