I think it is helpful for young and even older artists who are dreaming to understand what their earning potentials are. For a younger artist, this is a much harder concept to maintain because they don't have many, if any, full years of business experience as an artist.
Many young artists coming out of school recognize that they will need a full or part time job while constructing their art career. They dream and talk of becoming a gallery artist or festival based artist yet they don't have a fiscal idea of that can happen. Most might think I mean the artist is too poor to fund their own dreams and that is in no way what I mean. An artist can make it working 40 hours just like the librarian and electrician. But working for yourself through freelancing you have a much more inconsistent paycheck, month to month.
Knowing this, I have found one of the safest approaches is to work backwards of what a full year income looks like. First let's look at the way beginning entrepreneurial artists think. They make maybe 5 artworks/drawings/designs a month. They are new at it so they are also slower and learning. Maybe even going to school full time and working part time. So this part time evaluation of your work is done by income and revenue. This means asking questions like: What is my time worth? What is the expense of the materials I use? How much do I use to create one artwork? Do I use these materials to enhance the lifetime of the artwork or is my spending to cut costs? For me, business ethics imply the final product you deliver to the customer are more important than your individual work ethic and skill.
Now we know you make 5 artworks a month. This was only your second year paintings so now you have 5 x 24 = 120 paintings. You and I both know, every painting is not great. A portion of these will probably never be displayed or removed from storage. Understanding this, lets say you found your stride and people were drawn to your aesthetic. You have 70 paintings you want to show, or sell, and the others you can burn or give away. (That's how I do it)
Still being new to this, you used cheaper materials and smaller canvases. Mainly 8" x 10" canvases. They probably won't sell for much at first. You try to go off what you think your friends would pay for it. At first, you don't have anyone to ask about this. So you sell them around $50.
70 paintings x $50 = 3,500. Your two years of work is valued under $4,000. BY YOU. You did this in order to make a sell because you have placed the short term idea of a sale over the long term idea of a career. A healthy, reasonable, and sustainable career. Now, in the beginning, this can be the reality. This is because your work's worth is steeped in so many other avenues that you have to do your due diligence to raise your equity. For some, that is gallery representation, being part of museum collections, doing commercial work, selling in general, strong social media presence, etc.
As time rolls on you will also shoot for bigger goals. The old ones were so attainable. The struggle you felt in the past may have beat you down then, but you know you could not only replicate it but out do it. Because of this your work becomes better and better and everyone sees more value in the work because the growth is very visible. The skill and time becomes very visible. So continue to press forward. I will speak more to this s