Are Your Art Prices Unrealistic?

By Carolyn Edlund

Not pricing your art correctly has consequences, and is unhealthy for your business.

 

Are Your Art Prices Unrealistic? Read about it at www.ArtsyShark.com

 

Overpricing

Many years ago, a certain art professor showed his portfolio slides to a class I attended, as a sample of how to put together a body of work for presentation. His beautiful ceramic perfume bottles were quite impressive and skillfully made.  Along with the images were prices for each item, which averaged in the range of $600 each, which was his example of pricing to the class.

Not long ago, I happened to speak with an artist who by chance got the same talk from the same art professor with the same slides. She, however, had the presence of mind to raise her hand and ask “How many of these perfume bottles have you sold?”  The answer: Zero.

Underpricing

In contrast, I once exhibited at a retail fair where the craftswoman in an adjacent booth was selling handmade jewelry using polymer material. Customers were swarming her booth, snapping up unbelievable deals on handmade work. Her prices were too good to be true, and it was baffling whether she was sneaking into a craft fair with imported buy/sell merchandise or just didn’t know how to price.

Curious, I befriended her and asked her frankly how she could afford to sell her work at such low prices. She confessed she wanted so badly to sell her jewelry that she charged almost nothing for her time.

Constant orders for her underpriced goods were overwhelming her, and she had developed severe physical problems from repetitive motion. In fact, her arms were often numb from overuse, and she had to sleep in a recliner just to avoid being in constant pain.

This craftswoman was obviously making very little money, suffering from overwork, and hurting other exhibitors who were pricing their work reasonably. Had she given thought to the realities of the marketplace and the costs involved in doing business, she would have raised her prices significantly and made a better profit on less work.

Likewise, the art professor had no idea of what the market would bear for his work. Perhaps he didn’t worry about making sales due to his teaching position, but had he been a production potter, he quickly would have adjusted his prices to be more reasonable.

Both overpricing and underpricing your art or craft work is a losing proposition. If you are just starting out, you may be unclear on how to price your work. Avoid pricing from an emotional perspective. Do your homework on what similar goods are selling for to get a rough idea. Then carefully evaluate your materials cost, hours involved and the per hour rate you need to make. Don’t forget costs such as taxes, shipping, administrative time and transportation costs. Then – add in a healthy increase, because running a business is always more expensive than you think.

You will quickly find when crunching the numbers if your pricing structure is working for you. Even though less experienced artists and craftspeople will usually make less income, don’t sell yourself short or rationalize why you are working for almost nothing. Likewise, avoid charging exorbitant prices that will ensure your sales are almost non-existent. Both situations can take all the fun out of running your art or craft business.

Have you experienced the consequences of over or under-pricing your work? What’s your story?

 

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Comments

  1. Pricing is difficult, but definitely worth doing your research. I’m a fan of the book “Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines”. It helped me a lot.

    • Great suggestion, Andy – thank you!
      I believe that book has been recommended also by Thomas James of the Escape from Illustration Island blog. Do you subscribe? Thomas has a great resource for illustrators and artists.

  2. I have heard the advice about pricing my work by looking at other artists, before. My question is: How do I know that the artists that I am comparing myself to have set their prices correctly? I could be comparing myself to someone who is underpricing/overpricing their work.

    • Carol-Anne, it certainly could be possible to compare yourself to others who are underpricing/overpricing. Not long ago I attended a student show, and prices were all over the map – probably because a number of the artists just took a guess at pricing. I would suggest that you go to galleries, art shows and fairs, and look online at work to get a fairly large sampling of prices that the market will bear for your medium and style.
      This will give you a better gauge.
      By coincidence, Ann Rea addresses pricing on her blog today as well. Check out this link http://bit.ly/gmdqQA and see if her method helps you.

  3. As an artists I often hear: “That’s amazing, how do you even come up with these ideas?”

    My answer is: that’s what I do I’m an artist, I think things through I see things very clearly in my mind’s eye, but then that does not always happen in the proverbial flash. I think about something until it becomes a clear visualisation in my mind. Only then am I ready to attempt to paint it.

    Ultimately there are three major components in pricing an artwork. Thinking. Making. Marketing.

    The making of an artwork is the easiest part to keep track of, I work a number of hours each day. But when a client asks “How long did it take you to make that?” The answer is simple x hours of painting. A lot of thinking time y. Plus z hours of marketing effort.

    The marketing of an artwork and giving a value for it is the most problematic. It has to include the wide range of efforts like: documenting artworks, photographing them, advertising, exhibitions, business cards, stationary, brochures etc.

    The thinking behind the production of an artwork can perhaps never be given a value. I’m now 65 years old and I have just got round to making some paintings about events of my childhood for example. And this is what you are buying into…

    • Meltemi,

      You’re right, there are a lot of things that go into pricing. The artist has to consider the cost of doing business, to be able to set a price and make a profit.
      Then there are the intangibles, like talent and experience. Sounds like you have a long history of creating!

      • That is very true, from the child, then for many years in chalks on a blackboard…to the best job in the world that I have today…I’m an artist.

  4. I try very hard not to undersell myself. One problem I have is 10 to 20 years ago my work was bringing in much higher prices. Then I took a long break. Today is a different story. Now I try to price my work so people can actually own a piece of mine because that is what motivates me, at least it is a large part of it. I’ve always felt this way about my art. I love what I make and I like for an average person to be able to afford something of mine. However, I’ve been doing this for a long time and want to be treated as an honored elder too. Thanks for letting me put my thoughts down.

