If a customer enters your booth area or has been looking for a minute, greet them with your own personal statement. This initial greeting will vary with every artist and said along with a smile and eye contact is just a method of letting the customer know that you recognize their presence and you are open to assist them if needed. I vary my statements but could be “Hello”, “Welcome to my gallery” or “Let me know if you have any questions”. Some customers want interaction from the artist and some want their space.I live near the town of Scottsdale, AZ were many higher end galleries are grouped together in a single area. When I enter these galleries they seem to greet me with something like “How is your day going” or “Are you visiting from out of town”. For me, it is not so much what they say but the warm pleasant attitude they seem to have while saying it. They usually let me know that they can help me if I have any questions.
If a customer is looking at a particular art piece for an extended time, I may tell them a short story about the art piece. It is not only the art piece they are interested in but also the connection to the artist. This artist connection is something art patrons can get at an art show that they may not get at a gallery. It is really a fine art to read the needs for an individual customer and how much interaction they want with the artist.
I feel it is better to always have a happy or more positive attitude when dealing with customers even if you are tired and at the end of a long day. Part of the customer experience is the joy of the purchase. They would be more likely to purchase from an artist that they have a good feeling about since the artist is connected to the artwork they are bringing home.
It also does not hurt to smile a lot as the lady in the photo is doing.
Many times, customer’s ask you what I would consider silly questions such as did you take all these photographs or are these paintings (not my art medium). In most cases, they are unfamiliar on how to approach the artist and are just starting a dialog with you. It is best to answer their question which can lead to a continued conversation with this customer.
Artists with different art mediums may get asked different questions from the customers. I am often asked if I am local in which I say yes since all my shows are local. An artist selling jewelry may get asked if she makes her own jewelry or if her jewelry is produced in China. Once you start selling, you will get some common questions and determine a standard answer for your customers.
On occasion, you will run into a rude customer. It is best not to deal with this in a negative way as this could turn off other customers in your booth. I just move on to a different customer and eventually the rude customer leaves. For the most part, the customers are very nice and often compliment your artwork.
When I do art shows and set up my 10 x 10 canopy, I noticed that customers are hesitant to crossing over the “hidden line” on the edge of your canopies main entry side. They tend to look at my art on the walls from a distance or print racks at the edge of my booth area. If you make the customer feel at ease and comfortable to cross that outside line into your booth, then you are doing something right.
Many artist use the standard black table cloth, but others choose different colors that may show off their product best. Using a table cloth, allows you to hide your extra product, boxes, supplies, lunch and other items under the table for a more professional clean look. I find it helpful to have some Mini Spring Clamps
with me to hold down the table cloths sides on a windy day.
When purchasing a fitted table cloth, check your table’s width, length and height to match against available table cloths sizes.
Many artists have multiple tables since they may lay their art flat. Many artists layer the art items on the tables at different levels. Much depends on what you are selling.
This is a really tricky subject but you should price to make a profit. Take into consideration your costs beyond just your material costs, gas and art show fees. The artist has a lot of overhead and should be compensated for his time and talent.
When setting your prices, a lot depends on a variety of factors such as:
1. Your experience
2. How you value your time
3. Time spent on a specific piece of art
4. Quality of your art
5. Material Costs
6. What the competition charges for similar artwork in your area
7. What your art work has actually sold for in the past
8. If you are more well known, the demand for your work
Some shows are geared for higher priced artwork and with small local shows this may not be true. Also the show’s customer attendance, demographics and location play a roll. Different artists have many different theories of what pricing strategy works best and it comes with experience.
Many photographers seem to charge by size of the image and not how difficult or costly the image was to take or time it took to produce. The price can vary based on other factors such as the associated costs of how the photograph is framed or printed on special paper or canvas.
As a photographer, I tend to see what other photographers are charging for their art on their web sites. Many of these photographers are charging two to four times the amount I do for what I consider the same quality of photography. When determining what you are going to charge at an art show, please remember that there is a difference of what people charge on-line and if they are selling at that price.
On the photo, you will notice carpeted Pro Panel walls, large title card labels with easy to see prices and a sign stating which credit cards are accepted. This booth also has a work desk for taking orders. I recommend hanging title cards at least 1 inch from the framed or canvas art work. This prevents the shadow from the above artwork from falling on the title card making it harder to read some of the printed information.
