Pricing Your Artwork

Pricing your artwork can be tricky

It can be difficult to know just what to consider. But pricing your artwork correctly is a key part of building a sustainable business.

To get some good advice on where to start, we spoke to jeweller and owner of Zu design – jewellery + objects, Jane Bowden.

Jane Bowden is a jewellery designer/maker who has been making and exhibiting work for over twenty years. Through her studio/gallery space Zu design – jewellery + objects Jane showcases the art and works of over 80 Australian contemporary jewellers.

Her business is built on her practice that includes both commission and exhibition work, and over two decades Jane has built a strong audience for her own work and the work featured at Zu Design.

A woman stands next to a glass case which holds a variety of different objects
Above: Jane Bowden. Photograph Jonathan VDK

A key part of the growth of her business has been Jane’s clear understanding of how to price her work. We sat down with Jane and asked her what she’s learnt about pricing her art that has helped her to build her successful business.

Why are you so passionate about getting pricing right?

I’m passionate about pricing well, because I really believe that pricing your work correctly is the only way to tip the scales from relying on part time work to becoming a full time maker. I also believe it is the only way as a community of artists that we can show people the true value of our pieces and in turn that helps clients value what they are purchasing. It’s the only way to set our hand-made art apart from what is in the consumer throw-away market.

I have a bit of a mantra which is, whatever job you do to support your craft practice, you should look at it as your extra top up money and no matter how little you earn from making your art you should consider that your real job. It’s easy to think of your practice as the top up and then you don’t need that income so much and you don’t value the work properly and it never gets you ahead.

Can you suggest some of the factors that will go into pricing?

There are many costs in running a business that will contribute to the final cost of your work. While some expenses are obvious, others might not be, so it’s important to consider all of the time you are spending on your business – not just the time you are actually making art.

  • Rent – if you are working from home I would allow a fee as if you were renting a studio, that way if you move your practice your clients don’t get a huge shock when your prices have to increase
  • Electricity, phone, internet, computer
  • Photography or documentation of your work
  • Stationery
  • Consumables
  • Tools and equipment
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Accounting fees
  • Marketing
  • Allowance for time to write grant applications – it’s important to factor this in as an expense so that you can cover the costs of spending time writing an application.

Is there a standard hourly rate to charge?

There are organisations that can give you suggested prices per hour but you really need to be careful and work out exactly what you are charging for. It can be tricky and in chatting to people about pricing it seems figuring an hourly rate is the hardest thing to grasp.

You can use a system like this, working backwards from my target annual salary and factoring in all my overheads and the amount of hours I would be working on my business and art to calculate an hourly charge out rate.

The example given doesn’t allow for profit for growth, and that is something you should also factor in to your hourly rate. This may be 50% on top of your calculated hourly rate. (you can vary this amount too, to suit your goals)

A close up and detailed black and white photograph of a person creating metal work by hand. The person holds a pair of pliers in each hand and shapes a thin piece of metal
Above: Jane Bowden working at her Zu design studio. Photograph Jonathan VDK

Should I be making a profit from my art?
Profit is necessary to continue to expand your art practice. You will most likely need to acquire equipment, spend time developing new product or even employ outside help and profit will accommodate for this. Without profit you are only breaking even and it would be easier to work for someone else and be paid a wage.

What about discounting your prices?
Discounting is a tricky area and I rarely do it in my business. It’s worth remembering that many of our clients – especially when we’re starting out – are family, friends or people that have come to us through word of mouth, so providing a discount to customers you know may quickly become a frequent occurrence. Be cautious, your customers will be happier knowing that someone else buying from you hasn’t got a better deal than they did.

What else should we know about pricing art?
Ask the professionals! Accountants and the tax department are there to help you. The tax department spent a lot of time with Zu Design in the beginning making sure we understood our obligations. You should never be afraid of getting advice from other people or talking through pricing issues. Ask an accountant or book keeper or the gallery you may be dealing with. This ensures you take the guess work out of pricing, which helps take the emotion out of it too.

Keep an eye on our website for Jane’s next How To Price Your Work workshops for more details and tips on pricing your artwork.

Jane’s not an accountant or tax specialist, so it’s always important to remember to speak to the professionals about your book keeping and tax questions to be sure you’re meeting all your obligations.

Guildhouse financial members are able to obtain one on one professional development support about many areas of their practice. Read more about Guildhouse membership here.