    • It can be frustrating to find that your work isn’t bringing the prices it once did, but I find your attitude refreshing. You have decided to keep working and take pleasure that others enjoy and want to own your work. Best of luck to you!

  5. I am finding that so many people on Etsy are pricing there product so low that I dont know where to start or how to compete with a market that is all over the board.

    • This is a chronic problem with people who are just trying to sell at any price, and don’t put value on their time. Just as the example in the article shows, they ruin it for everyone. They aren’t making much money, the perception of the value of work becomes diminished, and others who are selling at a price which is reasonable considering their labor cannot compete. It’s a lose/lose.

  6. [img]http://www.jojosartisticdesign.etsy.com[/img]

    I am new to Etsy and also find that people under price their creations. I don’t know how some artists making enough profit to purchase new materials.

    It is very difficult to compete when you are surrounded by product that is under priced, but my product is rather unique.

    • JoAnne, I’m not surprised to hear that. It creates a difficult situation for other artists.
      You are not alone, though – this type of thing happens in much larger industries as well. When I repped for an art publisher, they were manufacturing framed art prints, made in America, for sale through retailers. What happened was that companies who produced framed art in China could undercut the prices so severely that my wholesale prices were about equivalent to their retail. That ruined the market for the U.S. companies.
      I feel that your best defense is to have multiple ways of making income from your work. The extent to which you can do this of course that depends on how much time you are willing to devote to selling your work.

  7. Also wanted to mention that last year when I participated in a local art festival the woman in the booth beside mine was selling museum quality mosiac pieces for the price one would pay at HomeGoods. I approached her and after much discussion helped her reprice her stuff. In some cases, the price went from $50 to $250.

    She was shocked that people were swarming her booth and she sold out before the show ended.

    PLEASE read the following encounter:
    At a regular weekend art fair I chatted with a young man who created amazing blown glass pieces. He told me that earlier in the day a woman had selected a piece, misread the price and wrote a check for the amount of $2000. He told her the price was only $200 and she decided not to take it.
    So, when you under price your work you are basically sending the message that it isn’t worth much. I hope people start valuing their skills and time.

    • I think that the cause of this could be insecurity about selling, ignorance of how to calculate business costs and how to price to make a profit, or even a self-esteem problem with the artist.
      You did a great favor for the woman with the mosaics. Hopefully she will value her work more – and this will create the perception of greater value in her audience.

  8. I have been considering selling my handmade jewelry on etsy, but I have noticed that so many jewelry shops on there are selling pre-manufactured jewelry that can be ordered from the wholesale catalogs that you can get if you have a resale permit (with no alteration to the pieces ordered). The same pendants/ earrings are in several different etsy stores, and all the “artists” do is double the price which means the price is actually pretty cheap. I don’t know how to compete with this because when you take time to actually make piece, just doubling the price of the materials is underselling. As an artist, I know the difference between handmade work and what is ordered from the catalogs, but the public who are shopping and buying may not realize it and may go for the cheaper price and question why my work is more expensive. I am hoping buyers will want to pay a little more for something that is truly and artist’s hand made work and will recognize that my work is different than the other stores which have the same things. But it makes me nervous to set the prices that I want when I will be up against such cheap prices in the other stores. And I am also a little disappointed that etsy has become a place where anyone can have a storefront and resell pre-manufactured work as “handmade” for such cheap prices which hurts those of us who are truly trying to sell (and correctly price) handmade goods.

  9. It is a huge problem. Many things on Etsy (where it is very easy to get overlooked) are priced below wholesale. I have seen handmade goods priced at $8.00. It does not matter if you are using cheap acrylic yarn for $3.00 a giant skein it is not realistic and ruins it for people using great materials.

    Your time is worth something and these people are working for pennies and refuse to see how it impacts the rest of us who are creating quality products.

    On line buyers can’t touch and feel and have to rely on pictures and descriptions. It is very frustrating. When I worked in LA we told artists to mark their work up to a fair price based on time and materials.

    • Here’s what I see as a main problem. (BTW, I have never had an Etsy shop as when I owned my production studio it was before Etsy existed). When they allow imports and resellers into the site, it dilutes and devalues handmade goods which should be in a separate category.
      Likewise, if you are selling at a craft fair and buy/sell vendors come in and undercut prices because their costs involve foreign labor or non-handmade, you have a big problem. I’ve seen it time and again. What happens? Artists and fine craftspeople leave. The venue then becomes a lower-value one. I don’t know enough about Etsy to slam them for this, but if this is a huge problem seen by many people, it’s not hard to figure out which direction they are headed.

  10. You are absolutely correct, this particular woman did indeed have very low self-esteem and it was a struggle to get her to agree to increase her prices. Some artists I’ve encountered think they are being arrogant by increasing their prices.

    I thank you for presenting this information. You are doing MANY people a great favor. Perhaps it will help artists realize their true value.

  11. How is my pricing on my jewelry? Please let me know.
    Thank you Linda

  12. Great comments.

    We are seeing the “Wal-marting” of our country. Cheap goods undercutting value and putting our hard working citizens out of work from printing to fine arts.

