Should Your Art Website List Prices?

by Carolyn Edlund

Many artist websites show artwork without prices. Is this a good idea or a losing proposition?

 

Money puzzle

 

Since e-commerce became popular, this question has been argued, and it still rages on. I come down firmly on the side of the “Yes” vote under most circumstances, and here’s why:

Prices really matter.

Do you intend to sell your art? The internet is like the biggest store in the world, and if you won’t list prices, you won’t be making many sales.

Will your website visitors send an email or call you to find out how much you’re charging for your art? Not very likely. How many people who could afford your work are seeing it and loving it – and then moving on, to purchase from another artist who does list their prices?

Failing to set prices withholds vital information, and a lack of information never inspired anyone to buy. Shoppers who are confused or feel uninformed won’t be pulling out their credit cards any time soon. This is a major reason why some artists never seem to get any action from their website.

At the very least, you should give a range of prices for your art, such as “prices for originals are $1,000 – $5,000 depending upon size, and reproductions are $250 – $400.” This lets the reader know where they stand, considering their budget and their intention to buy. They can “self opt-out” if you are not a match, which saves both of you the time and hassle of discussing it.

It also lets the shopper know if you are a fit. And you definitely want to make that initial sale, because gaining a collector means that they may become a repeat customer, too – thereby starting that beautiful relationship where you are selling more and more of your work to people who love and appreciate it.

When shouldn’t you show prices?

If you have an agreement with a gallery that represents you specifically precluding you from listing prices or selling from your website, respect that contract. But do put active links on your site directing the visitor to the gallery’s website. (I suggest you link directly to the page on their site that shows your work, rather than to their Home page.)

Some things can’t always easily be priced, like special commissions, but again you could give a range. You might mention that commissions generally run 10% higher than your regular prices, and invite website visitors to contact you to discuss their needs.

And what if the work really isn’t for sale? You may want to show images of work that is already sold, that you are saving for a show or exhibition, or that you truly love and don’t want to part with at all. Mark them NFS or “collection of the artist”. Then, list your prices on work that is for sale.

Precautions to take.

This is a basic, but can’t be stressed enough: never undercut your galleries or retailers on price. I often tell artists who wholesale that it actually behooves you to sell at a slightly higher price than your retailers’ typical mark up. That will make your work seem like a “bargain” from the retailer, which can only enhance your relationship. And in business, relationships are everything.

Lastly, I think that some artists don’t list prices because they simply don’t know what to charge for their work. If this is your situation, do some research before you list any prices on your art. It’s essential that you become informed on how to price your work so that you can do it correctly. Here is an excellent article on that subject.

 

Do you list prices on your own art website? Why or why not?

 

 

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Comments

  1. I list prices and try to make it easy for people to buy. Take down the barriers! I have recently set it up and have sold 7 paintings I probably would not have sold otherwise. It is a lot of work and I still have have more to do but I think I will find having an e-commerce site is a good idea.

  2. I cannot agree more.

  3. Great post Carolyn. Valuable info for everyone.

  4. I agree but here’s my difficulty. Any thoughts? Between being fairly prolific in making art, loans to museums and shows, consignments to galleries, and sales, I have not figured out a way to fairly quickly and efficiently list and keep current with prices and availability of about 200 pieces I show on my website. To top it off, the bulk of my pieces have sold but I need to show images of all my work because I sell a lot of prints and cards of my work though my website. And I am often willing to making editions of originals based on the original designs. So I have just listed starting prices which is ok but I would rather somehow have specific prices and availability.

    • Chris, I understand your problem (and you may note that I linked to the guest article you wrote in this article, because I like your thinking on pricing). It sounds like you may need a software program to keep track of and organize all your work. There are a couple I’ve heard of like ArtworkArchive.com, but you could look into what would work best for you.

    • I would just have a current and sold sections in your website. I use Flickr for this as I can manage on the fly as soon as a work sells.
      ShawNshawN

  5. Great article, Carolyn! I couldn’t agree with you more. Most people appreciate knowing how much something costs enabling them to figure out if, as you said, it is a good fit for them. In my case, I don’t presently have restrictions from the galleries that represent my art but I always keep the prices the same as what they charge. Chris, I do add the art that sells simply saying that they are sold. That way people can see the whole spectrum of what I create. Once again a valuable post, thank you!

    • Lisa, the only feedback I’ve heard on listing sold items (and I agree) is that it helps to have a robust selection for sale, so that they don’t look “picked over” – I’ve actually seen that situation on websites where it seems most everything is sold. That wouldn’t inspire sales – but it would help with potential commissions.

  6. Good advice Carolyn. I agree that people want to know the price but, I’m selling [limited] fine art photography that can be printed in various sizes on a variety of surfaces. For work that I’ve framed for shows I’ve listed prices, but my larger portfolio has neither size nor price and I’m trying to figure out how to concisely list the choices.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly on showing your prices or at least explaining how pricing works. I work with textile and fiber art people, so they usually have one of a kind work. It helps a potential buyer to see available products separately from the ones that have already sold. Aside from pricing, I find that so many artists just throw up a portfolio of images with no text, no explanation of materials used, of care, or anything else about what people are looking at. Navigation from one product to another is also important, along with image size. If people have to click two or three times to look at something and then click that many or more times back to look at something else, they might do two or three and then just get tired of it.

