The goal of this post is to make pricing and yearly income of a creative career easier to define. My earlier post “Artist Earning Potential“ is geared towards younger artists entering the field. This post is for those in the trenches with me! I will use the careers of a sculptor and a home bakery to cover aspects of artists and craftsmen and where there is overlap. You can read just the Sculptor’s approach or Baker’s approach if desired. For the duration of our career, all of us ask ourselves these basic questions:
What do I charge my customer?
My basic answer to this is to gauge your price vs. the amount of sales made every 6 months. Your price must cover your materials used plus a profit to cover the time it takes to make and show the artwork. If you are selling too low, just to make sales, there is no point in selling. You are slowly bleeding away your own finance.
If you are selling a lot but you have nothing to show, your price is too low. If nothing sells AND potential clients quiver at the price, then they didn’t agree with the evaluation or simply can not afford it. Notice I did not say, “Too Expensive“. Artists have to be aware of whom their market is and where their art must to for them to see it. Aka location, location, location!The next questions will help define how we can set a FAIR and rational starting price.
With selling quantity is as important as quality, I like to think about finding the sweet spot. The sweet spot, no pun intended, allows you to deliver a quality product that gives you a healthy return on your investment. This may be a combination of buying your most used ingredients/supplies at wholesale prices, offer your finished goods in trade to offset value, or finding the best rate shipping for your local area.
Some small businesses forget to factor things like shipping and packaging into their costs and end up losing much more money than they thought it would. I.E. if a $35 box of cookies bubble wrap, box, and shipping costs is $15, the revenue is $20, leaving profit floating around $5-$10. $10/$35 is a 28% return on the investment. In other words, every $35,000 the company earns, $25,000 covers expenses and the owner/employees reap only a $10,000 profit. For this reason, be accurate to a teaspoon on the cost to make each cupcake or cookie.
What is my time worth?
Sculptor’s & Baker’s Approach
This question is actually not for us. Very little of what we do can be estimated by time. We are business owners and operators so our materials and expenses guide our price evaluation.
Do I aim for the catch-all low priced market or the higher end market?
This question is based off a few factors: size of creation, actual quality of aesthetic, and quality of materials (archival and light fast properties) are the main drivers of this question. With that said, many artists still misinterpret the proportion of each factor. The reality is, many artists use cheaper materials but don’t realize in 5 years the painting may be too faded to be recognized as the same artwork. A sculptor’s quality of aesthetic simply put means, is the viewer pulled to the sculpture? Enough to ask the price? Size is more clear cut. The bigger or even the more micro and delicate, the more you can garner.
Do you want to be the home based Walmart bakery that makes big sheet cakes for kid’s parties? Or are elegant lavender macaroons the only cookie in your kitchen? With food and crafts, the ask amount is usually within $5. A cheap 6 pack of cupcakes may be $5.(Each cupcake at 0.83 cents) Simple white cake and blue icing. A 4 pack of dense red velvet cupcakes with a thick cream cheese icing may be $12. (Each cupcake at $3.00) The skill level and quality of ingredients is very noticeable, yet the baker can exceed the $2.13 jump to a better product. The answer comes to testing prices to find our sweet spot that allows their to be profit at the end of EVERY transaction.
What is/Where is my market?
Most artists after a few years, have shown in coffee shops, local libraries, friend’s events, lower end galleries and through social media. As I mentioned earlier, location is the biggest driver of your price, especially long term. Displaying in museums and larger city events allows you room to raise your price and your stature. But if it is hard for someone to understand how you go to such an inflated price, they will simply walk away. For example, most coffee shop goers are not bringing thousands of dollars into the coffee shop to buy obscure poorly lit art. To better understand, do you consider collecting large paintings when you need coffee before work?
Now that we understand the mindset of someone in this location, how can we cater to them? maybe a small print rack next to the counter? Some trinkets that were made with left over material so there is no loss if nothing sells. Always look how to make an opportunity successful but know when to cut your losses or just say “no thank you” to an opportunity.
For a baker or a food related small company, the desirable look is really the main selling point. If it looks like your first batch of cookies ever, keep refining your skills before going to market. Same goes for leather workers, soap makers, and the like. Second most important, is your ability to deliver on time and keeping great client relationships.
Some companies focus on catering larger events, birthday parties, work functions, or anytime treats. Your type of treat and the price you want to charge will force you, in a healthy manner, into your niche. For example, if you love making current holiday cookies, don’t worry about catering to someone who needs a birthday cake. Better yet, refer them to another baker! Keep the wealth in the family, I like to think.