Pricing art – do I work out an hourly rate?

Short answer: No.

No diddy no no NO!

I’ve already written about some useful tips for pricing artwork for sale.  This question came up today on my Blooming Creative group coaching programme from the delightful Melanie from The Drafty Garret (go check out her site!) and I thought I would share the answer more widely.

A sneaky peek at Melanie's 'Lost Girl' Zine which I've just ordered!

A sneaky peek at Melanie’s ‘Lost Girl’ Zine which I’ve just ordered!

An hourly rate is what your employer thinks your work is worth in an established company or organsation.  A sensible employer who is trying to make a profit will always pay you less than your work earns for the company (this is one of the reasons I don’t want to work for somebody else!).

When you are in business for yourself you need to think very differently to an employee.

This is one of the biggest obstacles I’ve spotted when I work with creative entrepreneurs, shifting from the slightly entitled, passive stance of an employee to an entrepreneurial mindset.

Time as a measure for pricing creative work is limiting
(click to tweet this!)

At first, it is limiting in making you feel you are getting ‘less than minimum wage’ for your hard work.  I’ve seen many makers just fall down discouraged at this point.

I’ll say it again:  Business isn’t the same as being paid a wage and the sooner you shift that in your head, the more joyful your business will feel!

When you first set up a business, you will put in more than you get out.  It’s sort of like a garden – the longer you work on it, the more abundant the harvest will be, provided you are working on it in the right way, of course!

But, at first, it will be lots of work with little or no reward.  So ‘expecting’ and ‘hourly wage’ at first is going to trip you and your business up.  Businesses require a period of investment – money, time, resources, to enable them to establish and grow.

I subscribe to the organic model of business, where you start little and re-invest what you DSCF1249earn as you grow.

This is a low risk business model compared to taking out a business loan and, given the high failure rate of businesses (it’s anything up to 90% depending on which stats you read – yikes!), it feels to me like a more stable and sustainable model.

Other people may disagree, of course, but I’ve never been a fan of getting into debt to buy your freedom!

So, at first you invest lots of work and time, and put money back in to grow your little baby biz.

I’m reminded of this by a book I’m reading at the moment – Roberta Jerram’s book Small Business – Giant Potential where she likens small businesses to little acorns that grow into big oak trees!

This means your hourly rate may be lower than a sweatshop worker in Thailand for a while, and there’s no point going to your union about it because… um… you are the boss!  There’s certainly no point complaining to your customers about it (oh but I have heard people do it, believe it or not!) as they are not obliged to pay you any more – it’s your job to make them want to!

Later on, when you are well known and your stuff is in demand (which will happen) the time thing can limit again – when there is NO UPPER LIMIT to what you can charge if people are happy to pay it.

Yes, that’s right.  No upper limit.

It’s up to you to be so flippin’ good at what you do, and so genuine and passionate and heartfelt in your connection with your clients, that they will beat down your door to buy your stuff.

So, if you are struggling with this question, chuck in the time thing and instead look at it differently:-

– Work out all of your materials and overheads as closely as you can.  Many people forget this and I’ve worked with artists who are selling their work for less than it costs them in materials to make it (eeek, don’t do that!).  Don’t forget other overheads like internet costs, commission to gallerys or websites, travel, new equipment ect.

– Once you have your ‘cost price’ and then you start playing:  How much feels good to you? Go high. Go low. Go with your gut.

– Work out how many things you can make in a day and how much you want to earn. Then, price your stuff at cost plus how much each item needs to make you. How does that sit? What if you double that?

Add 10%? Take 10% off?

If it seems too much, go back too looking at the value of what you make and work on communicating that to your clients. It’s all about communicating value so you can charge what you need to to make your business viable. It’s a dance!!

At the end of the day, you need to make on top of your costs as much as you need to live on comfortably, as soon as possible after starting your business.

Find a way to do that.

Marketing is a big part of the answer, as is honing your creative process to save time, perfecting what you make so it’s worth more.

Fun stuff – making what you love lots and lots so you rock it, and telling your fans all about it. FUN!  Have fun, lovely Creative Being – and get paid for it!


Pricing art – do I work out an hourly rate? — 5 Comments

  1. Pricing has been a big struggle of mine and I admit I fell into the Oh my, I am working for $2.22 an hour. That mindset takes all the fun out of being creative. But I also realize it takes a while to get out there, to get known. I look at it now that I want to get my material cost plus a small bit so I can at least buy my materials! Thanks for the insightful post and the reminder to chill out on pricing.

  2. Thank you for this wonderful post…ive also read the other one on pricing too….excellent advice…thing ive been having a confidence issue…is my work good enough and not chargong what its really worth.

    No more 🙂 xxx

  3. Thanks Dani – I just know that ‘hourly rate’ will grow and grow for you if you don’t put limits on it 🙂

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