    People look at an artist’s site for many different reasons. Having prices up will tell them immediately if they are in a comfort zone for them. If they are, they might look at things more closely. If they are not, they might know of others who are. At any rate, the experience should be easy on the eyes and fingers, clear and organized.

    • You are exactly right, Rachel. This is my experience too. Clunky navigation, lack of information and no pricing makes a site look incomplete or amateurish. I rant on this stuff at my workshops all the time.

      Fiber artists especially struggle because many of them create very time-consuming OOAK works that must be highly expensive, if making sales is the goal. Naturally, people don’t just put $5,000 items in a shopping cart and purchase, but revealing prices starts the conversation.

  8. I do not currently show prices, having been advised against it by mentor artists many years ago with my 1st website…although I have been re-considering it and I think I will now. Things have changed in the last several years. I would like to have an area on my site where I can show the range in price, it is quite a large range from my smallest work to my largest work. I will have my prices consistent with the galleries that show my work.
    Having seen this today, I think I will start adding prices.

    Thanks for your advice!

    • Tammy, I’m glad you have reconsidered. My suggestion is that you make that information about your price range very easy to find, and if you don’t have it with images of the work, then have a statement or link near those images that goes to your pricing page. The key is to make it easy for the website visitor to use your site, and understand what you offer. Otherwise, they move on by simply clicking away.

  9. To this point, almost everything I have done is a private commission and is pretty much a one off item. Would it be a good idea to put a price range on “a piece like this” in the description with the invitation for them to contact me for a custom quote on a custom piece? Or just list the price the piece really sold for and indicated that is a sold piece?

    Or just leave any pricing completely off if that particular piece has already gone to the person who commissioned it?

    I feel like at this point, I should have something about price on my website.

    • These are great questions. I don’t see why you couldn’t list the price for a one of a kind piece and indicate that it is sold, then have an FAQ page with commission information and a price range.

      I am VERY big on suggesting FAQ pages for artists who are selling!

      • Thanks for your reply! I ultimately decided not to list prices because, for some of the older pieces, honestly, I couldn’t remember what I charged or the exact hours it took. I realize now I need to keep a log book on my hours, etc.. The other thing is that I have gotten more efficient with my time but I have also gradually increased my hourly rate over time so everything is different now. So what I decided to do is create the FAQ page that talks more about pricing, etc., encouraging a phone call or email to discuss their specific project. I will add more to this as I think of things. http://www.finemetalsculpture.com/faqs

        Your articles and input are very helpful!

        Debra

      • I love the idea of a FAQ page…as I often do commissions as well, and my larger sculptural pieces sell but I still want to showcase them on my site, for future collectors to see my range.

        thanks again for the boost in this direction.

  10. Yes I list prices. I am a firm believer that no prices = missed sales opportunity.
    I also have in the works, future activation of making financing available through an independent service as an option in the sales process.

  11. Carolyn, your advice is right on target. I list prices even though I no longer encourage online sales (I cancelled PayPal.) When someone sees one of my paintings in the Museum’s Rental & Sales Gallery, she may want to think about it for a while before buying. Having the price online keeps all the relevant information handy for them.

    • Yvonne, What made you decide to no longer make online sales? Did you have a bad experience?

      • Hi Carolyn,
        I just discovered your question today. The fact is, after years of trying, I never made an online sale. However, I made many sales in my studio or at galleries that resulted from people seeing my paintings online. What forced the decision is that my bank began charging a fee for the small account I had just for PayPal (I did not want any PayPal connection to the savings account which did not have fees attached.) Also, as I got older, it became burdensome to ship paintings. There was never a bad experience.

  12. To Chris M.,

    Chris,
    Separate and archive SOLD work into their own page. Also, be brutal and self edit the items for sale and put them into similar bodies of work. That should help you ease up your site

  13. Speaking of doing it yourself, it can be terribly time consuming. I worked on one page for 3 hours the other day, plus fixing some things I thought I had already fixed. Working on websites and marketing your art is not making art. At some point I’ll be hiring it out and the right pro can do a better job. I did say ‘right pro.’

  14. I am thinking of listing my art – by gallery – on my website instead of bunched all together. I am in two galleries so it wouldn’t be hard to do, plus a page for buying directly. Any thoughts or experience? Thanks!

    • Hi John, I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to organize your work to present it logically, especially if you have a large portfolio. Are you currently linking to the galleries for those pieces they hold in inventory? Your efforts to partner with your galleries by sending them business will always be appreciated. And make sure that you aren’t competing with them unfairly by undercutting any prices on your site!

      • Thanks for responding. I’ve decided to keep it as it is.*
        I like to send buyers who contact me to the gallery nearest them, even when I possess the piece. I think it creates a trusting relationship(?).
        *On my old site I would have the initials of the gallery the piece is hanging, ( ex. $500 KAG) I didn’t do it with the revised website… do you think it helps?
        Thanks again!
        John

  15. Another point I would add is that your website should not have 200 works. Why? It’s just overwhelming like when you buy wine at bevmo vs. picking up beer at 7-11. The second one takes 20 sec and the other 10-40 min. Your website should only have your best work. Prints only should be separated from for sale pieces.

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