AA _ Alumni Relations - Document Your Work(1)

Whether you graduated last spring or a decade ago, figuring out how to price your work can be a challenge. Where do you start as an emerging artist or designer? When is the right time to increase prices in your career? What about sales or discounts? We’ll share the most common methods of pricing work, best practices, and provide tips for art practices like ceramics, photography, painting, illustration, and design.

If you haven’t already, inventory your own work, including the size, medium, year of completion and exhibition history of the piece. If you have work in editions, such as photography, printmaking, or ceramics, include the edition number. Having a comprehensive inventory list comes in handy often, even though the purpose here will be to determine initial prices and price increases.

Don’t make physical work? Inventory your services, such as graphic design, branding, website building, logo design, design for print or digital, prototyping, social media strategy, UI design, or anything else you offer. Similar to having an inventory list of physical items, having a list of your services with values attached makes other tasks easier down the road – like a quote for a new client.

A column to include in all of the above examples is time spent. Keeping track of this will help you determine if your work falls within a similar time commitment. It’s useful for both those who offer services by the hour, when determining package costs, or figuring out if you’re earning a living wage for visual artists.

If you’re reading that and feeling like it’s a no-brainer to have this list, you’re right! It is a no-brainer. However, it’s not unusual for a creative to be caught off guard when someone asks what pieces are available or how much a logo costs because they’ve left updating this list too long.

Pricing can be daunting. A good jumping off point is research. Whether you’re a visual artist, designer, or illustrator, you can start by examining other creatives at the same point in their career as you. While not all these questions will apply to the work you do or make, some good ones to ask are:

  • What are they pricing their work at?
  • Is their CV or resume similar to yours?
  • Do you have the same training?
  • Do you offer the same services?
  • Is your work similar in medium and size?
  • Is the market saturated for your services?
  • Is there a gap you can find to fill?

Always make sure your pricing covers your production costs. For visual artists this will mean your supplies (not your studio rent) and for digital creators, this will mean your monthly software licensing (not your computer).

You want to take into account how much time you spend creating the work. Consult your spreadsheet or start timing yourself. It’s easy to adjust your prices in the early stage of your career and ends up being more difficult when a few years in you realize you’re making less than minimum wage or your estimates on how long something takes to create have been off this whole time.

For visual artists, if you work fast or loose, you can likely get away with charging less. However, if your work is heavily detailed and meticulous, you will need to charge more to avoid ending up with pennies per hour of work.

For designers or illustrators, you want to consider how much time it takes to do the work and prepare accurate quotes that compensate you for your time.

For those who work in editions, such as photographers, printmakers and ceramicists, combine the two methods by ensuring that each piece you make takes into account your production costs as well as the time needed. You may be able to work extremely quick for portions of the creation but other aspects will slow you down.

Once you’ve determined a price range, you can use those numbers to work a formula backwards to apply it to different types of work. If you already have some work priced out, use your own numbers in these formulas to see if your current price makes sense or if you should adjust.

Uses the formula Width x Height x $Inch = $Total

Pros: Consistent pricing if you work within a small size range and all your work that’s the same size takes approximately the same time to make. Works best for visual artists making two-dimensional work.

Cons: The need for multiple formulas for different sizes or mediums as this formula undervalues small work and overvalues large work. It is also harder to switch from making large work to small work (or vice-versa).

Determining your $Inch

The formula is easy enough, but how do you determine your dollar per square inch value? If you skipped the research tab, do some research to what artists who are at a similar point in their careers are charging – preferably artists working in the same medium as you. Ask your peers what they are charging and look online at places like Saatchi Art or Instagram. Alternatively, you could calculate the basic cost per square inch by factoring in your materials and time (make sure you pay yourself at least minimum wage) and doubling it. Head to Price by Hourly Rate if you think this is the option for you.

