**Guest blog post written by Joanne Lauzon of @indetailcreative
Pricing your hand lettering and calligraphy work can be a daunting task—especially when you are just starting out, and have no idea how to calculate your rates, and your confidence might be a little shaky. With practice, and a little hand-holding, you’ll be able to quote your rates and secure those jobs in no time.
Here are 7 common mistakes people make when pricing their calligraphy work:
1. You have no paper trail.
When working with clients of any kind, you want to ensure every character of communication is documented. Communicate over email wherever possible, and have the client sign their approval on your written estimate stating what’s included for what price. Without written proof, your client can dispute your final invoice, and in most cases that means they win.
2. You assume you keep 100% of the sale revenue.
Big mistake here, especially at tax time. Just because you charge $200 for a wedding seating chart, doesn’t mean you can take that $200 and enjoy a day at the spa. You must consider saving for taxes, as well as keeping money in your business account for things like materials and expenses.
A good place to start is to divide your sales revenue into thirds between your tax savings account, your business account, and your personal income. Knowing this ratio will help you set your pricing to ensure enough moula ends up in each pot.
3. You quote your hourly rate for every job.
You’re pretty proud of your hourly rate, and you should be! You work hard for those dollars. But not every job should be quoted hourly—you risk losing money if you work quickly, and you also risk your work not being valued at its full worth.
Here’s an example: say you were asked to write the details on a birth certificate. Mom’s name, Dad’s name, Baby’s name, birth date, time, weight, length, time and circumference of that itty bitty head. Something like this might take you 30 minutes to complete. If your hourly rate is $30 an hour, that’s only $15 in revenue for you (and, if we follow the ratio in our earlier point, that boils down to only $5 in your personal bank account). No way, José.
That’s nowhere near enough for a keepsake like this. Instead, look at the value of the finished product. I would suggest something in the $40–60 range, even higher depending on the calibre of your work, for such a precious document.
4. You begin work before agreeing on price.
Far too often I am sent a message with a photo of a completed project, and a new hand lettering artist wants my opinion on what she should charge for it.
Wait, what? It’s already done, and you are just now discussing price with the client!? Well, if I could reach through my phone and slap you silly I would! No, no, no… Never (can you tell how passionate I am about this one?), EVER (yup, really passionate), even touch pencil to paper without a signature-approved estimate, and the client fully understanding the price, what’s included, and your terms.
You do not want to find yourself in a position where the client refuses to pay what you think the project is worth. It happens. Don’t rely on good faith if you are running a business. PS: You should be asking for a deposit upfront, too.
5. You charge way less than your colleagues (read: You undercut your competition).
The concept of competition is so yesterday. It’s much more uplifting to you and other artists to join together, create a tribe, and consider each other community. When you undercut each other, it’s a race to the bottom and nobody makes any money.
When you network with and support each other, you can collaborate on projects, exchange stories and advice, and yes, even share your pricing so everyone wins—even your clients.
6. You charge the same for commercial work as you do for personal work.
Do you think a “Welcome to our Home” sign should be worth the same as a “Welcome to Stan’s Pub’ sign? Only a couple more letters, so it should take about the same amount of time, right? Well, that may be true however, Stan’s welcome sign is going to attract customers (because it’s smokin’ hawt), which affects his sales, which makes your artwork much more valuable than your neighbour’s front porch sign.
Any time your client is directly (reselling your artwork) or indirectly (your artwork is part of the overall brand) making money from your artwork, the value of your time, talent and energy goes way up.
7. You give your work away for free.
There will be times when gifting your artwork is the right and kind thing to do. But sometimes clients will ask you to work for exposure, or to trade for some other product or service. In every scenario, you must ensure the exchange is fair to both you and the client.
If you are working for exposure (your name in a brochure, on a poster, a social media tag, etc.) make sure the exposure is measurable (how many brochures, how many followers, average likes/comments, and how long will the post/story be visible, and so on) and that it aligns with your business plan. There is no point having your name in a brochure at a wedding show if you aren’t interested in the bridal market.
For trades or barters, outline your projected price in a formal estimate, and ask the other party to do the same. The values of your offerings should be pretty close to equivalent, and be sure you actually need or want what they are offering. For example, if you are asked to design and letter a menu in a cocktail bar but you don’t drink, a $150 credit is likely of little interest to you.
Pricing your hand lettering and calligraphy work will become easier, I promise. And you will gain experience, mad skills, and confidence before you know it—making your work even more valuable so you can raise your prices as necessary, and desired.
Don’t forget- the Panic-Free Pricing Course is now available, too! It is a beginner’s guide to pricing every type of calligraphy and lettering project- from wedding work, to murals, to fonts and more!