Panic-Free Pricing: How To Price Your Work

You might have noticed a theme lately, of me talking about PRICING YOUR WORK…there’s a reason for it!

Pricing your work and services can be a scary thing when you’re starting out and it can take years of experience to feel confident in your pricing.

Joanne Lauzon of InDetail has been in business since 1992, and she knows all about charging for her time, energy and talents. Which makes her the perfect guest for this week’s Q&A style interview. But Joanne is more than just our featured guest!

Joanne was actually MY calligraphy teacher! Back in 2015 I took one of her intro to calligraphy classes and we quickly bonded over our love of lettering. The rest, as they say, is history!

Since then we haven’t just remained good friends, we joined forced and collaborated on the original Panic-Free Pricing guide back in 2017. That guide helped over 2,500 letterers, calligraphers and artists.

And that brings me to our big announcement!!!

Two years after the launch of the Panic-Free Pricing guide, we are excited to share that we have launched the Panic-Free Pricing COURSE!

You can find out more about the Panic-Free Pricing Course and purchase it here!

Now that our big announcement is out, let’s get back to our interview where we asked you for some of your biggest PRICING questions. You can watch the live interview here, or read on for a recap!

Pricing Q&A with Joanne and Becca

Josie asked: How do I stop doing things for free?

Be confident (even if it means sending an email), you need to be strong in what you are asking for. When you create “for fun” in the beginning stages it’s understandable that you want to offer your skills for free. BUT, if someone is using your skills for profit, you need to address the situation and be properly compensated.

Ma Elena asked: How do I price my services if I am just starting out?

Totally! This calculation is one of the first things we go through in the course! There are a few variable, but you need to think about what your time is worth to you. You need to have your minimum hourly rate in your mind. This will help you calculate the value of your time. There’s a whole math calculation for this, but at minimum, you should aim for at least $30.00/hour (CDN).

Maria asked: I can’t figure out pricing for my area (outside of North America, for example)?

For starters, you will have to do a bit of extra research. Find out the average middle class yearly income for your area (country), and use that to determine your pricing. You can also speak to another artist (or artists) in your area and have a discussion about what their pricing structure is like. Also, don’t forget that this is a luxury service (even in North America) so you can charge a premium!

Lucie asked: What if there are no such services in my area so I don’t know the average cost level?

Again, do some research! Talk to people who might be candidates for your services and see what they would be comfortable playing. Keep in mind that you need to honour yourself, so find your comfort zone! You get to set the pricing stage in your area!

Telisa asked: I’m finding it hard not to be ghosted after giving quotes…

A lot of times, people just won’t get back to you! Customer service and email etiquette isn’t what it used to be, so try not to take this personally. But also look at how are you presenting your quotes. It helps to really spell out your pricing so that clients can SEE how everything is calculated. You want them to see the time and effort.

Use your quotes as an opportunity to educate! Go a little overboard, it’ll show that you are confident in your pricing. At the end of your quote, be sure to ask them to get back to you! Ask them to reply, even if they are choosing a different route. If it’s not in their budget, that’s not your problem!

Maureen asked: I’d love your thoughts on handling people who ask if you offer discounts.

In the course, there’s a whole section on this, but Joanne and I both like go by the “full price or free” method, we learned thanks to Sean McCabe! If someone asks you for a discount, you have to think to yourself “is this a person who I would do the work for free?”. Is it your mom? Your best friend? A charity you support? Is it somebody you feel totally happy giving the piece to for free, sweet!

But if the answer is no, do it for full price. Why? Because the person getting a discount will only value you and your work at that discounted price. If you do choose to do the work for free, I suggest that you still give them an invoice with ALL of your prices included so that they value you at that full worth, and then give them a 100% discount.

Lourdes asked: What’s the best way to calculate or differentiate pricing for personal vs. business use?

You have to price differently for commercial use. Anytime that you are doing work that affects your client’s revenue, may it be signage that brings them into their restaurant, their logo or marketing materials, it affects their business.

I have a stipulation in my contract that says that the client is not allowed to sell or rent my pieces after their wedding. They are paying for personal use only, and if they want to sell the item or rent it later on, the price needs to be adjusted for those purposes.

Maria Asked: How do you charge for (monthly or seasonal) chalkboard art for local cafes?

Joanne has done a number of chalkboards for cafes and figured out that the best method was to create a monthly retainer. She calculates out how many hours she needs to set aside every month (for that particular job) and the client is responsible for paying her the retainer every month for her work. The client “reserved” that time each month, and secured Joanne’s time. The important part is to get this in writing and include all of the details in your contract.

Alex asked: I’d like to start offering chalkboard and window art in my area. Should I offer my services free of charge or should I have a minimal rate? How should that price change over time?

Anytime you leave your home, your rate needs to be higher. Your time is worth so much more. Do not do it for free, that is a bad idea! There is no minimal rate either. Start at your price and do not discount. If you want to add work to your portfolio, do them at your own home. You audience doesn’t have to know that they were “practice” projects.

Noora asked: If you collaborate with a store for a workshop and they cover the refreshments, the decor, the space and the supplies, how do you go about charging? Do you charge by the student or by the hour?

If you don’t have to spend a penny on any of the organizing, you could charge either way. But, you want to still cover your hourly rate. Keep in mind that the amount of people you are teaching will affect your price, because a larger turnout will require more effort and work from you. Also, even if the venue aspect is covered, you still have to prep for the course, which does take loads of time. Keep an open dialogue with the organizers!

Lindsey asked: What is a good price for semi-custom suites?

Break it down per invite! This makes the price look less scary for the client, and then any add-ons are extra. The very minimum base price should be at least $5 per card, which covers the invite, RSVP and envelope. If you offer any other custom work, that would be an added price.

Megan asked: Rentals for signage – How to do that?

In most cases, the client provides the surface. I do have a few that I keep in my garage, but I don’t rent them out often. Usually if I do rent them, it’s for about $40 for the week. There is a deposit and any damages have to be covered by the client. I require 50% deposit on all jobs, and then the remaining balance is paid on the day of exchange. You can also start a referral program with rental companies!

Sarah asked: How do you deal with estimates and finale invoices? Can you invoice end up being different than your estimate?

Your estimate is sort of like a soft contract. It has to have so many details such as the amount of revisions you allow, and any revisions beyond that will be billed at an added price. There should be no surprises when they get the finale invoice. Make sure to have a paper trail and have them reply your emails. You need everything in writing, so stick with email!

This blog post could have easily been the looongest recap had I actually typed out everything we covered, so there is a chunk of information that had to be left out from each question. To get the full answers, you’ll have to go back and watch the interview for yourself!

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