Advanced Pricing Strategies for Artists and Photographers that are already selling
Everything you wish you knew about pricing that nobody ever told you, how to solve your pricing woes, and how to set your pricing for maximum ROI on your marketing efforts.
You are an artist or a photographer that has started selling their work and seen some success.
First things first congrats 👏👏👏
Everything from you have sold several pieces to strangers all the way up to artists that are approaching the 6 figure a year mark in total sales and everybody in-between.
You know you have a product the market wants and for your business to grow you just need to get the art or photography in front of more potential customers and sell it.
Despite your success the question of pricing and all that it entails still is an ever-present issue.
Both from the business side of the equation; things like how to set your prices, markups, negotiation, sales, etc.
Also the psychological side too; fears of raising prices, charging what you are worth + time + materials, how often to run sales, and seeming sales-ey or desperate.
Both the business side and psychological side are totally normal and all artists and photographers struggle with them.
This guide will give you the framework to help you bust through any and all of them and keep the business growing and on the right track. By understanding some simple truths and adhering to them you can solve just about every pricing conundrum you have.
Yes you are a creative but you are also an entrepreneur building a business.
You have to wear both hats 🎩🧢
The smart entrepreneur knows these simple truths and adheres to them as they know they will help grow the business year after year.
Yet in my thousands and thousands of conversations with artists and photographers that fall into this bucket I see the lion share breaking these rules.
Not adhering to them to the detriment of the growth of their business (leaving $ on the table).
So lets fix that.
The Simple Truths About Pricing
Self-Portrait of Brassai with Picasso, 1966
We start with a simple one you already know. Yet, like a diet... or exercise its easy to know this one and be stuck to it and then some period of time later veer of track and revert to bad habits.
I know I need to workout 3x times a week but life happened and I got off track. Ok... get back on track then.
To highlight this truth I enjoy quoting one of the masters. Everybody learned about this guy in art school but sadly none of his business advice made it into a focused class on pricing and boy it should of.
I am talking about Pablo Picasso 🎨
Quoting specifically from the book "Conversations with Picasso" by Brassaï. He was a photographer who photographed Picassos work and had frequent conversations with him. He turned those conversations into a book.
Brassaï was asking Picasso about pricing and this is what he said.
In the beginning, I did not sell at a high price, but I sold. My drawings, my canvases went. That’s what counts.
Pablo followed it up with another great quote.
Don’t price them too high. What matters is that you sell a large number of them. Your drawings must go out into the world.
The work must sell. Never forget that 🐘
Pricing is just a number, but the actual transaction, someone willing to part with their hard earned dollars for your work must never be forgotten. Never forget it.
Make it a mantra.
Makes me wonder... did Picasso ever get off track.... then I remember that when Picasso died he had 45k unsold works in his inventory. Turns out Picasso got off track allot. Only difference is he knew how to get back on track and never stopped.
Now the whole world knows his name.
The work must go out into the world 🌍
You Need a Range of Pricing
Why? There are a number of reasons here. Let's dive in
Your fans, followers, emails, perspective buyers, buyers, and collectors all fall into the socio-economic bell curve 👆
The smart entrepreneur knows that if they are to see the highest ROI from their marketing efforts they need to have price points for each section of the bell curve.
Let's talk briefly about how that plays out with real numbers then we can get into the product range you will need to accomplish it.
You need to have prices under $100
You need prices from $100-$1000
You need prices over $1000
I argue you need prices of several thousand dollars as well. If you are already at the high end of the scale you still need the lower prices but you need really high prices as well. Your originals start at 15k then have something in your lineup for 50k as well.
This one is also REALLY IMPORTANT.
You need to have non wall art as part of your lineup 🎯
Not everybody you market your art to will need wall art or be in the market for wall art at that moment your marketing reaches them.
They love what you do though and your creativity.
When you have something to sell that is not wall art you stand a much better chance at making a sale and thus seeing a higher ROI on your marketing efforts.
There are only three ways to grow an art business
Acquire New Customers
Get more revenue out of sales: Increase your AOV (average order value)
Get existing customers to come back and buy again
What most artists do is focus always on getting new customers.
Or what they mostly work on is acquiring new customers.
Rarely do I see any giving any thought to how to get more revenue out of customers when they do buy nor focusing on all the ways to get existing customers to come back and buy again.
This incredibly powerful truth underscores both the range of pricing and non wall art as part of your lineup; It helps grow your business in all three ways.
Helps to acquire new customers, helps to increase the AOV of your customers, and helps bring existing customers back
The easiest customer to get is the one you already have 😎
Ok so lets combine these truths and focus them on the product lineup you need to achieve it.
The Product Range you Need to Have as an Artist or Photographer
Ok so let's get your product line in order and we start with our list of truths and then build out our range.
You need to have prices under $100
You need prices from $100-$1000
You need prices over $1000
You need to have non-wall art products in the lineup
BTW how you do it is up to you. The only thing that matters is that you have the range. If your art is different of unique or whatever... does not matter. You need the range. Get creative and sort how to do it. Below will apply to most.
Prices under $100
For the low end + the non wall art part this is where merch comes in; books, calendars, mugs, iphone cases, coasters, post cards, tote bags.
It all works and you just have to pick what you like and are comfortable offering and works for your brand.
A great many artists and photographers like to pour cold water on merch; its cheap, you make no $ on it, its gonna cheapen my brand, etc.
Let me respond to that sentiment by asking you a question. Have you ever been to a museum that didn't have a gift shop?
Exactly. Merch solves for the $1-$100 price range and it solves for the non wall art part of the range.
You can also have some smaller sized paper prints in this range as well.
Prices from $100-$1000
Some merch, and then your open edition prints. All media types; paper, canvas, metal, acrylic, wood. Sized from small to large. You can also include your limited editions in this range as well as your smaller sized originals.
