How to price and sell your pictures

 

Pricing

 

There are only two methods of pricing pictures (or anything else!) Each method has advantages and disadvantages.

 

The first method is called ‘Cost plus’ and involves calculating, as accurately as possible, how much the picture cost you to make, then adding on a ‘profit’ margin  for your time and trouble.

 

The second method is called ‘Market Forces’, and involves forecasting as accurately as possible, what the market will stand, and what price a potential buyer will be prepare to pay.

 

‘Cost Plus’

 

What does a picture cost to make? There are some costs that are easy to attribute to a particular picture – framing, paper, board or canvas on which it is painted, hanging fee or commission. These are called ‘Direct Costs’ or ‘Cost of Sales’. Other costs are not so easy to attribute to a particular picture – paint, pastels, brushes, cost of home as studio, phone calls, postage, membership of art societies, subscriptions to magazines, etc. These are called ‘Indirect Costs’ or ‘Overheads’. They need to be totalled up over a period (say a year?) and divided between all the paintings sold in that period. So if you spent £100 in total on ‘Overheads’ in a year, and sold 10 pictures in  the same year, then your ‘Overheads’ amounted to £10 per picture.

 

 

If a particular picture cost £60 in ‘Direct Costs’, and £10 in ‘Overheads’, then £70 is your starting point on which to add a sum for your time and trouble. If you decided £30 was reasonable, then the selling price would be £100 at a ‘Gross Profit Margin’ of £30 or 30%.

 

Things to think about:

You need to get into the habit of accurately recording all your costs.

It might become essential when you have to start paying tax on your picture sales!

 

‘Market Forces’

 

It is a maxim in marketing that things are only worth what someone is prepared to pay for them. How much is your picture worth on the market? This is where you can employ two marketing techniques that sound very grand but are actually very simple – ‘Marketing By Walking About’ (MBWA) and ‘Mixed Environmental Scanning’. What these techniques actually involve is keeping your eyes open, visiting art galleries and exhibitions, and seeing what prices are being asked for pictures, especially ones similar to your own masterpieces. Of course, just like houses for sale, the price asked is not always the eventual selling price! If you do this over a period of time, you will get a feel for what the likely market price will be for your own paintings.

 

You also want to ask yourself, whereabouts in the market do I want to pitch my products? At the ‘quality’ end, with a price premium, or at the ‘cheap and cheerful’ end. If at the quality end, you may need to have a higher standard of framing and presentation, and if at the lower end of the price range, a cheaper style of framing and labelling. If you want to be ‘middle of the range’ then too high (or too low) a quality of presentation may be counter-productive.

 

One aspect to bear in mind is that the high quality end of the  market does not necessarily produce more money for the artist! Someone I know very well sells his stuff through an upmarket gallery in the Cotswolds. He has to spend a lot of money on framing, and the commission the gallery charges is astronomical! He is better off financially selling in local exhibitions. However, you might argue that his reputation is enhanced by commanding a high price for his work.

 

Things to think about:

Expenses such as framing, labelling, once spent are ‘sunk costs’, and cannot be recovered. So don’t worry about having a ‘sale’ and getting rid of old stock. Even Sainsbury’s sell off some items below cost from time to time.

 

Who are your buyers? Do you record who bought your work? What do they think about it? Do they recommend you to their friends? Do you tell them when you have a new work? When you are exhibiting? If someone buys a picture of yours it is because they like your style of painting. They are likely to buy more of the same!

 

So which method of calculating prices should you use? There is no right answer! The Ford Motor Company uses market forces, especially Vauxhall prices to work out the price of a Mondeo, deciding whether it should be cheaper or dearer than a Vectra. Then, it says to the factory, this is the price we are going to charge, so manufacture it at a profit! Artists can use this approach also.

 

Work out the price you think you want to charge using a market forces approach, then work out how you can produce the painting and show some return for your efforts. Common problems with artists are:

Spending too much on framing and mounting, and on materials.Are best quality paper, board, and paints really all that better than what can be picked up from Merlins or The Works etc?

Taking too long on the painting – famous artists often do a whole series of similar pictures, so getting the benefit of familiarity with the subject matter, and execution. One of our visiting artists recently talked about painting in the backgrounds – skies, hills etc, then painting the foreground on top to save time.

 

Selling your pictures

 

Two approaches: Transactional and Relationship.

 

Transactional selling or marketing is treating every sale as a ‘one-off’ Get the money, then move on to the next sale.

 

Relationship marketing is trying to build up your customers so they come back and back for more. Do you record the name and address (and e-mail?) of every customer? Do you contact all those people every time you are showing pictures, or have a new work? Do you put contact details on every picture, so their friends and relations can easily get in touch?

 

Paint pictures of subjects that are in demand. Simple to say, but what type of pictures are selling locally? Do different subjects and styles sell better in Cheltenham, or Gloucester, say, than in Tewkesbury?

 

How do people know you exist? And that you are an artist? Business cards? Web site? Have you got some samples on the TAS Gallery? What about loaning pictures to your local doctor's or dentist's surgeries? Reviews of exhibitions for the local paper? Have you a portfolio of work to show prospective clients?

 

Word of mouth is best, but it does mean talking to people (a lot!)

©Peter Cripps 2009





Community Web Kit provided free by BT