Perhaps one of the most difficult things to solidify in your business is pricing. I am part of several creative groups on Facebook and I will tell you the most asked question is “What should I charge for this?” For Calligraphers, Stationers and Artists in particular, pricing can be a point of serious anxiety. In fact, I recently saw a fellow artist post that she only does work for free because she hates the pricing side of things because it gives her anxiety. It breaks my heart to know this talented woman is so terrified of standing up for her pricing that she offers her work for free…. yikes. In hopes of stopping this from happening to someone else, below is my advice for figuring out your pricing and standing firm in it.
A Simple Equation
Figuring out your pricing can be boiled down to the simplest equation:
Figure out how much you want (or need) to make a month, and then figure out what hourly rate would get you there.
So if you want to make $3,000 per month, working 40 (this is PAID work, it doesn’t account for marketing, accounting, admin work etc…) hours a week (4x40=160 hours) you’ll need to make $18.75 an hour. BUT most likely you won’t have 40 hours of work coming in each week… so then what? Well you will need to estimate how much work you think you’ll have coming in. So if you estimate that you will have 20 hours of PAID work coming in….
20 hours per week (4x20=80 hours) $3,000/80= $38 an hour.
*** This is just a base price, you also need to consider your material costs, as this will weigh into your income as well.
This is the simplest, most basic way to think about your income. But the other steps below are just as important.
One thing you can do when you are first starting is to time yourself when you work. For example, if you have an order for 100 place cards, set a timer each time you work on them. This will help you to understand how many place cards you can do an hour. Once you have your hourly rate you can multiple that by the amount of time it takes you to complete the place cards and WA LA! You’ve got your pricing set for place cards. One thing to note, do not forget to add in time for set up, client communication and proofing/organizing all the place cards… this is also your time that must be accounted for in your cost.
Here’s an example:
Jamie has an order for 100 place cards. She knows she can create 50 place cards in one hour, so it takes her 2 hours to complete an order of 100. It took Jamie 30 minutes to set up her workspace, 1 hour for communication with the client and 30 minutes to double check that all the place cards were spelled correctly and to package them up. Jamie also spent $20 on supplies for this job.
Jamie spent a total of 4 hours on this project, and her hourly rate is $75/hour. That’s a $320 (with supplies) job… divide that by 100 place cards and Jamie charges $3.20 per place card.
Isn’t that easy? See I did learn something from consumer math in high school haha!
Trial and Error
Figuring out your pricing is a lot of trial and error. Recently I did a few pieces of chalkboard mural art for a local company. After finishing the project I realized I had under bid the job BAD… like really bad. I definitely wasn’t making my hourly rate. I kindly told this client that in the future I wanted them to know that something like this would cost $XYZ and that I had miscalculated how much time the job would take me. This client was so sweet and ended up paying me the full amount that I would have charged in the future. I got very lucky this time, but often you have to swallow the lost cost and remind yourself that next time you will charge accurately. Make sure to make a note when you finish a job, write down what you made and if you felt like you were paid enough for it… if you didn’t charge enough, write down what you want to make next time a similar job comes around.
Do Your Research
It’s hard to know what to charge when you first start your business, because you’re most likely not aware of what other Calligraphers/Artists charge. One great resource I found is Molly Suber Thorpe’s book The Calligrapher’s Business Handbook. I was honestly shocked to learn what the going rate was for calligraphy…. I definitely wasn’t charging enough.
Another thing you can do… ask! I have fellow calligraphers ask me quite often how much I charge for certain things. It doesn’t bother me to tell them (if they are kind and grateful), however you may not get that reaction from everyone. Something you can do (without being intrusive) is look through other’s websites. I know a lot of artists have their pricing on their sites. This can help you get an idea of the going rates.
There is also the Panic-Free Pricing Course that can help you solidify your pricing if you are are wanting to invest.
Lastly, join a calligrapher’s group online, Facebook has tons. This is usually a safe space where you can ask about pricing and other business questions without offending anyone.
The Scarcity Mindset Must Stop
“I have to price myself like this to stay competitive”, “the market is too saturated” or “No one will pay for my work”…. Well not with an attitude like that! But seriously, are you saying this to yourself? Because if you are you need to stop this negative talk NOW. It’s no secret that our thoughts and words make up our reality, so having this mindset is doing nothing for your bank account. Here are a few things to remember when these negative thoughts start to crowd your mind:
You most likely are not your ideal client!
I’ve got a secret for you: I am ABSOLUTELY not my ideal client. Therefore, when I create something, I don’t ask myself “would I pay $200 for this?” Because of course I wouldn’t. It’s not because my work isn’t valuable, I know my work is valuable, but it holds a different value for me. But you know what I would pay $200 for? Alcohol for my bar cart, a massage, essential oils, 5 books on Scotland, An art piece from another artist… and someone else might think that’s a waste of money! Different strokes for different folks. There are lots of people out there who will value your work and want to pay you top dollar for it, you just have to find them!
If the only reason a client is choosing you is because you are the cheapest… you don’t want that client
It’s pretty self explanatory but you don’t want to be know as the “cheap calligrapher”. People aren’t coming to you because they value your work, they are coming to you because you are the cheapest and well, that usually doesn’t work out well for someone who is passionate about their artwork. Etsy is a breeding ground for this type of client. Most people on Etsy are looking for a deal (my self included when I shop there) so they most likely aren’t going to see the value in paying $300 for a custom watercolor portrait of their pet.
The Honest Truth : It’s a lack of Confidence
At the end of the day, the real reason we get nervous about pricing is a lack of confidence. I’ll be the first one to admit that this still happens to me. I’m getting better at it, but when I have to send a quote for over $2,000 I immediately get nervous and those negative thoughts start to come in. I think as women in particular we have a hard time standing up for what we believe we deserve. THIS MUST STOP. Repeat it with me “My work is VALUABLE, I LOVE my work, people will LOVE my work and I WILL have clients that pay me what I deserve!”
Lastly, I want to leave you with a simple Business 101 example. Essentially there are 3 pillars of business: Quality, Service and Price. Your business will not survive if you offer the best quality, the best customer service and the best prices (i.e. cheapest)… I mean have you seen that Office episode where The Michael Scott Paper company is about to go out of business and Michael says “Our prices are what’s keeping us in business” and the financial analyst says “Your prices are actually putting you out of business”… learn a lesson from Michael Scott haha.
I pride myself in offering a quality product and excellent client service (usually a quick turnaround time as well) to my customers, therefore I price my items slightly higher to be able to be successful in my business. The diagram below explains what combinations you can have to run a business successfully (notice that never are all 3 together).
I hope this blog gave you a little insight into setting prices for your business and I also hope it gave you the confidence you need to know that your work is valuable and should not be under priced!