Monday, July 15, 2013

Challenge #15: The Price Is Right. Right?

What do you charge for your work? How did you choose that number?

If you ever want to make things awkward when meeting another artist, ask them how they price their work.

Of course, some artists can talk freely about how they price their products/services/etc., but for many creative professionals, this remains a topic rife with embarrassment and confusion, and therefore sits hulking at the edge of the discussion, a shade that no one really wants to address, yet is desperately in need of frank and open acknowledgement.

This week, we're going to attempt to do just that.

To start us off, we're issuing the following 5-step challenge to the Art Abyss community:

Step 1) Examine your price list.

What are you charging for your work? Do you even have a price list? If not - make one, then come back. (*Note: Making a price list can feel quite daunting. I like to start by just throwing numbers out there based on how long I feel it takes me to complete work, plus the cost of materials. Don't stress too much about this first draft.)

Step 2) Do the math.

When you calculate it out, how does the amount you charge compare with the amount of time you spend making your work? What is your effective hourly wage? Is that the amount you want to be making?

Step 3) Reflect your surroundings.

Now that you have an idea of what you're currently paying yourself, take another look at that price list. Modify your prices to reflect the hourly wage you want/need to live at the level you find acceptable. At the same time, research other people's rates in your industry. This may be a little tricky (remember how many artists don't like divulging their pricing practices?), but it's worth looking around. Two reasons:
  1. By determining industry norms for your field, you can avoid undercharging, and
  2. You avoid depreciating values in your field and pissing off your fellow creative professionals.
I remember my glee when I discovered the easily-accessible price list of Imaginary Jane, a graphic and web design company. Not only did seeing what they charge help me modify my design company's prices to reflect industry norms, but I know that as a consumer, I would be far more interested in hiring them thanks to their up-front approach to pricing. (More on that later.)

Step 4) Learn the script.

When you're talking to a future customer, there's a chance they will want to know just why you're charging the prices you charge. What are you going to say? You might remember the concept of the elevator pitch -- this explanation of prices needs to be just as polished. Think, unique value, personal relationship, etc. What do they get for their money that makes you worth it?

Step 5) Make it public.

Now that you've done your research, it's time to publish that price list! Remember the awesome Imaginary Jane pricing page? (Note: if you just clicked that link, it took you to their Facebook page, where, BAM, yet again they have their prices prominently linked to. Hmmm, maybe they're on to something . . .) Consumers -- whether business or individuals -- really do like to know what they're being asked to invest up front.

I know I'm flying against some traditionalists when I say this, but even fine artists benefit from being up front with their prices. As the internet explodes the old model of curators, publishers, and production companies being the only connection between the creators and the consumers, we as creators have a chance to set a price that we are comfortable with and stop playing games with the middleman. Call me an idealist, but that sounds pretty damn good.

The best part of "going public" with your prices is that it allows you to winnow your potential customer list right from the get-go. People who can't afford your work generally won't call you. This helps to make sure you receive fair payment for the work you do, and don't spend your time responding to people who aren't going to be able to pay you. And if you find that you're not receiving much customer interest, having a public price list makes it that much easier to assess whether it's your marketing strategies, the prices themselves, or both, that need work.

We'll be sticking with the pricing theme all week. Why don't you stick around and join in? Don't forget to snag your swanky challenge badge -- I sense a whole lot of future fun happening with this font.


  1. Great thoughts, Kate! The only hesitation I would have is in checking with other people's prices. As a photographer, I have prices that reflect a cost-based approach. But there's no way I should be adjusting based on other people's prices, for two reasons: 1) They may have an entirely different cost structure than I have and 2) They may or may not know what they're doing. Even some very successful creatives have very immature pricing methods. If I'm lost, using the location of someone else who is lost isn't a great way to get found!

    This is a super-important issue, and I'm so glad to see you bringing it up and helping us find clarity with pricing!

    1. Hey Andrew! Thank you so much for your comment! We totally agree and have really expanded on this exact same subject in todays blog post! So you were reading our minds of where we are going with our train of thought this week!

    2. Awesome - I look forward to reading it!