    Now I have to search high and low to find goods and fabric that are not Made in China. I buy and support Americans whenever I can. We should all be doing this.

  13. This information has been soo valuable I have an ebay store,etsy shop(currently unused) and recently reopened my personal website I have been in business since 2003 and have done quite well I have always had a problem pricing my items, because I was afraid no one would purchase them, but since reading a few books on pricing and crafting businesses as well as this blog it has given me a whole new confidence to NOT sell myself short.

    • Tonja, Thanks for your comment. My question for you – “Is it better to sell fewer items at a greater profit, put in less hours, spend less on your supplies, and feel better about yourself and your work?” I think you know the answer.
      These days everyone is thinking about money, and it is reasonable that you worry if anyone would purchase your work. Keep in mind that bargain shoppers are not your audience. They are people who show up for fire sale prices, and are not repeat customers. Reasonable prices, excellent customer service and follow up to your emailing list will provide you with the client base you need.

  14. I have a pricing dilemma involving pricing my women’s wearable art on ETSY. During the past 12 years I’ve successfully marketed and sold over 500 of my one of a kind creations at nationally recognized wearable art fashion shows, conferences, seminars and carefully selected boutiques located across the country. My target market has been, and is, women with an understanding of and appreciation for wearable art and the uniqueness and quality of each coat and vest that I make AND who also have sufficient disposable income to spend $500 to $800 for a casual coat or $200 to $300 for a vest. To date I’ve been able to sell all my coats or vests at those price points.

    I set up my ETSY shop three months ago and have had some interest but no sales. The recycled, felted wool sweaters, used men’s ties, and antique lines/laces I use to make these garments have, for all practical purposes, little or no intrinsic value. I invest up to 25 – 30 hours gathering and preparing the fabric and materials and designing and creating each garment. There is also considerable time and expense incurred visiting each boutique or participating in wearable art show from Naples, FL to Santa Fe to Seattle and points in between.

    Reading comments by #5 and #16, along with others and your feedback, reinforces my suspicion that ETSY may not be an appropriate venue for my wearable art. Clearly a drawback to on-line sales is that the buyer of a garment can’t feel, touch, observe first hand the quality, much less try it on. I’m sure more could be done with photos and descriptions to create interest but I’m not especially good at either. If pricing is an issue on ETSY I’m not inclined to reduce my asking prices just to generate sales……….

    Thoughts?

    • Linda, I don’t have personal experience with Etsy, but from others’ comments, I think it may not be your venue.
      Although I agree with your take that touching and seeing the garments in person is your best scenario, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t have a top-notch website with great professional photos. What you need to do is called “inbound marketing”, which drives traffic to your site. From the pricepoints you discussed, why not go after a well-heeled clientele, who will be shopping for items in your price range and have a discriminating taste for one-of-a-kind clothing? Then when you make your trips to Santa Fe and so forth, you can see them in person at a trunk show or other event. Work your email list with a smart marketing program and I think you would be better served.

  15. I recently decided to place my handmade baby items on Etsy. I have also been toying with the idea of attending craft fairs and decided to check one out this weekend with my husband to see if my prices were comparable. I was horrified to find a booth that was selling items very similar to mine at the cost of making the items. They were not very creatively done and most still looked like they were in the mid-production stages. However, people were buying them up like hot cakes. How can a person who actually puts a lot of time, thought, and labor into their products compete with this? It seriously made me doubt my desire to do craft fairs.

    • Rebecca, I think you went to the wrong craft fair. Obviously, any “jurying” that allowed items in which were in “mid-production” cannot be a class act. That exhibitor was doing everyone, including herself, a disservice by charging rock-bottom prices. Either she was buying imports and reselling (a definite no-no) or she is working herself to the bone for little or no money (which translates to “You are losing money!”).
      You were smart to do a little legwork and find out beforehand about this fair. Make a choice where you want to be concerning the pricepoint and intricacy of your finished product, and price accordingly. There are many choices of how to market and sell your work. Look into these and you may find a good fit.

  16. love this. thank you for your honesty and openness. i am grateful.

  17. Like #28, I am having serious doubts about doing craft fairs. Unlike her, I have done several in the past, and this is why I am more and more discouraged. I price my items to be affordable to the part of the country I live in, and even then, people try to get me to lower my costs. Comparing my work to the people on Etsy who do similar items, I do realize that I am way underpricing my work, but even then, I am still not making sale–neither in my hometown nor online. People seem to really like my items, but they politely make excuses for not buying anything. In some cases, I know that I am going to the wrong craft fairs– either they are a school function or they are linked to a city event where people are more interested in going to the event and buying food than they are in buying arts and crafts. Considering that I do price my work low, I still do manage to make back my table costs and many times I count myself lucky that I have done better than some of the other vendors. The only other vendors that do better, volume and money wise, are the vendors who are resellers of cheap, imported, resin knick knacks that are a dime a dozen in the dollar stores. I have resigned myself to not selling well here in my city because of the area, but what suggestions can you offer for attracting attention online? I have lots of lookers but no takers 🙁

    • Erika, It sounds like you know what some of the underlying problems are here.
      -You are going to fairs where there are vendors selling cheap imports. This devalues American handmade work.
      -You are pricing your own crafts so low that you are barely making your fee back (which means you have lost money on your time and materials and lost confidence in yourself, which creates a vicious cycle)
      -You get lookers but cannot “close the sale”
      I don’t know your individual line (the website backlinks are not working today for some reason) so I can’t even see what you are selling. But there could be multiple problems going on, and you need to back this up and take a fresh look. Is your line a cohesive collection, large enough to make an impact, impeccably made and beautifully displayed? Do you know who your audience is, what the correct pricepoint is and do you understand selling techniques? Do you have a website which is your own domain name? Do you understand inbound marketing and social networking well enough to drive traffic to a site? That’s a lot of stuff, I’ll admit. Don’t get discouraged because you may just not understand the business of craft well enough to take advantage of opportunities.