Using the following example: I finished professional training within the last five years and I see that most other people with similar CVs are charging $1000 for a 30×40” painting. Working the formula backwards:

30 x 40 = 1200

$1000 / 1200 = $0.8333333

That would put my $Inch for this painting at 83 cents. If I am only creating work that is hypothetically between 24×36” and 40×40”, we can tweak our formula. Our formula now reads:

(Width x Height) x $0.83 = $Total

For any painting we do in that size range, we can apply the formula. A 24×36” is $717, our example, a 32×40”, is $1062, and a 40×40” is $1328. Round numbers are favoured psychologically*, so if we round our totals to the nearest 5:

$720 (24×36)

$1060 (32×40)

$1330 (40×40)

Upon exhibitions, media coverage, awards, grants or obtaining gallery representation, we can increase our prices. There’s a pitfall to this formula when you work in a large size range. Below is a larger size range using this formula, with our calculations rounded to the nearest 5:

(4 x 4) x 0.84 = $15

(8 x 8) x 0.84 = $55

(16 x 16) x 0.84 = $215

(24 x 24) x 0.84 = $485

(32 x 32) x 0.84 = $860

(36 x 48) x 0.84 = $1450

(48 x 60) x 0.84 = $2420

Yikes! That’s a huge difference in price between the smallest and largest size. If your range is this large, you are undervaluing your smallest work and overvaluing your largest work at the same time.

It is not often artists work in such a dramatic size range, but even working between 32×32” and 48×60” in this example creates a dramatic price increase of nearly triple between your smallest and largest work.

If you work in a medium to large range, consider Price by United Inch instead. If this formula fits your work style, great! Always work your end result backwards to ensure you are making a living wage for your work.

*round numbers signify a trust worthy and valuable item where as odd numbers (especially those that end in 9) trigger the idea that an item is discounted, less valuable, or on sale.

Uses the formula (Width + Height) x $Inch = $Total

Pros: Proportionate pricing for small versus large work, good for artists who work within a large size range. Easy to switch between making small work or large work because pricing is proportionate. Great for painters, mixed media, drawings, fine art photography, illustrations and other two-dimensional work.

Cons: You may need multiple formulas to account for different mediums or type of work.

Determining your $Inch

Similar to our previous formula, we can start with research. Using our original example: I finished professional training within the last five years and I see that most other people with similar CVs are charging $1000 for a 30×40” painting. Working the formula backwards:

30 + 40 = 70

$1000 / 70 = $14.28

That would put my $Inch for this painting at $14.28. Let’s create a round number to make the calculations easier and settle on $14. Our formula now reads:

(Width + Height) x $14 = $Total

We can apply the formula to a much larger size range. Round numbers are favoured psychologically*, so if we round our totals to the nearest 5:

(4 + 4) x 14 = $110

(8 + 8) x 14 = $225

(16 + 16) x 14 = $450

(24 + 24) x 14 = $670

(32 + 32) x 14 = $895

(36 + 48) x 14 = $1175

(48 + 60) x 14 = $1510

The increases between the sizes are easier to understand and your price range is much less dramatic between sizes. This is also easier for potential buyers to understand. This same formula will work for even larger pieces as well, keeping prices proportionate.

Always work your end result backwards to ensure you are making a living wage for your work.

*round numbers signify a trust worthy and valuable item where as odd numbers (especially those that end in 9) trigger the idea that an item is discounted, less valuable, or on sale.

Uses the formula (Width + Height + Depth) x $Inch = $Total

Pros: Proportionate pricing for small versus large three-dimensional work, relief sculptures and some ceramic work.

Cons: You may need multiple formulas to account for different mediums or type of work.

Determining your $Inch

Similar to our previous formulas, we will start with research. Using an altered example: I finished professional training within the last five years and I see that most other people with similar CVs are charging $1000 for a sculpture that is 30x30x30”. Working the formula backwards:

30 + 30 + 30 = 90

$1000 / 90 = $11.11

That would put my $Inch for this work at $11.11. Let’s create a round number to make the calculations easier and settle on $11. Our formula now reads:

(Width + Height + Depth) x $11 = $Total

We can apply the formula to a much larger size range. We will pretend this artist makes cube sculptures for simplicity’s sake. Round numbers are favoured psychologically*, so if we round our totals to the nearest 5:

(4 + 4 + 4) x 11 = $130

(8 + 8 + 8) x 11 = $265

(16 + 16 + 16) x 11 = $530

(24 + 24 + 24) x 11 = $790

(32 + 32 + 32) x 11 = $1055

(48 + 48 + 48) x 11 = $1585

(60 + 60 + 60) x 11 = $1980

While this is more dramatic in price increases than the United Inch formula, it also accounts for the dramatic increase in cost for making larger sculptural work. Always be sure you are making a living wage and your production costs are covered – adjust your $Inch as necessary.

