The Art of Pricing For Visual Artists

In May of 2022, GAC partnered with the Business Centre Guelph-Wellington to provide a free workshop on the art of  pricing for visual artists. Like most arts business related topics, pricing your artwork can often feel steeped in uncertainty. 

This workshop walks artists through some of the different ways that artwork can be priced. We focus on a variety of specific mediums and artistic practices including 2 dimensional works, photography, selling reproductions and 3 dimensional works like jewelry and sculpture. The session also covered artists rights, commissions and contracts. 

You can watch the whole workshop video through this link. Rather read than listen? Not to worry, we have included a workshop recap below! We look forward to Part 2 of this series coming this fall: The Art of Pricing for Performance Artists.

The Art of Pricing for Visual Artists – Workshop Recap

Please note, there are as many ways to price artwork as there are artists. Guelph Arts Council believes that there is no ‘right way’ to price your artwork, only a system that works best for you! 

Do you have a different way that you price your artwork? Reach out to us at [email protected]. The Guelph Arts Community has a wealth of knowledge and experience that we would love to share with our readers!

Important Notes:

  • There is no ‘right way’ to price your artwork 
  • Artists deserve to be paid well for their artwork
  • Consistency in pricing is important
  • Raising prices is important

Hourly Pricing Structures

*This applies to most artistic mediums

Time (in hours) X Hourly wage + Materials cost = Artwork Price 

Hourly pricing structures are a simple way to price your artwork, especially for 3 dimensional creations and commissions. This method may not work for all creatives, as some methods or pieces may take less time but that may not mean they should be worth less money. 

An alternative to hourly pricing structures is square ft/linear ft formulas. Please note, these structures will only apply to 2 dimensional artwork. 

Square Footage Pricing Structure 

Length (inches) X Width (inches) X Variable Dollar amount = Artwork Price 

Example: 20” X 20” X $10 = $4000.00

Linear Footage Pricing Structure 

Length (inches) X Width (inches) X Variable Dollar amount = Artwork Price 

Example: 36” + 36” X $30 = $2160.00

Photography Pricing

Photographers usually charge an hourly rate for shooting and then a base fee per final edited photo. 

  • (Hourly Rate X Hours) + (Base fee per photo X Number of photos) 
  • Example: 2 hours at $100 + $20 X 20 Edited Photos = $600

Another format is by charging a set rate for a length of shoot with limited selection of final produced images. (You can use the above formula to set your maximums)

  • ½ day shoot = $400/ 3 hour shoot, includes 10 edited images, with extra images an additional cost.
  • DO NOT change the price if the shoot ends sooner than the max time

Considerations when pricing your artwork

  • If you are showing your work in a Gallery that charges commission, make sure that amount (usually 10%-50%) is accounted for in your pricing so that you are paid appropriately 
  • If you are selling your work online and your e-commerce platform takes an administration fee/ product fee, make sure to include that in your pricing
  • Experience (amount of shows/sold works) or stage of career (emerging, mid-career or established artists) can play a role in how you price you work. It can be helpful to look at other artists at a similar point in their career or level of experience when pricing your work.  
  • Artists and makers often have other expenses than just materials, make sure you account for studio and equipment rental, framing and other business related expenses to ensure your pricing structures are sustainable and profitable! 

Contracts and Commissions

A contract is one of the most important pieces of business development when producing one off or commission art work. 

Contracts are a legally binding agreement. There are templates online, but to ensure you are fully compliant with Canadian art laws you should have the document reviewed by a Lawyer or Paralegal. (CARFAC has contract packages available for purchase)

Your contract doesn’t need to be long, just clear and concise as to what you are providing and the expectations for both parties involved.

What to add in a contract: 

  • Dates and timeline 
  • Expectations for communication from both parties
  • Items required prior to starting the work
  • Stages of work development
  • Any approval processes set in place for work completion
  • Revision policy (do you allow revision, at what stage, how many)
  • Payment structure and timelines
  • Policy and Procedure for unhappy clients (this can be part of a standard terms and conditions document)

Reproductions and Prints

One way artists are able to create low cost artwork for mass viewing is through Print and Reproduction. 

Things to Consider when doing prints: 

  • Type of material to be printed on
    • Stock of paper
    • Quality of print
  • Cost of getting a professional scan/image of original work
  • Cost of reproduction and Minimum for print runs
  • What to do with leftover inventory

Copy Rights for Artists

The Exhibition Right:

Canada is one of the few countries that have incorporated an exhibition right into our Copyright Act. The exhibition right entitles visual artists to receive payment when their work is exhibited in a public exhibition and is not for sale.

The Reproduction Right:

When an artist produces a work of art, the reproduction of the work can only be authorized by the artist unless permission is given to otherwise do so.

Moral Rights:

  • The right to protect your artwork against distortion, alteration, or mutilation in a way which prejudices your reputation;
  • The right to associate your name as the author of your work or remain anonymous if you choose and
  • The right to protect your visual image from association with a cause, a product, service, or institution to which you are personally opposed.

Resources

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