  18. Thank you for the ideas…I am little by little realizing that I need to turn this more from a hobby into something serious, so perhaps taking some classes on how to market/price properly would be a great help. Thank you!

  19. Ok so where can a designer sell Jewelry that is one of a kind for a decent price…I just saw a pair of earrings listed on Etsy for 3$!!!!!

  20. After reading all the comments I feel I too have lowered my prices to the bare bottom. I am an older senior and have knitted and crochet all my life, and making things are like somethng to do. The prices I change cover the cost of materials, and I am OK with that, but would love to actually make a “PROFIT” for all my work. I just have this thing with POSTAGE. A knitted poncho is not heavy but the fluffy bulk takes a box that costs $10.95 to ship. So this almost increases the cost of the poncho 1/3 more. My daughter says increase the cost of the poncho and ship it free or very little. I don’t see how this would help. What would you do?

    • Judith,
      Businesses that make profits don’t ship for free. You need to charge for shipping or increase your price significantly if offer free shipping.
      It sounds like you are having a very common issue, which is that you love creating, but the business part has you frustrated.
      My question for you would be, at this point in your life, how important is making an income to you? Would you be more satisfied if you were able to make items for people who are in need and use your talents for a charitable end? I believe that the emotional part of making handmade items is crucially important, and you should feel great about your work regardless of how it is used. Reevaluate your intentions and if you feel you really need to make an income, you will have to find a vehicle that is better suited.

  21. I have another line of thought relative to under pricing vs. overpricing.

    Since we have cut out a lot of the art education classes from the schools, such as sewing, baking, woodworking, etc., the newer generations have not been exposed to much in terms of artistry and quality merchandise outside of the highly touted overpriced designer goods. There are also many people too smitten with name brands who won’t buy it if it isn’t a Calvin or Ralph. People have also become too regimented in their tastes so that they don’t think or buy outside of the box; they want what their friends have and shrink from something different.

    Additionally, since we have imported decades worth of cheap junk, people don’t want to or cannot spend money on quality design and workmanship as we have become a throwaway society in spite of a bad economy.

    On another note….for years I have been a “magazineaholic” and a “bookaholic” and have noticed a sort of “dumbing down” in many publications out there over the past 25 years or so, to appeal to the “terminal” beginners with a never-ending stream of simplistic and cutesy projects. There is VERY little if anything at all that inspires in most of these publications and it really fuels the “loving-hands-at-home-everyone-can-be-a-crafter” mentality that so permeates all to many “craft” fairs, craft stores, etc., that are out there. Most of the featured “crafts” are if not child-like or items for children but for the mentality that it must be “cute”; there is very little geared for sophisticated taste levels as people are not motivated to aspire to great heights but to stay stuck in cute! I go most often to the foreign craft magazines many times to feel inspired as oftentimes their level of excellence far surpasses ours. When the “craft” magazines and “crafty TV shows” set the bar of taste so low, not many are going to rise above it, make something different and of value, and price it accordingly!

    There has to be a way of setting the bar higher – perhaps having juried qualification guidelines for those who want to create, price and market as a professional which I think could separate the wheat from the chaff. The trick would be not to set it too high that those just starting out – even though their quality and taste level of work merits it – cannot be accepted because of lack of track

    • Jean, I agree – there is a difference between “Handmade” and “Homemade”. Although, trust me – there are exquisite handmade fine crafts out there and always have been.
      Check out this link
      http://public.craftcouncil.org/baltimore
      and start clicking through the categories on the right.
      These artists are at a high level of expertise, and they are rigorously juried. They have made a decision to create work at a caliber which is above and beyond and many are university trained. However, there is nothing to stop a self-taught craftsperson from learning and creating fine work. So there are many different markets out there and artists/craftspeople choose where they want to aspire.

  22. Hello. I just recently had decided to close my very successful dog grooming shop. Where I was over working myself BECAUSE I felt the need to please everybody. All of my regular clients followed me to a new location in a different city, different pricesand that definitely made me feel good. What happened was when I started working and seeing that this other lady (who I was now working for) she would charge the same amount for half of the work. I got extremely upset because I put so much more time and perfection into my work and nobody evev seemed to notice. I ended up quitting. Staying at home with my babies. Which I love. I have opened an etsy shop the last week. And I’m selling my original paintings and vintage finds that I refurbish. I’m definitely not making close to what I made grooming dogs. But I’m not sure if I should continue this as I feel I might be underpricing my items. Underpricing and undervaluing my work. I’d like to start a little boutique where I could sell my items in my town’s historic district. But I’m also on the fence about starting my grooming business back up and just raising my prices which would weed out all of my customers that came to me because of my competitive prices not my actual work. I have my prices the same or lower than others to gain a client and make a sale. Rather than prove what my work is worth. I love painting and being creative. I am an artist! I was and still am discouraged by those who aren’t and think that they are. Thanks for your time.

