The Art Business - Starting Out - Pointers, Hints & Tips
Article written: November 2018
I have been approached numerous times by other Artists starting out in the Commission market who have asked for help and advice in this field and in particular, pricing. The truth is there is no perfect answer to this, every one has different circumstances and should do as much research as possible before taking the plunge, pricing in particular is an individual choice, there are no set rules. I can offer a few pointers that may help you kick start your own Art business purely based on my own experiences over the years but this information is only offered as a guide, every business is as unique as the Artist however, I hope there are some good pointers found below that help you on your way.
USP - your unique selling point
Before you even begin selling your 'product', sit down and write down what you think your unique selling point is, this awareness may help you to sell yourself easier, ensure you keep adding to this list whenever someone mentions something you may not have been aware of. Your USP could be that your work is unique because you use a technique you have created yourself over a period of years or are working using a very old technique that few Artists now use. If you have been creating Art for a good amount of years, this is a great USP in itself, it states that you are obviously very competent and have years of knowledge in your particular field and don't forget to add experience gained - training or awards. Be careful how you word these USP's though as it may sound like bragging which may put some people off.
Overheads - An example of how you can price your art
We are lucky in that our Art speaks for itself, but you should charge accordingly to ensure your business is successful - forgetting to incorporate the cost of your products and your time will not help your business grow, so ensure you have an idea of how long it takes you to create a picture, how much of your products you use to create it, any electricity used, postage and packaging any other possible costs (ie. Potter - water costs). An example of costing your work is to know how many hours it took you to create your portrait and decide how much you would be happy to charge per hour, taking into consideration the overheads and adding this in - times this by the amount of hours you took to create it. If framing is included, remember to incorporate these charges also. As the years go by, you should continue to update your prices, always ensuring that these prices reflect your time, products used and experience to ensure your business continues to grow.
Pricing - 'low prices will encourage more sales'
When we first start out running a Commission based Art business, charging very high prices for your work may see your business struggle, although it is possible dependant on where you live, how you market yourself and even who you know, primarily many tend not to charge enough and there is a misconception that charging low prices will encourage more sales but at the end of the day, charging too little could actually cost you your time and money with 'cheap prices' deterring people from commissioning you as they may see low prices as meaning low quality, they may think the Art products you use to create your work are 'cheap' too and that the portrait or product will fade or break over a shorter timespan, so try to be realistic, it will take time before you start to see a profit but it is better to ensure you are actually making a profit rather than a loss if you are serious about your business and it is far more likely to be successful in the longer term. Remember also that constantly changing your prices by either raising them or lowering them to try and encourage more sales in the current climate could impact negatively on you and your business. Dropping your prices may alienate past customers but you could always run special offers from time to time to avoid this.
Research other artists
It is a great eye opener to research other Artists, locally and on-line. Do not worry how many Artists there may appear to be out there, the most important person here is you. It is important to find out about local Artists, what they do, how they do it, what they charge and there are many Artists on-line that have some wonderful websites that can give you lots of help and advice, the only thing you need to remember is this is YOUR business - do not think that copying another Artist and charging the same prices as someone who has the same Art style as you will work as they may have been in business for a number of years, with their own clientele and collectors, so simply use these prices as a guide and look into their background to give you some ideas.
Circumstances - full time or part time business?
If you live alone, with bills to pay and no partner to support you, it is going to be extremely difficult and stressful to go full time in a new venture and speaking from experience, I would recommend that you put some time aside on a regular basis whilst in receipt of a guaranteed source of income to concentrate on building your new business. There are so many avenues you can take in Art but when you work for yourself, you have to put in the time and effort, be aware that it could take years before you are able to run a full time Art business and pay the bills comfortably with a little left over for all those 'luxuries' you want too.
The importance of a good website
I cannot stress how important it is to have a good website that works for you and your business. Having researched many websites over the years, I have seen some with half finished pages, spelling errors, bad fonts/overuse of colourful fonts and gaudy backgrounds resulting in the loss of the most important part of the page - the message! I have also seen so many websites without a personal photo or two of the Artists themselves, something that can make a viewer connect with the Artist and their business. As you are the face of the business, it's important to personalise your online 'Art studio' unless you want to be the next 'Banksy'!. Being a Commission Artist means you are offering a very personal service and ideally you should aim to offer a website that works well for you, but most importantly it is accessible to your customers. My advice would be to get in touch with a local web design company and get your first website created professionally (or ask them to update an existing one) to ensure you have everything on there you need and can be found by the very people who are looking for your service. Social media should never replace the need for a personal website as you are not in full control of it, rules change and you could find views/likes disappear almost overnight, worse still the company could fold and you are left with no presence at all.
Lastly, a business is a creation that is made by you just like a piece of your Art - don't rush it, embrace the challenge and Good Luck!!