Practical tips on art pricing by The Artists Information Company

  • What I Saw. What I Heard by Greet Kallikorm (Animation, 2013)

Thank you to everyone who attended our Pricing and Negotiation workshop on Monday 18 June 2012. Artists' work and skills are of great value but it can be hard for new artists to work out what to charge, how to price work and how to manage their negotiations. The workshop was led by Susan Jones, director of a-n The Artists Information Company, and here you can read her advice on how to price your work and negotiate payment. Note: the links in this article were updated in January 2015.

Charging and day rates

Because artists’ activities and employment options can be equated with the work done by teachers, we can arrive at the following income figure for a new graduate. NB: please note that this article was written in 2012 so the following figures may need adjusting.

1. A newly qualified artist should aim to make £22,900 a year
2. An artist with 10 years experience might make £37,296

But teachers are employed, and artists rarely are in contractual employment for their arts activities, so you have to add some things to make the equivalent of a teacher’s salary : 

+ 11% employers’ NIC = £2,519 
+ 5% pension contribution = £1,145 
£22,900 salary = for a self-employed artist £26,564 per year

This figure should rise at around £1000 a year as you grow in experience. After 10 years, increases depend on status, market forces and other ‘reputation’ factors. Add £1000 for ‘London weighting’ (or other major cities).

Subtract from 260 working days a year:  
- 8 bank holidays 
- 25 days of holiday 
- 5 days of training 
- 15 R&D 
- 15 making submissions/quoting for work/going for interviews 
- 10 admin  
- 5 being ill/child off sick, compassionate leave  
- anything else? 
= around 177 available working days a year  
£26, 564/177 = £150 labour-only day rate 

Add your overheads, for example, insurance, studio rent, books, professional services, documentation – any of the things you need to have or do to work as an artist. Some of the things you can include in these calculations might surprise you: for example, £300 a year as the cost of replacing your laptop every three years; art magazine subscriptions; research trips to galleries, and so on. Let's say your annual overhead costs come to £7,675:

£7,675/177 days = £44 overheads day rate
£150 labour-only day rate + £44 overheads day rate = £194 total day rate

Annual overall income requirement of £26, 564 + £7,675 = £34,239

Some things to remember about charging

You’re the best person to know what you need to charge – don’t expect others to know the rate.  
Have figures to hand when meeting commissioners/organisers – be prepared to negotiate and don’t just accept what’s offered.  

Useful links related to charging

The artists’ fees toolkit:
Sample day rates inc overheads at 1 to 10 years' experience (2014/15):
Establishing a charge rate as working artist: 

Pricing works 

As an example based on the costs above, a painting or print that took two studio days to make: 

£50 materials + £88 for 2 days of your overhead rate + £300 for 2 days of your labour rate = £438 

But what’s the ‘going rate’ for work like yours? What prices are other artists at your career stage working in a similar medium charging? Check websites, galleries, art fairs, other shows and openings to assess market figures. Location also affects prices – for example, artworks sell for higher prices in London than in Yorkshire. If you make 12 saleable paintings a year and your annual income requirement is £34,239, each painting might be priced at £2,900 to cover this.


In general, when someone offers something, whether it's a job or a proposal of marriage, this is generally the opening of a negotiation process by which what has been offered will be discussed and adjusted to create something of mutual benefit, or declined. In the visual arts there is a tendency for offers to artists to be taken at face value and either accepted or rejected. The following mechanism for a collaborative negotiation, through which the artist and whoever they’re planning to work with share aspirations and intentions for a proposed project, aims to arrive at a ‘win-win’ situation.  

1. The opening – do lots of research about the person/organisation you’re going to be negotiating with, what artists say, what the art world thinks about them. Make a list of everything you’d like to achieve and divide between: 

  • Things you must achieve – the bottom line 
  • Things you intend to achieve – will push for 
  • Things you’d like to achieve – have flexibility on/would be willing to lose 

2. Discuss and explore – using the research and thinking in ideally a face-to-face conversation with the person you're working with, using ‘open questions’ such as: “What do you think about…?” “Are you interested in...?” “What have you found from your experience works well?” “Could there be some flexibility on e.g. start date, budget etc?” 

3. Make a proposal - not the final offer but something along the way. Mindful of how you have prioritised your achievements, start to ‘trade’, all the time looking for opportunities to offer things that are cheap for you but of real value to the commissioner/employer.

4. Trading and bargaining – ask for more than you expect to get and don’t concede too much at the beginning or you reduce your bargaining chips. Listen actively, not immediately jumping in and make your own points. Summarise what has been discussed as a way of buying time to decide your next move. Silence is OK. It’s better to avoid making curt or aggressive comments in emails. Don’t reply to emails or unexpected telephone calls in a hurry. An agreement is reached when the parties get to a position they can both live with, generally somewhere between their respective starting points. Neither should afterwards feel backed into a corner. If someone’s pressing you to agree quickly, the deal’s usually not good for you.

5. Making an agreement – write up your notes noting all areas of agreement and send to the other party (via email is fine), asking them to confirm by signing, dating and returning to you the second copy provided. Keep the email trail – many a problem between artist and employer/commissioner has been compounded because both remember the agreement differently and have no way to check back!

Useful links related to negotiation

How to negotiate an exhibition:
The artist’s contracts toolkit:  
Assessing opportunities:
Negotiating a better rate of pay:
Quality on a budget:

Bringing money into negotiations 

There’s a tendency for arts organisations to offer an artist a show, for example, with the immediate comment that there’s “no budget” to cover any costs –“but it will be good for your career/will promote your work”. The size of the artists’ community and relatively small volume of opportunities with money attached (36% in 2011) through which artists can show work, develop their careers has the effect of discouraging negotiation processes, often to the detriment of artists’ financial well-being and self-esteem. Hans Abbing says artists are poor because “although the arts can operate successfully in the marketplace, their natural affinity is with gift-giving rather than with commercial exchange. People believe that artists are selflessly dedicated to art, that price does not reflect quality and that the arts are free.” Knowing and seeking exchange commensurate with your value as an artist, not shying away from taking about money is part of professionalism and how it is recognised by other artists and the art world.

Links related to money and negotiation

How to improve your chances of getting work: 
Code of practice for the visual arts:
Negotiating your practice:
The a-n & AIR Paying Artists campaign
For more information, read Why Are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts (Hans Abbing, Amsterdam University Press, 2002) 

This text is copyright of a-n The Artists' Information Company