*round numbers signify a trust worthy and valuable item where as odd numbers (especially those that end in 9) trigger the idea that an item is discounted, less valuable, or on sale.

Price by Hourly Rate

Uses variations of a time, hourly and supply based formula.

Pros: Makes pricing easy when you can produce many items at once, such as ceramics or photography; ideal for commercial and digital work where hours are easily calculated and there are less overhead costs. It’s also useful for determining what should be a minimum cost for fine art.

Cons: Requires a more complex assessment of costs. It can also be difficult early in your career when tasks may take you longer. Alternatively, you may over or undervalue artwork depending on how you determine your hourly.

See the accordions below to find the right hourly rate formula for you.

I hope you have your services list ready to go, because you need it. When deciding on your hourly for commercial work, you first need to research median salaries for your industry. Luckily, whether you’re a designer, a photographer or an illustrator, a lot of professionals openly list their rates and packages on their websites. Once you have an idea of comparable rates, you will need to evaluate what time investment each service you offer is. You can also determine what salary you want to earn each year and use this calculator to get a rate to work from. Once you have that hourly (let’s say it’s $35/hr) you can create quotes or packages easily. Always be transparent in the way your rate is calculated by listing what services are included and what the approximate time commitment is. You do not need to round numbers but do include GST if applicable.

Examples of how this could work are:

  1. A photographer has wedding packages. They charge $35/hr for photography at the event and $35/hr for editing. They offer 6 hours of shooting and 6 hours of editing, a consultation with the couple, 10 edited images, and a digital album. The consultation and digital album also take time. If they have used the above calculator, their basic overhead costs are included in their hourly rate, but items such as travel, equipment rental or hiring of a second shooter are not. The cost of this wedding package would be 20hrs x $35 = $700 (+ travel costs to the venue).
  2. A communications designer offers a branding package. They include an initial consult, logo design with two revisions, and finished work including web and print optimized files. They estimate this will take 40 hours and their overhead costs are $250/month. The cost of this package would be (40hrs x $35) + $250 = $1650.
  3. An illustrator does commercial illustrations for magazines. Each illustration takes 12 hours and their overhead costs are $250/month. The cost of each illustration would be (12 x $35) + $250 = $670.

If the end rate seems low or below industry standard, take a look at your estimates for time. Is that really how long it will take? Is there anything you’re missing?

Edition-based work is different than commercial work, especially ceramics or other fine craft work like jewelry. There are a few ways to calculate this and it takes a fair amount of math and understanding of your own process.

$Supplies + $Labour + 10-15% Overhead = $Total

Let’s say you can make 3 ceramic mugs in an hour, you used $5 worth of supplies and you will charge $15 for your labour. This gives us $20 as a base + 10% overhead = $22. Our wholesale price would be calculated as:

$22 x 2 = $44

Typically retail prices are double the wholesale price.

$44 x 2 = $88

If we take that $88 and divide it between the three mugs, it works out to $29 per mug. If this price makes you happy, you could use $88/hr for your hourly as it applies to each of your items. Perhaps you average two large bowls per hour, pricing each bowl at $44 each. Adjust this formula until it suits your practice.

For printmaking or other edition based work, calculate the cost for the total edition based on time and supplies. Include screen or plate preparation, paper costs, and labour to determine your $Total and what the wholesale and retail would be. Smaller editions will be priced higher than larger editions as there are less available prints and value increases.

