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21 Sep

The Rules of Pricing & Selling Art

In this week’s art corner we chat to artist Nene Mahlangu who has just developed a course on selling art by visual artists and designers.

What would you say is your greatest highlight since you became an artist full-time? 

There have been so many, since becoming an artist I’ve been listed as one the Mail and Guardian 200 Young South Africans, designed two coins for South Africa and created 23 artworks for the Black Coffee HiIbiza Residency in Spain.

What would you say are some of the challenges facing emerging artists in SA? 

There is a disconnect between learning how to create art and learning how to run a business, the common challenges that an artist can face is the uncertainty of which next steps to take to move their career forward in a way that can grow their income. The confusion about pricing an artwork, or knowing how to sell their craft is a challenge I once faced, and I see this problem occurring frequently with emerging artists.

What are some of the biggest mistakes young artists make when entering the industry? 

The biggest mistakes that I see young artist make, and these are also mistakes I’ve had to learn from, include saying yes too quickly to an opportunity. The excitement of an opportunity can blind a hopeful artist about the risks that can be present within that opportunity. Acting on haste without checking whether the client is paying adequately, can make one forget to negotiate, or can make an artist forget to evaluate whether they have the capacity to finish the job. Saying yes too quickly for some opportunities can end up leaving a terrible feeling of regret.

What led you to develop your own course? 

Even though I love the visual arts, I also have a passion for entrepreneurship, sales and strategy. I have held roles in these disciplines that have assisted me to see the key skills that are needed to grow any business. Unfortunately not all artists have this experience, and there are too many stories in the industry of artists not having enough money to live, and I hope this course reduces the number of visual artists struggling to make a living.

Can any artist including street artists benefit from it? 

If you are an artist who has a demand for the things that you produce, then you are more likely to benefit from this course. By demand I mean, do you as an artist have people coming to you (through social media, or however you put yourself out there) asking you to give them your art in exchange for money? Once you have that it means that you have clients, and once there are clients the conversation of pricing begins, and this is when the course will be extremely beneficial to you.

What are some of your golden rules in pricing and selling your art?

The first important rule is in pricing your art is that you need to have an abundance mindset. If your mindset is not abundance inclined, it will most likely be harder for you to raise your price, negotiate or refuse when you are been given opportunities lower than what you know is your worth. This type of mindset also helps you to see the opportunities that are available around you. The second important rule is that artists need to deserve the pricing that they put in the market, experience helps to determine your worth. Just because you had one great opportunity, it doesn’t mean that you can start comparing yourself to an artist who has had 10 years in the game. Being realistic when approaching pricing is also important.

Is it ok for artists to negotiate their prices? 

Definitely! It’s healthy for artists to negotiate their prices with their clients, artists need to be vocal about the value that they bring into the business relationship. Knowing one’s value will help them stand their ground within a healthy negotiation. Clients should also approach the negotiation in an uplifting way, not in a way that undermines the artist.

What makes a great artist? 

Consistency of excellent work and a fearlessness in approach and opinion.

Images taken by Tshepi Azaih 



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