  23. One thing I pride myself on is the fact that my jewelry is indeed made by my hands. I make sure the quality is there so that the pieces will hold up and be comfortably wearable for years and years. I use quality materials and have dug deep to find the best suppliers. Silver is expensive to work with, but I love it. Knowing how expensive metals have gotten and knowing the carious jewelry making processes, I am so surprised to see people selling so cheaply. But if they aren’t spending time actually making it, why not sell cheap?

    When I see people cheaply selling things that you can find in catalogs on etsy and calling it handmade, I feel insulted. I also feel sorry for the buyer who is being deceived. Some of these stores have thousands of sales, but their profiles say nothing about their jewelry making experience, and their item descriptions lie or even say, “this was made by an artist…” lol… which should really say, “At one point in time this was made (whether by a set of hands or a computer and a mill) and then mass-produced and put in a catalog for all of us resellers to buy and pass off as handmade on etsy.” I have some of the catalogs where I, too, can buy the same exact sparrow charms or orchid pendants for $10 to resell for $20. But I will not resell them and claim that I made them. Can you tell I am annoyed with it?

    If I do go on etsy, my store will definitely have a bio about me, my experience, my processes, my materials… and hopefully people will like what they see as opposed to what is literally in many other stores. If you watch the “recent listings” on the etsy site, you will see just how many stores have the same exact pieces from the same catalog. I wrote to etsy about it, and they basically told me it’s too bad and hopefully people will notice my handmade goods over the rest and I can flag the stores if i want, but they have so many venders that it is pretty much a mute point. So much for the “etsy rules.” It is too bad because so many people know about the site and they do get a lot of traffic. But you can get drowned out by the clutter of all the cheap pre-manufactured goods.

    Like you have said, we have to market ourselves well and create a desire in people to own our work over the run-of-the-mill stuff. If we can also sell ourselves as artists and even experts in the field, we can gain a sense of trust among customers.

    • I’m not aware of the rules on Etsy, but if they allow vendors to using pre-manufactured materials (and apparently they do), then it is what it is. I can see how it would be impossible to police everyone to see who is selling imported mass-produced goods or not.
      If this is what you are seeing, and you are dissatisfied with it, it’s up to you to go elsewhere and create a market for your work. I’m sure Etsy works better for some people than others. If it doesn’t work for you, then you have other options. They may not be easy, but it’s a choice.

  24. So enjoy my little furniture painting business, but also struggle with pricing and marketing. I try to base my prices on a modest per hour fee plus costs of supplies, but the truth is it takes time to find the reclaimed furniture, repair, prepare & paint it- plus the thinking time for those original designs! Still trying to figure out where it belongs in the market place as well- craft fairs? Art fairs? Children’s stores? Very fluid, this handmade life!
    Thanks for your suggestions-
    Sari

    • Sari,
      You may have answered your own question. You should do some research and find where your best audience is. Perhaps try a number of different ways of selling – boutiques, children’s shops, craft galleries, art/craft fairs, online, or try selling at a designer showhouse event (they often have vendors, and visitors are usually affluent and interested in furnishings).
      Best of luck to you!

  25. It takes time to develop a following on Etsy and it takes time to develop a following on a website. I subscribe to your last comment: “If it doesn’t work for you, then you have other options.” The people I come in contact with on Etsy are a delight.” Most artists there have more than one venue for presenting their work. I have always struggled with pricing too but I need to be in touch with myself and be happy with what I’m doing, selling, and getting in return. If I’m not, I do–as you say–have choices.

  26. I’m a jeweler for over a decade. In the beginning, making jewelry was a hobby .I couldn’t sell my jewelry because I didn’t know how to price it and I always felt uncomfortable to sell it. I gave presents to friends, family members and so on…there were times when people actually wanted to buy from me and I couldn’t name a price. And when I already did- it felt uncomfortable like I needed to explain myself. with the years I have become more aware and more confident with the work I do: how special it is, how much time I dedicate for each piece, the price of the material which is tremendously higher than it used to have and now- finally it is much easier for me to price, it feels comfortable and OK!.

    For me it took some time to worth and appreciate myself and my work before i could even think of selling my work…

    • Your situation is not unusual, and many times artists feel very uncomfortable about money. I’m glad to see that you are appreciating yourself and your talents as much as your fans do. Congratulations and keep creating! (and selling 🙂

  27. Love this thread! I am a professional artist. I have a BFA in drawing and painting, 4 more years in private art schools, 15 years selling my paintings in art galleries, 13 years in working in glass and selling my art beads in large bead shows.

    I have now been trying to be successful on Etsy for 8 months. What I am finding is like the above comments. I have had little sells unless I put my glass lampwork beads on a ridiculously discounted sale where I am selling below wholesale. I do look at my art glass as a high end item but to get sells I lower my beads and my self esteem.

    I want to Thank You because I had forgotten there are other avenues to sell. One gets caught up in the drama and challenge of selling on Etsy, trying to work the system, the constant emails of reassurance that everyone else is selling and I begin to think that this is the only way to succeed in selling my art.

    What is obvious now is all the emails from these people that keep assuring me I can be success on Etsy are selling info to masses of unsuccessful Etsy sellers. I think that is the gold mine of money on Etsy and many used to be Etsy sellers are now selling “how to info”.