Let’s say the plate creation for a print takes 10 hours and the overhead costs for the plate plus the paper and ink for 30 prints. Using a modified formula:

$Supplies + $Labour + 10-15% Overhead = $Total

$Total x Time x 2 = $Cost for Total Edition

$Cost / Edition = $Print

If your supplies cost you $100, add labour for $15 = $115. Add your overhead to get $126.50. Multiply by the number of hours to get $1265, and double it to get your edition cost of $2530. Divide it by the number of prints in your edition, in this case 30. Each print will be $84.33, which you can round to the nearest 5*. Adjust your labour rate if necessary and keep track of your hourly to get an accurate estimate.

*round numbers signify a trust worthy and valuable item where as odd numbers (especially those that end in 9) trigger the idea that an item is discounted, less valuable, or on sale.

While I fully recommend pricing by united, linear or square inch over hourly for most artwork, you may find that hourly works best for your practice if you have a very specific style or drawing, painting or illustration. The first step here is to consider how long a piece takes you. If all your pieces take 10 hours at the same size, you could consider pricing by hour. Make sure you factor in supply costs and insure you are being paid a living wage.

This method can also work for muralists or set painters who work quite large but who use more inexpensive paint.

The average salary for an artist in Canada in 2019 worked out to $19/hr. CARFAC’s daily minimum rate is set at $557 for over four hours of work as of 2020. If you work an 8-hour day, that is $69/hr.

(Time x $Hourly) + $Supplies = $Total

If your supplies for creating a 30×40” piece of work is $75 and the piece takes you 10 hours to create using the CARFAC fee as your base rate:

(10 x $69) + $75 = $765

This formula is suited to an artist creating similar work that is all the same size, takes the same amount of time to create and costs the same to produce. If you choose to use this formula, make sure you keep an accurate log of how long work takes to create. It is best suited to artists who can work fast rather than detail-oriented artists who work slower.

Film and animation is a lot more complex. If you aren’t working for a studio and decide to freelance, a lot will depend on the industry that’s hiring you. You can charge by the second (of finished product), the hour (of work), or by the project as a whole. There’s an entire article on the School of Motion blog that covers charging for a motion graphics project that can be applied to film, two or three dimensional animation, and other digital motion work. They include a scale of day-rates that you can convert to project rates or by the completed second rates.

What about discounts or sales for artwork?

Generally, you should state your price and stick to it. If you feel a discount is necessary, industry standard is 10% for regular collectors. Try to avoid offering discounts unless they are requested. Use sales very sparingly. If your work is regularly on sale, collectors who purchased at full price will become bitter and those who want to purchase will simply wait until you have another sale.

Wholesale prices are different. If you are offering work that you can give a wholesale price on, you can negotiate with the reseller for a price you are both comfortable with. Shopify has an article on setting wholesale pricing. You can also use the ceramics example formula under Determining your $Hourly for Edition-based or Fine Craft Work.

Raising or Changing Your Prices

Is it time to raise your prices? Many factors can go in to deciding on a price increase. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if you should be raising or changing your prices. While not all these questions will apply to the work you do or make, some good ones to ask are:

  • Have you received an award, grant, or recognition in your field/for your work?
  • Have you shown your work locally, provincially, nationally or internationally?
  • Do you need to account for inflation or rising supply costs?
  • Has it been more than two years since you raised your hourly rate?
  • Are you feeling resentful towards your clients?
  • Are all your competitors charging much higher rates than you?
  • Does your work sell quickly after being produced?
  • Has most of your work sold?
  • Did your last exhibition sell out mostly or completely?
  • Have you switched mediums causing a difference in supply cost, ie: oil to acrylic?

If you raise or change your prices, it should be incremental. For visual artists charging by inch (any method), increments of 10% are recommended. If your 30×40” is currently $1000, consider raising it to $1100. Work your chosen formula backwards to discover your $inch.

For those charging hourly, you can either raise your rate by increasing the total cost of a client quote by 10% or by adjusting your hour hourly rate by $2-5 every 1-2 years to account for inflation and experience level.

We hope that this resource helps you price your work in the way that suits your practice the most. Each creative is different and there is certainly a pricing model that will work for you. Please let us know if we’ve missed anything and we’ll be sure to update it.

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