Do You Make These 5 Costly Mistakes Selling Your Art?

Have you ever sold a painting for too low a price and wished you hadn’t done it?

Or have you ever sold a painting to a friend or family member and then was remorseful or even angry because you felt like you got way too little money?

Don’t worry, most artists make these mistakes at one time or another in their career.

This is very common.

I’ve made every one of these mistakes and more.  And I’m happy to share with you what I’ve learned from them.

So hopefully, you can avoid these errors and move your career more quickly in the right direction.

1.  Selling to Family and Friends

This is the big one.

Your family and friends love you. That’s obvious.  They have the best intentions for you.

But they don’t have a clue about the art world.  They don’t know that art is a valuable luxury.  They don’t know how valuable your original works really are.  And basically, they can’t afford them.

If you sell your paintings to family and friends for $200 to $300, you are cheating yourself.   Their intentions are good, of course, and they think they’ve really helped you.   But you know in your heart that your paintings are worth way more than they are paying you.

You will eventually become angry and resentful toward these people you love.

As this pattern continues over time, you will grow bitter toward them or even toward your painting.  And it may kill your spirit and stop you from painting.  So be very careful with all of this when it comes to friends and family.

If you want to give your art as gifts for the holidays, that’s okay.  That’s another issue.

But if they want to buy your art at prices you know are too low, you are going to have to tell them “no” in a loving and tactful way.

2.  Selling in Bargain Basement Websites

This is another big mistake.  I see lots of artists doing this all the time.  In fact, the internet is full of artists who are practically giving their work away.

The worst bargain basement offenders are sites like eBay and Etsy.

You are not helping your career selling in these low-end websites.  You are associating your name (which is your brand image) with the idea that you are cheap, and that your art is cheap.

People who buy from these sites are not serious art collectors.  They are cheap customers.  And cheap customers are the worst customers.  They cannot help promote your career to the next level.

Stay out of the bargain basement.

3.  Selling in Art Fairs or Street Fairs

Art fairs and street fairs are just another type of bargain basement.  The buyers at these events are just average people.   They cannot afford to pay you what your paintings are really worth.

4.  Accepting Low-Priced Commissions from Average Buyers

Your art is not average.  You are not average.  You are creating original, one-of-a-kind works of art.  The average person can’t afford luxuries like these.

Never quote a low price on a commissioned work because someone can’t afford to pay more.  Stay away from average people who have average incomes.  This is not your market.

If you wanted to buy a Rolex watch and you went to the jewelry store and told them you could only afford to pay $200, do you think they would let you have it?   Of course not.  They would laugh you out of the store.

The jeweler knows there are people who can afford Rolex watches.  And so, too, there are people who can afford to pay you what your art is worth.  These are the people you want to find.

5.  Selling in the Wrong Markets

If you have a website or blog where you sell your work, be careful not to position your work toward the wrong markets.  One of these possible wrong markets would be the home decor market.

Home decor or decoration is not what you are creating.   You are not in competition with Pier 1 Imports or Bed, Bath & Beyond.   Do not lower your prices to try to compete in this market.

Do you have a story of a selling mistake?

Have you had any experiences like the ones I mention above? It might be one of these five, or something completely different. Let us know in the comments!


About Gary Bolyer Fine Art

I am a New York City-based landscape artist.
This entry was posted in Art Business Success and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Do You Make These 5 Costly Mistakes Selling Your Art?

  1. Pingback: Do You Make These 5 Costly Mistakes Selling Your Art? (via Gary Bolyer Fine Art) | Creative Ideas for Starving Artists

  2. This is a very interesting article. I think you make some very good points and it is thought-provoking. Although, it is also a little disheartening. Yes, I am a talented artist. Yes, my work is worth more than I usually charge for it. However, at this point in my very, very early career isn’t getting my work into the world and noticed a start. I do have an etsy shop, and I sell original works for $200-$300 (although, I do have A LOT of works). I know an artist sets the worth of thier work, but in this ecconmy, I think I would rather sell my work for less, allow average buyers who apprecaite it to be able to afford it, and earn a little money. By not selling any works for affordable prices (I do submit to exhibtions, etc as well), how can I create any demand for my work? Artists are everywhere–is it possible their is more than one path to sucess?

    Anyway, thanks for your article, it has given me some food for thought.

    • Thanks so much for your very interesting and excellent comments. You make a very good point. How does a new artist create demand for their work? Your thinking is like mine used to be years ago. I used to think that if I just got my work out there at any price, then it would finally be noticed by the right people. I thought my work would get noticed and then grow into the next level of pricing. Unfortunately, when you sell in the wrong markets, this will never happen. You will eventually become so frustrated that you will give up. Most artists give up by the time they are 50 years of age.
      I am going to be writing a follow-up article that will tell you exactly what you should be doing with your art and your career. So keep on the lookout for this new article that I will post in the next few days. Good luck with your career and thanks again for your excellent comments.

      • I assume I am much like any young artist, which leads me to believe I have to start somewhere to build a reputation for my work (granted, as you pointed out in your article, I don’t necessarily want that reputation to be cheap). But you are exactly right—that is completely my way of thinking at this point. I just don’t really know what other option I have—I am looking forward to your next article. So far I am keeping a positive attitude, submitting work to exhibitions, competitions, publications etc. every month. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment.

  3. Thanks once again for your comments. You have lots of other options to develop your career. I will be explaining those in an article that I will probably post next week. I will let you know when I post it. In the mean time, continue with your submissions to mainstream art galleries, competitions and publications. I know that this is hard and you will get a lot of rejection. But this is the only way to build a real career. Also, you have a blog. Continue posting here and telling us about your work. But price your work high, maybe even too high. I would rather err on the high side than on the low side. Do you see what I’m saying. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Pingback: Gary Bolyer’s Top 5 Kick-Ass Art Blogs of All Time | Gary Bolyer Fine Art

  5. What price range do you consider high? I’m selling in the $600. to $1500. now. This is so interesting. I had a really successful artist tell me that it’s who you know that matters. I hope that he isn’t right.

  6. Pingback: Gary Bolyer’s Top 5 Kick-Ass Money-Making Art Blogs of All Time | Gary Bolyer Fine Art

  7. juartychick says:

    I have a B&B where my art is on display and sometimes I sell to guests. In the early days I had a friend who enjoyed asking me to create work for her at really low prices. On the back of this I had a real client who loved my work and I sold a really unique piece at roughly the same price that my friend had requested. When I added up what our takings were for the B&B and the painting it was only like a couple staying for one extra night. I felt that I had sold my work far too low and regretted it for weeks. It took the happy factor out of making a sale.

    The one thing I learnt from that is to have a printed price list, just as you would in a retail outlet.

    I am sure I still don’t sell my paintings at a high enough price and recently I have been approached by a couple of galleries that take 50%. I feel that pricing my work is difficult as I don’t stick to regular sizes and my style can fluctuate. I would like to stick to what I like to create, but find sales in areas that don’t always interest me!

  8. apocalypseicons says:

    Dear Mr Bolyer
    I am so happy there are people like you who are willing to help and share experiences. I am really just finding my feet with the internet and have probably made all the usual mistakes you mentioned above. It is true, one develops a negative mind set. I want to break new ground and start afresh with a new attitude this year. So look forward to reading more of your good sense articles.

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