    I plan to check out the profit market in bead shows (I have not done one for 5 years) and other avenues to sell my art. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks for the breathe of fresh air! I have felt like I have been drowning for months trying to sell on Etsy!!!

    • Interestingly, I read a post on a LinkedIn discussion group about Etsy shop sales. This commenter claimed that sales figures were publicized, and that the average Etsy shop makes $17 per month.
      I’m sure there are inactive shops, but that was pretty surprising.
      Best of luck with your other endeavors, and happy selling!

  28. Pricing… oh the troubles!

    I’m on Etsy, but I also sell my work to “fleshy” audiences– that is live at local stores, craft fairs, etc. The other day I went into a new store (it’s been up and running for six months) that has booths that we can rent. It has earned itself a pretty good reputation and I’m from a very art /artisan friendly area. As I walked around to see what sort of wares were in the booths and what sort of prices they were selling at I was heart broken. There was no way– none– that many of the sellers could have been even been selling at cost. Despite the attention the store draws, it was a big red flag. When I went up front to ask for information about a booth (I was about 80% sure I did NOT want to be there, but I still wanted the information), the woman did her best to sell me on it. I mentioned that one of my concerns were the very low prices. She mentioned that some of the booths were priced higher (she pointed to one of the end booths with quilts… which were high for the store, but were under priced for baby quilts) and said that she could understand why, for example, quilts were more because they took time to make. She said that everyone else priced their items on the lower end so that they had sales. All I could think on the way home was how sad that was. That the woman thought that the only way to sell was to be cheap, that only the quilter was using time to make her goods, and that when someone commented on it, that is what she told a stranger in the store. Granted I seemed interested, but I could have been anyone! And this is the opinion of someone who owns a store that is renting booths to artisans! Scary!

    As for this discussion about pricing on Etsy, and the “stuff” in the shops… for those on Etsy, we know that they technically they have policies and do not allow re-selling, nor do they allow selling of pre-manufactured goods. They do allow altered-art, and have a separate category for vintage. It states a bit more, but that is essentially the meat of the policy which is where the problem lies. Sure it states the Do’s and Do Not’s (their policy guide, etc.) but unless someone goes to the trouble of reporting each product, there is not a tremendous amount of follow up to what each shop is selling… nor its quality.

    Is it a problem with Etsy, maybe. I personally think that it seems to be much more of a problem with the problem with the people using Etsy. That is, first there are sellers using poor quality materials. That problem has been stated, and re-stated, and over-stated, so I’ll spare the comments on that.

    Second, a few people in these comments have mentioned what they *would* do if they had an Etsy shop. That’s exactly what many of us actually DO– (which is a compliment to many of us 🙂 ) — which is to have an artist profile, list our favorite materials, our processes, etc. We carefully list each material needed to make each of our products in the space provided. (Something more difficult if you didn’t make the product-lol). Many of us have a blog (or three) for individuals to follow us also. We belong to teams of other dedicated artists and craftspeople/artisans of which the membership is often competitive. It is not hard to sort out the good Etsy shops from the fair ones, provided you put in a little time and effort. Then there is the feedback. When you look at someone who receives and leaves feedback without comments, I personally think it says something. The climate of Etsy isn’t one of checking a box… nor is the world of artists and artisans. The shops that stand out are the ones that in addition to having a great feedback score, have customers who rave about them, their art, their products, and their customer service… and who they are themselves thankful for their customers and it shows in the feedback that they leave for buyers.

    Finally, the third problem with those using Etsy is with buyers not understanding the cite. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for buyers… they are the hand that feed my me :-). However, there are some out there that don’t know to read profiles (don’t get me started on not knowing how to read shop policies…), they don’t know to leave a comment and not just check the “postive” box (if they know feedback is an option at all). They don’t know to read the feedback instead of just making sure it’s a 100% rating. As many have stated, some of the buyers do not know the differences between the materials.

    It isn’t because Etsy is complicated… likely it is because it is new, and people are still finding out about it every day. Simply participating in the community of Etsy would help them greatly. This isn’t to take the responsibility off of those people who are breaking the rules– they’re out there (on etsy, at craft fairs, farmer’s markets, online… )… just to say the problem is far larger than them.

    Great topic… and comments. Very interesting to read and think further about. I’m not sure it’s ever something to stop considering.

    • Angela,
      Thanks for all the information – you sound like you are pretty well versed on the Etsy site.
      Your story about the shop you visited is really sad. They say “You teach other people how to treat you”, and I believe that’s true. Those craftspeople were teaching their customers to expect to pay them very little for all their efforts. That’s unfortunate, but they were the ones who priced the items.

  29. Another point I thought of re pricing and I think everyone could agree on this….

    How many people question the prices of plumbers, electricians and mechanics??? You got it….almost no one! The sad part is, is that if you don’t like their prices, you don’t get their service, plain and simple. Most TRADESPEOPLE have prices usually per hour that are NON-NEGOTIABLE and sadly artisans – most of them new to the arena – do not!

    When you are in the upper echelons of the “art” world, you can command those sky-high prices for your work as in the design world be it fashion, cars or whatever. But the given seems to be that you have “done your time” so to speak, apprenticing up the ladder til you reach that pinnacle where you can command the prices you want and impart the aura of quality for your work.