Many painters charge by the square inch but this can vary widely between different artists. Even the same artist may have a different cost per square inch for different sizes such as a higher square inch cost for very small paintings or less per square inch for very large paintings. Also, artist should also not determine prices based on there own personal or emotional attachment to a specific art piece.
For commission work such as in paintings, many recommend charging a larger fee than your normal amount. A commission can be more work and sometimes a pain with some clients and this should be incorporated in your pricing.
When you are selling photography or prints, a customer may ask you if you offer larger sizes. This is a good sign since most customers think art is only offered in the sizes that they can see in your booth. I recommend that you have a printed sheet listing the different sizes that you offer along with prices to show your customer. I have a sheet listing the various enlargement print sizes I offer as well as wrapped canvas sizes. This allows the artist to create custom prints on demand for the customer without the need to carry large sizes in inventory.
Some people feel you must keep your art prices the same everywhere you sell. Other artists may adjust prices to fit different shows or areas were artist costs may be higher. I feel that you should be flexible. If you have a gallery nearby that represents your art in the area of the art show; then your prices should be the same as the gallery for that art show. The previous advice is my recommendation for the new artist that this article is geared for. For more experience artist that has their art in many galleries and are successfully enough to bring in a steady income from those galleries, then I do not recommend that artist have different prices at art shows or on-line from the type of pricing levels at those galleries.
To me the bottom line is that if your art is not selling; you need to lower your prices to where it will sell at a price you are comfortable with. If you are selling a lot, you can try to raise your prices until you are losing sales. You will eventually set a balance that both the artist and customers are happy with. With the economy being poor over the last few years, many people have been buying less art. This can effect what people will currently pay for the same art they may of been happy to pay more for 5 years ago.
I do not recommend lowering your prices to compete with other artists that are really undervaluing their art. This is a no win situation and you cannot compete on price with someone who does not mind selling for little over the cost of his materials and not based on the total costs of running a business.
Daniel Rozmiarek wrote: “As the artist, if I want customers to give me money in exchange for my art, I don’t get to assign value my work. My customers are in control of valuing my work. My “price” is nothing more than a guess at an amount that I believe somebody else will agree to. I have every right to assign a price higher than that of other artists, but customers have no obligation to purchase.
Fine art is a pure luxury good. It is not a commodity that people need to survive. Every sale of fine art is about the perceived value the customer has for my work, and that customer’s willingness to exchange their cash for my art.
But, the reality is that nearly all potential customers at art shows are willing to pay something between $50-$500 for my work. They set the price. I’m only trying to guess what it is. If I guess too low, I’m not recovering the full value. If I guess too high, I don’t make a sale. When I guess correctly, I make a sale at the best price that customer is willing to offer.”
Additional articles and videos on pricing artwork:
I find you encourage and get additional sales if you mark your items such as matted artwork with a single price and then a discounted price for multiple purchases. An example would be a matted print price of $65.00 or two for $110.00. You can also do this on small items such as note cards $4.50 or two for $8.00. While discounting will lower your profits on that specific sale, I feel it is better to sell to that customer for a reasonable profit than not at all. My overall pricing will average out between initial asking price and discounts sales to a fair balance.
Some customers are afraid to ask you for a lower price. If they are looking at a piece for a while trying to make a decision to purchase it, I usually offer them a discount such as a set amount or a percentage discount. Many of my sales are when I offer a discount. I sometimes think I should raise my prices and then offer all my customers a discount.
If the item cost $69.00, I may say “I can offer you that art piece for $60.00” or “I can give you a 15% discount on that print”. If the customer is looking closely at two prints to determine which one they would like to purchase, I may say that “I can offer you a 20% discount on the second print”. Sometimes they purchase both prints. Unless the discount for multiple purchases is printed and displayed at the booth, I do not have a set discount I offer and pretty much make it up based on my mood at the time.
Some artists do not offer price discounts to the customer as they do not think they should discount their art. If that works for them, then they should price as they seem best. I think in this economy that not offering a discount as a hard rule will just cost you sales. Even the most high end galleries in great locations offer discounts upon request even on more established artists.
Offering a discount is different than having a sale. I do not recommend having a sales sign in your booth or a sign that says 50% off. These type of signs will bother the other artist. Signs that say “Sale” make it more of a lower end show and give it a flee market type feel. The customers may feel that they can expect large discounts at other artist booths.
