SELLING YOUR WORK - Ian Bowers
There are really two distinct aspects of pricing your work for sale, the practical aspect of a fair reward for your effort, skill and the risks you have taken in setting up in business. There is also the moral one of not preventing other people from making a reasonable living as a professional artist.
In terms of practical pricing, I want to suggest that cost and price have only a very limited relationship. Put simply, if you can't sell your work for more than it costs you to make, then the market you are selling into does not give full value to your time and expenditure. It is time to think of a new area to apply your skills. If you are not prepared to price your work to reflect your true cost, you are reducing the price at which other people can sell.
So, how do you work out the lowest reasonable price to use? First there is the cost of the raw materials, including the time costs and outgoings in getting them ordered and delivered, there are also the space costs of your work area, heat and light, rates and water charges; it is not easy to give more than a fair estimate. Then there is the time you spend on the work. That is all the time, including setting up and tidying up time. The present adult rate of the minimum wage (for workers aged 22 and over) is £6.08 (as of November 2011). You will need a very good reason for considering that the time and training committed to developing your skills and knowledge make you worth less than this rate, and you are probably worth much more!
It doesn't stop there. You need also to build in the time spent preparing your work for sale, the travelling and accommodation, the site costs and in the time selling, and also the time spent keeping records. This must also take account of the time in any marketing research and preparing any advertising which you do, along with its cost. As a crude guide, the mark-up which a gallery will use to provide their resources just to sell your work will generally be 40-60% of their selling price. Your total selling costs will not be much less by the time you make a sale.
There is no an easy rule-of-thumb linking raw material cost or time cost to give a 'safe' multiplier for a selling price. You really do have to 'do the sums' to find just what the cost of making and selling your work adds up to. Anything above that is your profit. One of the classic errors is to think that the payment received for all your time is the profit. Only the extra receipts after you have been paid for your time, and all the expenses, is the profit reward for the work you have done and the risk taken with your money and invested in the products you sell.
It may seem unusual to refer to 'pricing' and 'moral' in the same sentence, but there are aspects of pricing decisions which need careful thought. Wherever you choose to sell your products it is unlikely that you will be alone. Even if you find a place where there is no obvious and immediate competition to your products the pricing decisions you make will be noted and remembered by the people attending the venue. So where is the problem? Across the range of people who paint on silk, indeed in all of the 'home based craft' sectors, there are those who practise their skills predominantly for their own satisfaction, and those who work to make an important contribution to their living. To seriously undercut the prices of those who have understood and are pricing to recover all their costs by charging prices which customers would otherwise pay. Setting your price below cost will damage both your and their markets, and potentially make it impossible for them to make a living.
So, this sets the minimum price and takes me onto one of my real concerns. On a number of occasions I go to exhibitions of paintings by local artists. Works in oil, water and mixed media are generally shown, and at prices which are rarely below £100 for an A4 piece. Now why, other than some of the more basic 'painting-by-numbers', are the prices for a fine piece of silk painting not in line with the water colour work? The skills have much in common. Perhaps the answer is that much of the painted silk is sold as a disposable fashion accessory rather than the work of art that it is. Without labouring the point, the price achieved at a car boot sale will rarely be in line with an art gallery. Price therefore is not set by cost, but by the market it is sold in, and the manner of presentation. Perhaps it is time to look for new markets!
George Weil & Sons Ltd