Know your expenses
If your art is your business, you need to have a good overview of your expenses. By knowing that, you can know how much you need to make to breakeven and to make a profit.
In part 1 of this series I talked about a base price. That base price is not chosen randomly. Based on your expenses you need to figure out how much you need to make to cover those expenses and then some more for profit.
For me, expenses include paying for my domain name, webhosting, email service to use that domain name, art materials, marketing materials like business cards and event materials (canopy, banners etc), tools, insurance, admin etc.
Knowing what that is, you can figure out, if I make $X on a painting, how many should I sell in a year to cover my expenses. More strategically: How many do I need to sell to not just make breakeven, but to make whatever profit I want to make?
You could gamble on selling one original painting for $50,000 if that’s your yearly goal, but more realistically you figure out how many pieces you can realistically paint in a year. How many you expect to sell within a year. How much should you then get for your paintings? That will get you closer to that base price. Over that you need to add any cost of materials, packaging and maybe commission. How does the price look now? Would your customer pay that or do you need to adjust? In that case, do you need to increase yearly production to be able produce and sell more? How can you do that without giving up quality? Do you need to add other revenue streams? If so how and what?
These are all important business decisions. It’s an ongoing process called running your business. There is never a single, final answer.
Choosing creative freedom over business
This may not be how you envisaged being an artist. Maybe you’re more idealistic, maybe you just want to create your art, regardless of cost, profit and demand. That’s OK, but then you need to be prepared to supplement your art career with other income streams (a different full-time job). There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s how a lot of the most progressive artwork is produced, sometimes with dramatic success, far beyond those of us who try to immediately run art as a business.
I’ve read a few times that if you do that, ‘art is just your hobby’, I disagree, you can be a professional artist and still supplement your income with other jobs. I think most artists do one way or another.
This is the great thing about art, the freedom to be an artist however you want. In fact, the way many folks in the corporate world often look with jealousy at my freedom as a commercially minded artist, I feel a pang of jealousy when I meet the artist who truly creates what he or she wants, without the constraint of commerce, especially when they are as successful as I dream to be….
In part III of this series I will talk about how I price my commissioned airbrush and custom paint jobs…