I will offer a set discount without the customer asking if I feel they are hesitant to purchase a piece of my art and I think price is an issue for them. I think all artists should offer discounts to customers, even if it is a small one to encourage sales. While the artist should not sell art at a price they are uncomfortable with, I do not feel that art has a set price such as purchasing a toaster at Walmart. With a little negotiating, you can end up with a happy customer bringing home a piece of your art to hang on their wall and some money in your pocket. If you have not tried offering a discount, try it out a few times and see how it works for you.
Quite often, I am in the situation in which either the husband or the wife are in the booth. The customer is interested in purchasing some art but wants to bring there spouse, who is in another area of the art festival, back to the booth to approve of the purchase. Many times, they never come back. I decided to try this year to offer the customer an incentive before they leave to encourage a return. I recommend that you try different sales discount techniques and see what works best for you.
Every once in a while I get called by Interior Designers for a larger multiple piece order and I think they expect a discount of 10 – 20% because it may be the standard in their industry and they might select another artist if you do not. Even though I feel my regular prices are reasonable, in the middle range of what other similar work sells for, I will give Interior Designers a discount. Due to the economy, I have been also giving 10 – 20% discounts for larger orders from individuals when needed. I may try in the future to offer customers an extra smaller print of their choice instead of a monetary discount. This may be of greater value to the customer and cost me less than the monetary discount in the end.
I find that you really need to price all your items. The price on the labels also need to be larger than you think would be needed. It seems that many people just cannot find the price even if it is right in front of them. You do not want customers to walk away because they do not see the price and do not want to ask. Price labels can be hand written or printed off. My basic suggestion is if you hear numerous times the customer ask you what is the price of an item, you should adjust the location of your price label or make it larger.
Pricing Labels can be found on Amazon or at your local craft stores.For individual items, such as those lying on a table, I would price them all separately.I price all my framed work on my walls with a separate price label. I display my matted prints grouped by size which have the same price. If they are in a print rack or boxed container on a table, I generally have one larger price label on the front center of the print rack or box.
I have seen some artist not price the more expensive framed or original paintings displayed on the walls. Like any other business, different business owners make different decisions based on their own experiences. For artwork that has a title card you have room to display more than the price such as the artwork title, medium and size. I feel that if the artwork is not the original, you should state that on the title card that it is a print or other term you wish to use.
I see most artists do not use a name tag but they seem to wear them if the art show supplies them. I feel the artist should always wear a name tag. The customer is not only buying art but also part of the experience is meeting with the artists and the forming of an emotional bond beyond just the artwork.
Often customers ask me if I am the artist even if I am the only person in the booth. If you have more than one person in the booth and one is not the artists, then I feel it is even more important to have name tags. Also if your booth is crowded and someone wants to ask the artist a question or make a purchase, they may not be able to tell the artist from anyone else in the booth.
Many times customer sees my name on my name tag, relates it to my signature on the artwork and seem to be surprised that the artist is in front of them. I am not really sure why this happens so often. Perhaps they are so used to purchasing items made in factories or faraway places that it does not occur to them that some items are still made by hand and sold by the maker.
This is up to the artist to decide whether to do this and to define what they want their definition of a limited edition is since many artists do it differently. A few of the larger nationally known art shows require limited edition prints to participate in that specific art show.
Some artists are very sensitive on this subject and either are very for it or very against it. I just chose not to do it anymore.
I personally do not think it is a good idea and worth the paperwork for most artists to keep track of for photography for the art show market. I have never had a customer tell me he was not going to purchase a piece because it was not a limited edition. To me it is more of a gallery marketing thing and since photography prints can now be duplicated with exactly the same quality when printed in bulk or at a later date, I am not sure it applies to the original reason for limited edition printing. For some States such as artists selling in California or New York, more specific rules are set up for limited edition paperwork and should be reviewed.
If you sell photography to more of a serious collectors market or thru an art gallery, I can see a benefit to selling limited edition prints in smaller editions. Some photographers limit there editions in smaller amounts such as 15 -50 prints per image. Many times these smaller edition prints are much more expensive to purchase and may be each individually hand done such as in a darkroom or using an alternative photography process.
When I first started out I did have selected prints marked as LE of 100, 150 or 250. When reality hit and I saw that even if I had a popular print, it may only sell 5 to 15 times over many years due to the limited amount of shows I did. Because of this, I decided that it was not for me. I have seen artist put very high LE numbers such as 1000 or higher and I wonder if it is really limited at those numbers. You should always stick to what your limited edition agreement was in your printed statement for those artworks sold under a limited edition agreement. I see very few artist selling limited edition prints at art shows now a days as compared to what I saw in the past. It is really a personal choice for the artist and in some mediums such as bronze sculptures, it could be the norm.