    Perhaps, as in certain fields, bringing back the apprenticeship way of craft and artisanship would be a good thing. We currently have several Embroiderers Guilds, there are Lacemakers Guilds, The Isabel O’Neil school for decorative painters, etc. All of these guilds have strict rules about quality of work and they are juried at various stages up the system. This is how artisans used to accrue “seasoning” as they ascended the ladder of success. When they became a master, they were TRULY a master at what they did and they were presented to either the nobility or the trades as being tops in their fields becoming highly sought after for their exceptional work. Most everyone worked up the ladder of success in this manner. There still exists remnants of the guild systems in certain types of industries. I think stone masons for one.

    For all the hundreds of thousands today trying to design and produce something of value – and that really is the key – something of value, not throwaway, you must almost “intimidate” if you will, your potential customer into thinking that your item of course is valuable, that it speaks to them and that they MUST purchase it.

    I will elaborate on the previous paragraph by mentioning that back in the 70’s I read a book whose central theme was just that…..INTIMIDATING the customer without them knowing that they are being intimidated into buying something. The book, aptly named “Winning Through Intimidation” by Robert Ringer posited that presentation is a large part of the battle in winning over a customer whether you are trying to impress an advertising company or really anyone with your work; the presenting of it in a super-professional way wins many over because it intimidates the potential buyer into buying feeling that you know what you are doing. Of course your product has to be worth the pretty wrapping so to speak to close the sale, but we see things like this all the time. Who isn’t impressed by pretty wrapping and presentation as some people will buy something JUST for the pretty packaging!

  30. I hear what people are saying about Etsy, and I agree that there are some problems–particularly with sellers who list pre-made jewelry for insanely low prices. But I feel compelled to share an Etsy success story, as Etsy is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to my family.

    My husband Paul and I have a wonderfully successful Etsy shop where we sell our handmade jewelry (certainly not imported, and certainly not cheaply made) at reasonable prices that attract clients but still provide us with a profit. In less than 2 years my husband was able to quit his day job to work on the business full time, and we’re hoping to grow our shop enough to allow me to do the same some day. We also know several other Etsy sellers who are having wonderful success selling quality handmade items.

    In the 2 years since we opened our Etsy shop, we’ve learned a lot about that particular marketplace, and our success has taken some trial and error. We charge significantly more now for our jewelry than we did in the beginning, and we sell more as a result (while also sometimes offering special promotions–sales and coupons). I agree wholeheartedly that artists shouldn’t devalue their work, and I share everyone’s frustration with those who make life harder for the rest of us by undercharging–and especially with any seller who hocks pre-made tat and calls it “handmade.” Just to be fair to Etsy, they specifically forbid that practice–I know people still do it, and I guess it’s maybe a hard thing for the admins to enforce. But I agree they should crack down more on those folks.

    What we have also learned is that pictures are HUGELY important. We’ve gotten emails from so many new Etsy sellers, frustrated at their lack of sales and wondering why they do well at craft shows but can’t get a bite on Etsy–and when we look at their shop pages, we see that while their jewelry may be beautiful, their pictures don’t present it that way. It’s crucial, if you want to sell on Etsy, to take the time to learn about jewelry photography, and to invest in a nice camera. Believe me, it’s worth it–and there are tons of online guides with great advice about how to get spectacular pictures.

    I can only speak from my own and my husband’s experience (and from those of the other successful Etsy sellers we’ve met), but I think Etsy is a tremendous resource–not to mention a great community where Paul and I have made some wonderful friends. There might be some bad apples out there, but I’d hate to see people give Etsy a miss just because of them. 🙂

    • Whitney, Thanks for your success story. I am aware that often people who are unhappy can be the most vocal, so it’s nice to hear from someone who has had a really good experience.
      As I mentioned, I have no experience with Etsy, so really cannot address their policies. There is a good and bad to everything, so it’s nice to get both sides of the story. I’m glad you have been able to make the website work for your business!

  31. Thank you! 🙂 I’m loving this forum (which I found through the Etsy newsletter, by the way–ha ha). What a great resource for artists and artisans! I’ll definitely be back.

    I should add that if anyone would like to talk more about Etsy, they should feel free to get in touch with me. We love talking with new sellers and people who are considering opening a shop; we’re huge advocates of handmade everything (especially jewelry), so it’s important to us.

  32. I forgot that the link to this forum was from Etsy!

    There are many good things about Etsy and a number of them have been explored in this thread. Personally, I learned a lot on my own by setting up the shop and that knowledge will be put to good use on a website of my own.

    Etsy needs to crack down on the abusers. I emailed a woman who was selling wooden handmade crochet hooks on Etsy. It turned out she has a retail shop and the hooks are made in India. When I said I was looking to purchase something made here by hand not commercially in India and cited another seller’s page. The woman with the retail shop contacted the craftperson to see if she would make hooks at a wholesale price for her to sell in her retail store. There was no room in the price for wholesale as the hooks were so reasonably priced and the Etsy seller refused. I was floored that the woman with the store did not “get” Etsy. This the type of seller they should be refusing and monitoring.

    In the beginning, I attended the Etsy forums but felt they were just blowing smoke to get sellers to stay with them. My staff shop reviews were all positive, I paid for showcases and all I got was increased traffic and no sales. This is true for many Etsy sellers.

