Do you want to increase profit on art sales and stop wasting money?
Of course you do. If not, you’d be approaching your art like a hobbyist.
There’s no shame in creating art as a hobby, but if you want to work as a professional artist, there’s no point in ignoring the basic principles of business: your expenditure must be lower than your income in order to create a profit. Unfortunately, it seems as though we artists will always cough up money for materials, art supplies and ways to promote our work, regardless of whether or not we’ll make any profit from our work.
That’s because of love – we love what we do, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to earn a living from it.
If your raw materials are ridiculously expensive, the retail price of your finished artwork must be high enough for you to cover your costs and make a profit (and pay for your time). That profit is what’s going to allow you to work more at your practice and ultimately, create superior artwork, so you need to approach your art with open eyes when it comes to your overheads. The rules of business don’t cease to apply just because it’s art you’re making.
1. Plan your project and create a budget.
Many a project has fallen apart because of the unexpected cost of the materials required. It’s not very exciting, but you will definitely need to price up your project before you start to see if it’s even feasible, and how you can possibly make it cheaper.
Boring, I know, but essential!
When you plan, you can figure out if you can
- substitute costly materials for inexpensive ones, at least where they won’t be visible
- afford storage, transportation and dismantling
- raise funding for the costs involved
This is a good thing to do from the start, as it also helps you to price your work for sale.
2. Make it yourself.
As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Creating your own paints, inks or ceramic glazes, for example, is a very specialised skill, but you can often start small and potentially develop that valuable specialism.
Even if you only want to experiment on a small scale, you’ll probably find that by taking the time to learn how raw materials work, you’ll enrich your artwork and feel more connected to it. It’s a bit like seeing where your food comes from instead of thinking it magically appears in plastic wrap in the supermarket.
YouTube is great for every kind of tutorial, as is Pinterest, and there are books on Amazon about making your own oil paints, mixed media and lots more. When you learn how things are made and why, you’ll be able to substitute ingredients or come up with something entirely unique to you – how good does that sound?
You’ll be doing yourself a favour if you can improve your framing skills, as professional framing can form a huge part of your expenses if you want to exhibit.
Still, there’s a limit to what we can reasonably learn or do well, so if you aren’t able to present your work to a professional standard on your own, that’s ok; consider whether you can set aside some time to practise until you improve, or factor in the inevitable need for presentation in the way you make the work in the first place.
You could, for example,using deep canvases that won’t require framing, or recycle frames from older work.
3. Buy second-hand
Over the years, I’ve furnished entire studios through eBay. I even ended up having to sell the entire contents of my ceramics studio on eBay for £100. It was a distress sale and I just needed someone to take it all away, as I couldn’t keep it or take it with me when I moved.
I needed it gone in a hurry, and another artist got an amazing deal.
Artists, art schools, colleges and universities often offload unneeded machinery on eBay, so set up a custom search in your area and get alerts if anything comes up.
Besides eBay, there’s Preloved, Freecycle and of course, the good old charity shop.
4. Shop smarter
Sometimes you need to buy things new. When you do, make the most of your money by using these two tips:
1 – Cashback
Visit the cashback website, search for the store you want to buy from and click through from there. Shop as you normally would, and you’ll get a percentage of your purchase price refunded to you. You can often get on-card cashback through registering your payment card through these sites and shopping normally in store.
2 – Gift cards
Zeek is an online marketplace that lets individuals sell on unwanted gift cards, and you can often find discounted gift cards for specialist art stores, as well as stores that sell a general range of useful products.
These two tips will save you a lot of money in your everyday life, not just on art materials.
5. Adapt your practice and medium to your circumstances, not the other way around
We often beat ourselves up for not being able to fit perfectly into our ideal scenario for a practicing artist. Parenthood and other circumstances can throw us off track – but instead of longing for that ideal straight-and-narrow that rarely ever exists, why not embrace the unique route life has made for you?
Over the years I have ended up responding to the winding road of my life by turning my hands to a crazy variety of things. Because of my circumstances I haven’t continuously pursued fine art, but I’ve always been creating something. Out of that, I’ve learned that there is an honesty to work derived from your personal circumstances, and your financial circumstances are no less important a source.
The process of making work from found objects can add new layers of life to your work, producing a rich, multi-faceted outcome. Because of my personal circumstances I’ve worked in painting, ceramics, textiles, music, crafts… even if things weren’t ideal, I’ve managed to carry on making.
6. Don’t get conned by branding
There’s a powerful psychological pull towards fitting in that makes many of us want to buy “traditionally” branded products.
Manufacturers know how to manipulate the famous artist brand – just think of the amount of things named after artists that those artists themselves would never have heard of. Really, slapping the name of a famous artist on some old tat is a great money-spinner, and not just for art.
Because of this, it can pay to be aware of the premium applied to art materials that heavily reference the old masters. There is a lot to be said for buying good quality materials, but sticking to safe bets can stifle creativity. If you’re stuck on working in ways that you think are best simply because they’re traditional, you’ll be missing out on the staggering leaps that 21st century art has made.
No one can afford to do that.
The same goes for celebrity branded or endorsed materials: don’t get conned into paying for a name.
7. Look after your equipment and it can last for years
Most of us are guilty of letting brushes go hard or leaving tools to knock about and go missing. I certainly am!
Yet, there’s a fundamental fact to be stated – take care of your brushes and you’ll buy fewer brushes. Cover your paint tubes and you’ll need to buy less paint. Don’t use your wood carving tools for plaster… I could go on and on! It’s simple but often overlooked.
If you get into the habit of buying cheap equipment to throw it away before too long, you could end up spending more over the long run than if you were to buy a pricer item and invest more time in looking after it.
8. Don’t turn into a hoarder
9. Collaborate and share with other artists.
There are some resources that are wasted when there aren’t enough people involved to put them to good use. I’m talking about things like kiln sharing, staging exhibitions and studio subletting, for example.
Buying art materials in bulk and splitting the costs evenly can result in lower spending for everyone, but even when it comes to sharing knowledge, finding out what someone else knows could mean you avoid costly mistakes or find out something you never knew before that suddenly makes life easier (and cheaper).
If you’re not part of an art collective you might not know where to start, but there are lots of groups online that you can join.
Why not join my Facebook group – Make Art, Save (And Make!) Money – we’d love more suggestions, and the more of us there are, the more we can help each other increase profit on art sales!
Register your interest in the Art & Money course