Certificate of Authenticity:
Some artists do place a sheet called a Certificate of Authenticity on the back of matted or framed prints. In addition to the artist name and contact information, the certificate may also give print information specific to that print such as art title, size, special type of paper it was printed on, ink used along with the artist signature. These are similar to what would be on a limited edition certificate without any edition size listed.
Shown above, you can see a sample COA from California photographer Roy Kerckhoffs. Some States require COA with your prints and you should determine if this applies to you.
A few articles with additional information on Certificate of Authenticity can be found here in article one and article two. Some examples of COA can be seen here.
Some artists print these out on fancier certificate colored paper with nice borders that adds a personal touch and value to the artwork. Here are some samples of Certificate Paper which can come with a fancy border. I use a ivory colored 110 lbs thick card stock paper, shown below, that I purchase at Staples and can print two to a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet.
Shown above is my COA form. I give this COA form filled out to the customer when they purchase a framed, metal or canvas wrapped print as well as large custom sized paper prints. I do not give out a COA for my matted only prints since they already have my Bio sheet on the back and my signature is already on the mat.
I have recently visited numerous indoor group photography exhibits, not art shows, that do not have the artist signature showing on the front of the prints or mats so that it is visible. At these photography exhibits, the artist name is displayed on the accompanying art title card. This is now becoming very common with the reasons I have been given by photographers is that the signature distracts from the viewing of the art.
This reason does not make sense to me but I have heard it multiple times. For me, adding an original signature of the artist to the artist art work is traditional and also serves a purpose that is not distracting. I originally said a few years ago in this article “What’s next, are the painters no longer going to paint their signature on their art”, but since then I have seen this with different painters.
On my recent trip to California, I saw some paintings without a signature on them at a few different small galleries. These are mostly young artists and the artist tell me that their teachers are telling them not to sign their paintings since it distracts from the art. I do not understand this trend since when I see paintings in higher end galleries or museums, they seem to be all signed. I have never heard a customer complain that the signature distracts from the viewing of the art. I hope these artist are placing there names on the back of the artwork.
I personally do not understand this trend, since if I ask a customer if they would like one of my photographs with an artist signature on the mat or not I would think close to 100% of customers would want the artist signature. I feel that the artist signature should display in some manner from the front either on the print or mat. I now additionally sign the back of the photographic print, in the white border area, with an archival thin line pen even though this artist signature does not show when displayed. The reason for this is in case the photograph has its mat replaced in the future, the artist signature is still associated with the print with the idea that the artist personally approved this print and this is not a later reprint.
Now that I said my viewpoint, I sometimes do not sign some of my photographs under certain conditions. When a quantity of larger sized prints are ordered for a commercial client and they are doing the framing themselves, I will ask them if they want the photographs to be signed. If they do, I will pick a place in the lower right image area that the entire signature will show up on, such as in a lighter area. I also do not put the signature at the very bottom of the image, so the framer does not cover part of the signature up with the matting.
I also drop ship my larger canvas prints directly from the printer to the customer since postage twice of a 32″ x 48″ canvas can be expensive and I do not want to pass these costs to the customer. In both these situations, if the customer does not get a signature on the front of the art piece, I send along a separate printed Certificate of Authenticity of each piece of art that has the artist signature on it. The customer can then attach the certificate to the back of the wrapped canvas print or for prints, to the back of the frame. While I do not currently add a digital signature to my art, this would be one way to handle these situations.
For painters, in additional to the artist signature, I see some of them paint a copyright symbol and date on the front of there paintings. I personally think having a copyright symbol on a painting is unnecessary and I see no purpose for this. You already own the copyright by painting the art piece. Most buyers of artwork understand that they are only purchasing the artwork to display as art and the purchase does not include any other rights to copy the artwork for any reason.
On the subject of painting a date, of the painting creation year, on the painting front, why would painters do this. If a buyer sees a painting with a date 5 years old, they may not buy it even if they liked it because they may feel that the artist could not sell it before over numerous years and wonder what is wrong with it. Never give a buyer a reason to not purchase your painting. If you must supply this information, put the date on the back of the artwork as informational for those that value this information such as museums. The wood bars or paper backing makes a great surface to add this information.