Pricing Your Work: Am I That Good?

March 8, 2013

Artisan craft show in Switzerland, Nov. 2012

Big topic for a Friday! As an artist's coach, speaker and teacher in the business of art I know this is a hot topic. Artists struggle with pricing their work more than anything. Why? Because it's so close to home. Being intimately familiar with the creation of their work makes it hard to be objective about pricing that work. How do you price your soul? There is also the extra added feature of anxiety: 'am I that good?'. Somehow pricing our work gets tangled up in our self worth issues (everybody has those – not just artists!). This is where things go really sideways just about every time.

I know we all hear about pricing formulas such as: cost of materials + time = cost of goods but this really over simplifies the whole equation. The cost of overhead isn't really in that formula. Okay I see your eyes glazing over… Here is what it costs you to paint a picture, shoot a photograph or make a thing:

Equipment (brushes, camera/computer/memory cards or tools)

Space to compose what you're making (studio, office, etc.)

Education (art school, school of hard knocks, workshops, seminars, books, magazines, late fees at the library, etc.)

Health (shelter, food, clothes, shoes, vitamins, coffee, etc.)

Transportation (car, bus, bicycle, teleportation device)

This is all besides your time. And you thought it was going to be hard to figure out what your time is worth, didn't you? If it were that simple then pricing wouldn't be such a hot topic. Everything that brought you to this moment, to this point to create this work of art comes into play in the piece you've created. You had to eat, have shelter and transportation, gain experience, and stay healthy to get to this moment to create this piece. All of these things are costs and someone paid for it. A healthy business recoups these initial investment costs. There isn't any existential self worth issues involved. It's a matter of business survival. If a business charged exactly what it cost to make a thing then all these associated costs wouldn't be covered. Heat, rent, lights, insurance and other things need to be paid so charge something for it.

Next time: Pricing Part 2!



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