Once an artist starts selling their work the next thing to do is expand your brand. Your brand is your business identity. As an artist you and your art are inextricably intertwined. How you conduct your public business dealings is part of building your marketability as an artist. Clients aren’t just buying a piece of work from you; they are investing in you and your career.
You have to build a brand with everything working in tandem. Quality of work, customer satisfaction, a list of accomplishments like museum shows, awards, articles. One just can't buy their way to a pedigree. Your brand is more than just the quality of your art, it’s the demand you are building for something (your work) that only you can provide. Price can be built up over time with a history of artistic achievements to make the case to collectors why they should pay an amount over and above material value and effort expended.
Raising your prices should be carefully considered. The rule of thumb is when you sell faster than you can comfortably produce its time to raise your prices. But there are other scenarios that shouldn’t be over looked. One is a good economy. In good economies it is important to build prices while you can and have them increase as peoples earnings increase because when the economy falters the price you are at is where the downward pressure of a bad economy will start to affect your sales. For people with too low of a price point the economy could force them out of the market altogether. A more established artist, with higher prices, could survive price corrections of a bad economy for a longer period of time. That time allows them to continue to work at what they love and to modify what they do in answer to new dynamics of the changing business landscape.
If you never raise your prices you will be buried under rising costs of materials and general inflation. An artist must raise their prices to survive as an artist. The old saying to make hay while the sun is shining goes double for the self-employed. As an artist one must constantly apply pressure to the economic forces around them. Another thing to consider is collectors want to see their investments grow. They are spending their hard earned money on you as an individual. They believe in your brand and nothing makes collectors happier than to see it grow over time. While some may stop buying your work as your prices increase, they are still your advocates. They still want to see your brand succeed.
All of this means an artist can’t be too insular. Art is communication and finding the balance for a successful career should be on every self-employed artists mind as they work. Do you like to paint figure work? What can you do to make it more appealing to buyers and still satisfy your creative desire? How can you expand that interest into other similar genres to grow your client base and still satisfy you as an artist?
Some people choose to work and paint on the side and that’s fine. Doing that does limit your creative time but it’s better than starving and if you work on your art towards the goal of being an independent artist the steady income can help you get there. When I started out I worked non art jobs for 17 years before landing my first full time art job at LucasFilm Games at 35. I’m 60 now and have worked as an artist that whole time. Some of that time was for other people or a company as an illustrator, concept or production artist and some of it was as a gallery artist.
The things that have helped me survive all this time are cultivating a broad interest in different genres and types of art and applying my own personal style to them, participating in prestigious shows, and building customer satisfaction with corporate clients, galleries and directly with collectors. Something worth considering if you are just starting your artistic career.