Prices over $1000
In this range you have your limited editions and your originals. For photographers you can create special small limited editions on special media types.
Once you sort this exercise and create your price range the vast majority of your pricing woes solve themselves.
You will be amazed at just how effective this strategy is.
We are covered that the work must sell and the range of pricing, now lets get into negotiation.
Artist Bari-Lynn Friedlander
To negotiate or not?
You already know how I am gonna answer this one but again let's start with some truths.
The conventional wisdom most artists and photographers get out there is do not negotiate on your price.
In the actual art world (where art is consistently selling) nothing could be further from the truth.
In most art transactions, and especially at the higher end (10k+ asking price) of the scale, negotiation is a factor in the majority of sales.
We always hear the headlines about what sells art Christie's or Sotheby's at asking price or over asking price. What we NEVER hear about are the sales that go down at all of the art galleries.
The reason for that — art galleries are some of the most opaque businesses on the planet — is the art gallery owners never want anybody knowing just how much they negotiate.
High net-worth buyers did not achieve that wealth by ever paying retail. Moreover, without the negotiation many of the buyers will simply not buy. So not only does it(negotiation) happen ALL THE TIME but without it, many sales would be lost.
Artists and photographers are trained to think negotiating cheapens them or their work and that is part of the reason why galleries always obfuscate when it comes to selling price. They don't want anybody to ever know.
Once you come to terms with that fact, and you have a proper pricing range in your lineup in place, you are well positioned to take this reality and turn it into a advantage you can deploy in your business to get sales over the line.
In order to do that we need to discuss one more topic; Markups.
Markups; How to properly markup your work so you can negotiate effectively.
At the lower end of the price range you can of course stay firm on your prices. Retail stores do not negotiate on items. You can't go to target and start negotiating on a set of Lego for your kid.
In the middle end of the price range to the top though, I heartily endorse negotiating.
Its great weapon in the artists tool box to help get your work out into the world. Many people will never buy if they can't negotiate.
The key to negotiating is understanding this and using it as a weapon in your arsenal.
We solve for that with how we mark our products up.
In the middle end of your price range you should be marking up your prints at 250% of wholesale cost(what you pay for the print) up to even 500% or higher for some.
If a print costs you $100 and you markup it up 250% then you sell it for $350.
The rational for this is that it gives you room to negotiate, and it gives you room to run sales which we will cover in a minute.
Our topic today is pricing so I am not gonna go too deep into the art of negotiation but I leave you with a very important device or trick to use in yours.
Photographer Bary Nusz never negotiates down on price without getting something in return.
Never negotiate down on price without getting something in return.
The getting something in return can be anything.
You have a print in your store/booth that you paid $100, that you marked up 250% and that you are now selling for $350.
I come in and tell you I love it, but I can't afford $350. Would you take $300?
Most people will say ok fine. They would totally take the $300. NO 🙅
Never give anything away for free in a negotiation as a general principle. Instead get creative and get them to agree to something to get the deal.
So you get creative and say something like...
"Well I usually do not negotiate on price but I will tell you what, I would prefer not to load it back up in my car as I am low on space. So if you take it today... I will let it go for $300. Will you take it today?
I asked you for $50 off and instead of giving that away for free you made me agree to take it today. Seems like a small thing but it's not.
Always get something in return and when you do, instead of just dropping for nothing, the buyer will feel more satisfied and so will you. It just works.
Pro Tip: You can exchange "will you take it today" with, will you pay with cash, or credit card, or join my mailing list, or anything (whether you care about the thing or not) 😉
Because you understood negotiation is an important part of sales, and because you understood markups you made a sale you otherwise would not of made. You now have a customer you can market to for the future too.
That covers negotiation, lets get into sales.
Artist Kelly Corbett understands visual cues.
We just covered how important markups are and especially in the mid to high range of your product lineup
So we know if we mark things up correctly we have the ability to discount and make sales. Let's talk about sales generally.
Sales like many of the truths are just maths.
In this case its a psychological equation. Human beings need discounts + scarcity = human beings are more likely to take action.
Real world example... the discount is 15%, the scarcity is that the sale ends Monday at midnight = sales being made
I often say the only two retailors I am aware of that don't discount are Tiffany's and Louis Vuitton. I know there are more but its no easy feat to accomplish and you better have a serious brand if you are gonna try it. You stand a much better chance at success if you do run sales and you stick to the equation.
For centuries and centuries retailors have known this simple equation; discount + scarcity = human beings taking action.
So why are you trying to re-invent the wheel? Why would you not run sales? You need to and its important you run them often.
Let's Combine It All
When you combine the truths; the art must sell, the range in pricing and all that entails, negotiation and then running sales.
You realize 90% of the pricing conundrum is essentially solved for you.
Not only does it solve for the business and psychological sides of the pricing situation but it also sets you up to get the maximum ROI on your marketing efforts.
Once you get this setup it almost feels like magic 🧙♂️
You notice things like...
You start making more sales then you were as a result of the lower price range (new customers you can market too for the future)
You stop getting as many low ball offers (the range sets expectations)
When you do get low ball offers you say no and then steer then to that part of your product line range
Sometimes a high net-worth buyer will buy your most expensive piece without even asking for a discount
You get way more sales over the line because you are prepared to negotiate
People start buying merch every time they buy a print or original (hello AOV)
You find it way easier yourself to properly price your new work because you have a range and a scale.
If you enjoyed this post you might just want to check Art Storefronts out. Not only can we help you with things like pricing but we will also teach all the other things you need to be doing to stay consistent with your marketing, grow your art business, and continue to get better at it year after year. Hit the button below and let's chat about it.
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