    I raised the issue in a forum and a number of people responded that they had the same concerns. They are getting lost on Etsy and the help comes from other sellers not the staff. I have had other sellers provide great pointers. There are many great folks on Etsy but I feel the staff does not care about the violators of the rules as long as the money rolls in.

    To their credit, they held a forum on pricing and told people to double their prices and I sent a text that double nothing is still nothing. There are quality sellers but the bottom basement sellers are ruining it for others. I want to see quality work at a fair and honest price, not cheap crap of Wal-mart ilk. Perhaps Etsy needs to vet the sellers.

    My sales have come from contacts I have made on my own and Etsy is a showcase of my work.

  33. Wow I just love what Sheepish77 had to say. I agree whole heartedly! Etsy is an amazing idea and has become the first place I look to buy anything for a gift or something unique. I think that the idea of cracking down on things that are not handmade buy the seller is a great idea. Etsy should be focusing on the quality of the website as a whole and not the quantity. This will eventually pay off for them too. If people are mass producing then etsy is not the place for them. We should continue to contact the staff in charge of such things and hopefully they will stand behind their own rules.

  34. I am astounded daily by Etsy. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan, that has made 6oo plus sales there, but in almost three years. I know that I could do so much better if all of the dishonest sellers were gone. I make made from scratch soaps and other items that I pour hours and hours into. My competition? Melt and pour soapmakers that rave on and on about how great their handmade soap is, no mention that they use a base and it only takes about twenty minutes to make it. A batch of soap made from scratch takes 24 hours to be finished, and three hours of prep and mixing. I have struggled to decide how to run a business with such cheap competition, or whether to just keep it a hobby. Keeping it a hobby would near break my heart because I have spent 12 years perfecting my own recipes, ideas(which have been stolen on Etsy) and techniques. I wish I would have known that I was getting into a place that is not really about things being made from scratch. I have been trying hard for over a year to get a website of my own running, I can’t afford to have one done for me, but I just seem to have problems and my work dissapears and I have to start over again. I know many of my customers have had problems with Etsy, and many people that I meet and give cards to do not want to sign up for Etsy, this is why a website would be so important.
    I also do a few craft shows a year, but have decided to only do more upscale shows, and the ones that I have a regular following at. It is hard work to make “your” work shine, but I have so many followers for my soaps and goodies that I can’t just up and quit now, any suggestions on how to get a leg up online when you are not tech savy? it seems there is always something new to learn and the old ways become obsolete after a year or so 🙁
    Thanks for this interesting post. It is nice to hear that I am not the only one wondering what handmade really means today. Definitly DO NOT ask this question in the Etsy forums! LOL

    • Shannon,
      Because I don’t know your business well at all, I can’t make specific recommendations for you here. However, if you want to look into your own website, I recommend you check out http://www.BlueHost.com. They will host your site for about $85 per year. You can create you own website using free Word Press software on your own domain (these are cheap, and you can get one through Blue Host, who gives excellent customer service).
      I think you understand what your unique selling proposition is – that your soaps are superior because of all the work developing them from scratch, etc. This should be a whole page on your site, so that you set yourself apart from other sellers.
      There are many other ways to get repeat sales, publicize your site, etc. which you will see here in articles. Please visit often and see if this blog is helpful to you.

  35. There is no shame in pricing a little bit low to see how well things sell, and then raising your prices. But if you price high and then lower your prices, it will reflect poorly on you.

    BTW
    I just leaned about Etsy from this thread; interesting stuff.

  36. A fair price is fine, even if it is low but one that does not take into account the COST of materials let alone time spent is unfair to other sellers. No one should price goods below cost.

  37. I was recently scoffed at by other artists saying that my pricing was unrealistic. I was advised to cut my prices by half. What they were actually saying was they didn’t believe their work would bring as much. Consequently, the piece we were discussing sold within 24 hours of marking it for sale, at my price. 😉

  38. Another great article that I reposted on my blog when it was first published!

    http://sellingtogiftshops.com/2011/12/27/are-your-prices-unrealistic/

    Thanks for the great tips and info.

    Sandy

  39. I have set my hour price to 35 dollars when I work on paintings or drawings that I am going to sell. I am thinking of raising it up to 69 dollars. After working and selling art and commissions openly since 2007 I think it’s fair enough. If people check out my website: http://www.tereseantonsen.org I would really appreciate feedback on my work and the thought of my pricing.

    Thank you. 🙂

  40. I love this post and found it helpful. I’m fairly new as a full time professional artist, just over one year. When I encountered the pricing dilemma, I saw a lot of people suggesting to look around the market at similar artists to compare and see where my art sits…. well, I still haven’t found any artists that actually do anything similar to what I do. I obviously have developed a system of consistent pricing now, but what does an artist do when they can’t find comparable art to their own?

    My most recent series of paintings, Gear Gals, have gotten a lot of positive reviews and I love seeing a customer see one in person for the first time, but there isn’t really a niche or over all catagory for my Gear Gals series to fit in. Any suggestions?

    • Thanks for the comment, Amber. If you were starting out again and looking at pricing, I would have suggested finding artists with approximately the same amount of market experience, selling paintings in a similar size, medium and level of complexity. You have to start somewhere. It does sound that because you were concerned enough to do research, you wouldn’t be wildly overpricing or underpricing your work.

      You say that you have developed a system of consistent pricing. How did you do it?

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