Pricing is always a difficult choice. The first thing you want to do is work out the cost of your materials.
If you’re making prints, how much does each print cost you? If you’re printing them yourself, count the cost of the printer, the ink, and the paper, plus the cost of the prints you screw up on while making them. If you’re getting them done from a place you found online, don’t forget the cost of shipping.
Think about the hidden costs – the costs of the scrap paper that it took you to work out the design, the electricity it cost to run the computer and printer or the lights in your place as you’re making it. Add a bit more to cover part of your con costs – table fees, registration fees, hotel, food. Then, finally, add more to be your profit.
Boggle at the result and wonder how artists ever manage to make a living. If you’ve ever wondered why artists charge so much for their prints, now you know. And you know that those of us who don’t charge quite as much per item are counting on volume to make up for it – betting we can sell more items at the lower price to make up for the loss of profit on each individual item. It’s not a bet that always works.
As a general rule, I tend to see prints 5″ x 7″ and smaller going for $5 and under, 8″ x 10″/8.5″ x 11″ going for $5-15, and 11″ x 17″ and up going for $15-45, depending on the size, quality, and complexity of the art. That’s a good general place to start from, and you can adjust up or down at different cons and see what price maximizes your own sales.
A friend of mine who sells crafts at craft fairs says that in her experience, the price of gas is a pretty good predictor of what sorts of things will sell. When the price of gas is high, items $5 and under fly off the table. When the price of gas is low, items in the $5-20 range fly off the table. In both cases, sales on items over $20 tend to remain steady.
Ellen Million has a good guide, Pricing Your Art, up on Elfwood.
Don’t forget taxes!
Unless you’re a non-profit organization (and that means you possess a letter from the Federal government giving you special legal non-profit status, not just that you’re not making a profit), you’ll have to pay income tax as well as state and possibly city sales tax, and most large conventions now require that you have a state tax certificate or sellers’ permit (free to get) to be able to sell.
I won’t go into it because the requirements are different for every state, but conventions that require you to have the certificate or permit should give you information on how to get one. Ask on their forums, or ask the artist alley director. Please do not email me asking what the requirements for your state or country are. I do not know! All I can do is Google it, and you will get results much faster than by Googling it yourself.
Most artists that I know of roll the tax into the cost of the item and charge whole-dollar amounts because it’s easier to handle counting change in a busy environment that way. If you don’t, you’ll have to bring coin change and a calculator and a decent receipt book. You should be bringing a receipt book or something like that anyway, to keep a record of your sales.
You’ll also be needing to pay income tax on your sales come next April (in the USA, at least), so keep good records. You may want to reserve a chunk of money from your profits so you won’t be surprised when it comes time to fill out your tax forms. If you live in the USA and you claim your art business as a separate business, not just as hobby income, then you can deduct the cost of your art supplies and at least part of your convention expenses at tax time, so be sure to keep your receipts for art supplies, food at the convention, your table and registration costs, gas receipts for travel, and your hotel receipt. If you decide to go that route, do be aware that U.S. self-employment tax is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% and that you must file estimated taxes quarterly. Contact a financial advisor or tax attorney for advice if you’re thinking of going this route: do not take my word alone!