How to price lessons, paintings & tutoring

It won’t be long before someone will ask you…..

“What would you charge me for that painting…..? I gotta have it in my bathroom.”

So you’ll just have to tell them a number.

How do you get the right number. Yeah sure, the market will tell you. I get tired of coined phrases for an answer. I gotta tell my mom some number!

Back on May 1, I published an article, A Simple Methodology in Pricing Your Artwork.

Within this article…I went over how you could establish a price by figuring out your costs and then determining your hourly rate. Combining both costs with profit, you established a price and put the painting up for sale. With each sale, I suggested you raise the price for the next painting. By continuing to raise your price you would evntually find where the paintings would not sell and therefore you’d find the true market value of your paintings. In other words, the true value of a painting is that point between where it sells and where it doesn’t. This is called letting the market define your price.
Another method, revealed to me by Joyce Ortner, takes a different tack, which is ‘Peer Value’ pricing.
Take stock of the level of quality of your technical painting skills, creativity, expressivness, impact on viewers and go research the market. Ask critiques of your art if they know who you would compare to… Visit galleries, art shows, sidewalk displays, private showings, print and art magazines and literally, everywhere original art is sold and find out what price people were asking that are within your category. If you found artists that you felt were your equals, than note the name of the painting, its price, canvas size.

Repeat this process for 20 or 30 different artists that you felt were in your category. Afterwards, compile a list…..

Name of painting
Size of Painting
Square Inches of Painting
Asking Price
Calculate the price per Square Inch for this painting

Fill in this list for the 20 or 30 artists and then find the average price per square for this ‘group’ of artists. Whatever that numbers comes out, that’s your Peer Value.

Let’s use a hypothtical example. Joe goes out and surveys fellow artists, identifies peers and determines the Peer Value, which is the average price per square inch at which his peers are selling their paintings. (Note, this is not the price for which they sell, but their asking price……its also useful to evaluate sold price as well, but not everyone will share that information.) So Joe comes up with a Peer Value of $3.82 per inch.

Joe creates an original on a 12″ x 16″ canvas. That’s a total of 192 sq inches. Using a Peer Value of $3.82, Joe should be charging $733.45 or rounded up to $735 for his painting.

Joe’s ability to command that amount will have to be demonstrated through his marketing efforts. When you’re now asked what price for a painting, you have two ways of calculating price.

Again, if you find your prices are quickly selling at $735.00, than increase the price with each sale until you reach your ceiling. Retest your ceiling every few months. It may be moving up with your reputation.

In marketing, there’s one golden rule: paintings must be seen to be sold. So get those paintings visible. Not just on-line, but physically visible as well.

One more point. When someone asks you now how much you would charge to paint a painting. Ask them these questions….

1. What’s the subject? Do you have a photo or physical setting of the painting you want?

2. What’s the basic color? The colors of the room in which the painting will hang.

3. What’s the size

4. What’s the frame requirements?

5. What’s the time frame allowed to complete the painting.

I would ask the client to be prepared to view the painting 3 times.

The first time would be after the background is done to ensure that the color scheme is appropriate.
The second time would be after everything is blocked in and I’m ready to highlight the foreground. The background and middleground would be already highlighted.

For Commissioned Work you’ll need to set up a payment schedule. A typical payment schedule is

1/2 up front (Plus the frame charge, if any)
15% after First approval,
15% after second approval
20% after third approval.

Payment problems, if they occur, are almost always at the end.

Now here’s the pricing strategy……Understand that commissioned rates are higher than your painting rates. Commissioned work takes you away from your basic work. Therefore be compensated for this inconvience…

How to price:

Calculate your base Commission cost using peer value for the size of canvas your client is requesting.
Add the price of the frame times 3. i.e. if it costs you $30.00, the charge is $90. If the frame is $100, the charge is $300. This must be paid up front and is in additional to 50% of your commission fee.
Multiply the Peer Value by 1.6. This is your Commission Fee. You are going to find two benefits. First, in the event you’re not paid the final 20% Fee payment, you still got it. Secondly, in most cases you’re going to be asked to repaint things. This compensates for that time.

Another methodology for pricing commissioned work, or student pricing for art lessons is to calculate one’s self worth on an hourly basis.

The common method is to use the following guideline:

Define your current yearly income or the income you’d like to achieve.
Since you’re self-employed, add any benefits, taxes, vacation, sick days, etc.. to your yearly income.
Divide that number by 52
Divide that number by 40
This is your hourly worth. It includes your salary and benefits and overhead.
Remember, you’re in business for yourself, therefore, besides your personal income, you need to also pay for your overhead.
This hourly rate is what you need to base all fo your private and public lessons upon as well as your commissioned work. I prefer the other methodology for commissioned work, but this is just as appropriate.

Now let’s look at an example to see how we can calculate our hourly rate worth use it for establish a public lesson student price at a local art store, like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann, AC Moore, Benjamin’s or any other place at which you can teach.

You want to work 20 hours a week for 9 months out of the year and clear $500 weekly for income.
Your overhead is $75.00 weekly.
Your total revenue is $575.00 weekly.
Your hourly ‘worth’ rate is $28.75. So let’s round that up to $30.00
A typical class takes one hour pre-prep, 30 minutes to drive there, another 30 minutes for return. 5 hours to teach the class, one hour to clean-up. Total of 8 hours a class.
A Class needs to provide you with $240.00 of income.
The classroom can hold 10 people. Typical classes run at 60% of capacity.
You will need 6 students to make this classroom.
Price per student is 240/6 which equals $240.00
You will need 3 classes weekly to meet your goal of $575.00
If you run evening classes of 2.5 or 3.0 hours, don’t forget pre-prep time, travel time and clean-up time. I hold these classes out of my home so that they do not incur travel time, pre-prep (Sales/marketing/modeling) time. Just the clean-up times.

I hope the information above will help you to establish yourself as a professional artist or art instructor. Love to hear your feedback.