I’m sharing my three super important tips when it comes to pricing your work.
I can totally agree that pricing is easily THE scariest thing when you’re starting out in your calligraphy or lettering business!
It’s a lot more than just saying you’re going to charge $130 for a seating chart…
First Things First…
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Tip #1: Know your hourly rate, but don’t (always) use it
It is really important to know what your hourly rate is. One of the biggest mistakes I see beginners make with pricing is that they don’t properly calculate it, and they end up making way less than minimum wage! I’m not going to walk you through how to calculate your hourly rate right now (you can always check out my Panic-Free Pricing course which has a whole module on this), BUT I do want to talk about why you SHOULDN’T always quote using your hourly rate.
When I say don’t USE it, I mean don’t DISCLOSE it. Don’t quote jobs by saying “Yeah, I can do your seating chart! It’ll take me about two hours and my hourly rate is $30, so it’ll be $60.”
There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want to do this…
First, it confuses the client.
They’re usually left wondering “But… what if it doesn’t take you the full two hours? Are you still going to charge me for 2 hours, or will you be honest if it only takes you 1.5?”
Second, you’re actually penalizing yourself for working quickly!
The same seating chart might take you five hours, whereas it would take me two. Does that mean I should get paid less? No way!
Instead, you want to learn to quote by the PROJECT type, and the variables involved.
Seating charts are a good example of this – they are typically quoted by variables like:
- How many names?
- How big is the chart?
- How many tables?
- What surface are you writing on?
- Is it complicated?
By pricing it out this way, you and I are not being paid different amounts based on how long it takes – we’re being paid based on the deliverable.
Another easy example to understand for this is murals. If one artist is reeeeally fast and paints the same size mural, while the other takes three days… it wouldn’t be fair to the client to pay for extra hours for the slower painter, and it also wouldn’t be fair for the faster painter who provides the same mural in less time, to get paid less.
Now… there are SOME instances where you can quote your hourly rate. A common example of this is if you’re working on a project where that might require a lot of “revisions” or back/forth with a client. In this case, you would quote your project rate and communicate that it includes, say, two sketches. If they decide they’d like more changes, you can tell them that you charge an hourly rate of $___ for any additional revisions.
And finally, another common way to use your hourly rate is as a cross-referencing tool.
It’s ALWAYS a good idea to have your hourly rate in the back of your mind. That way, aaaaaanytime you’re quoting a job, you can cross-reference your quote back to your hourly rate, and make sure you’re AT LEAST making THAT amount per hour.
Price / Hours = at least your hourly rate
You can definitely always make more than your hourly rate. Just remember, don’t settle for anything less than your hourly rate.
Tip #2: Protect yourself from hidden extras
A while back, I had a request for a bunch of signs for a wedding. They wanted a seating chart, welcome sign, bar menu, and some other generic ones like, “pick a seat, not a side!”
I quoted the job (a pretty high price for all of that), they accepted, and I sent over my contract.
Side note about contracts… have one! This is a great premade calligraphy one you can buy.
Long story short, the client came back asking to remove a clause in my contract that stated she was not allowed to re-sell my work after her wedding. She mentioned she was hoping to rent the signs out to other brides afterward and wanted me to remove that clause in my contract before she signed it.
I obviously said no, and I provided an alternate quote for her (triple the price) if she was going to rent and profit from my work afterward.
Another really common story (and this happens ALLLLLL the time to beginner calligraphers and letterers) is being approached to write someone’s name. This is offfffften a hidden request for a logo, which is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, more expensive than simply writing someone’s name… but usually, people try to hide the fact that it’ll be a logo to avoid the cost.
If someone is using your writing as a logo, they are PROFITING from your work. Which means your price to produce that work goes UP accordingly.
These are just a few examples of why you want to make sure you ask a TON OF QUESTIONS about a project, and also ideally have a contract.
I’ll be the first to admit that for the first two years of my business I did NOT have a contract 😱. And while I don’t really suggest forgoing a contract, because clearly it can hugely protect you as it did for me in the example above, there ARE a few things you can do to protect yourself from hidden extras like this even without a contract.
Honestly, I recommend doing all of these AND having a contract.
- Ask a TON of questions before quoting. You will get way better at knowing what to ask for overtime, but the more specific you can get upfront, the better.
- Know for CERTAIN if the client is going to profit from your work (directly or indirectly). If so, your price should be higher.
- Next, be very, very, very, clear on your estimate. List out EXACTLY what your price does and doesn’t include. (A good example of this are revisions and shipping.)
- Set the expectations upfront. It may feel strict or impersonal when dealing with clients, but it will save your butt. I promise!
Again, this calligraphy specific contract template is the one I use and highly recommend if you’re able to buy one.
And remember, it’ll be a learning process. You WILL make mistakes and learn from them… if you mess up on one project and didn’t cover your butt, you can BET that you won’t forget to ask that question next time!
Tip #3: Except to get ghosted
I get asked this question all the time by the students in my Panic-Free Pricing course:
“Am I charging too high? I keep quoting jobs and then never hearing back from the client.”
It is SO, SO, SO, SO, SO common for people to not accept a quote. ESPECIALLY in calligraphy, and especially in the wedding world (which is where a ton of calligraphers start).
The average person does not usually understand the value of what they’re asking for, or the time it takes to produce it, or (most of all) the value of the SKILL you have practiced and developed.
A lot of people assume “Oh, calligraphy can’t be that expensive… it’s just writing ONE word, that’ll take like 10 seconds”… and not realize what actually goes into it. And you can’t fault them – they just don’t know better.
What tends to happen is that the client will come to you requesting a quote, with an idea in their head of what it’ll cost, roughly. “It’ll probably be like, $50,” they’re thinking. Then when you come back and quote $500, that extra 0 on there really throws them for a loop!
At that point, the client might realize that they can’t afford it or didn’t budget for it, and they often just don’t reply at all because they don’t feel like it’s necessary. Or, they might just be embarrassed to tell you that they can’t afford it. They might just also have reached out for so many quotes from so many vendors that they don’t feel required to reply. They assume you’ll know the answer is no if you don’t hear from them.
It’s not YOU, it’s THEM.
And last but not least:
If you’re getting more than 50% of your quotes accepted, you’re probably charging too low 🙄.
And that’s a wrap!
I hope these tips were helpful! Always remember to educate yourself, do your research, know your worth, and don’t undervalue yourself or second guess yourself!
Alot of pricing comes down to confidence and mindset.
If you’re still feeling intimidated by pricing, please check out my Panic-Free Pricing course – it’s a full course and e-book with over 90 pages of charts and stuff for common pricing jobs!