Author Topic: How should new artist charge for freelance art? What is my art worth?  (Read 4827 times)

Offline Dottonedan

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Hello all,

Helping artist and art buyers by shining light on copyrights and assisting others with purchasing and selling art  has been something I have been passionate about for many years. I have experienced the pitfalls myself early on and have learned a few basics along the way that I can pass on to you all. In fact, I am still dealing with adjusting prices today in this economy. I know first hand how difficult it is to try and price my art services. In this post, We can at least help you new artist with a starting point.

When we start out as an artist, we are very shy and don't want to seem arrogant. It's a good thing to be modest right?  Not always. Some people start out thinking that they should charge very little. The biggest mistake I hear is that we artist think we need to create some 'BIG NAME" for ourselves before we can charge decent money. While that is modest of you and stereotypical, I think it's not necessary at all. If you know what to do and can do it and people like what you do, why not charge the going rate.

What is the going rate?
We will help with a starting point for your going rate further below. Your "going rate" of art should never be based on your time on the job or your experience in this industry. If your new, you could be a $100.00 artist and if your a seasoned 30 years veteran, you could be a $100.00 artist.

Don't expect top dollar but if you're good, and it shows, you can request at least the average pay that other more experienced artist are getting in your area. Determining "the average" is difficult. Everyone has different prices but once you start to poke around, you begin to see that our tee shirt industry prices can reach a CAP based on many circumstances. To name a few factors, we have custom art and we have retail or event art. Each of these fetch a far different price depending on the unique circumstances of the job.

A custom order for 100 shirt is most likely not going to be able to pay a great deal of money for art while that same art request for a retail order may being in 3-5 times that amount you made on the custom order. Each case is different. You can occasionally get a custom customer that really needs a specific type of art and art quality. They may be willing to pay $300.00-$500.00 for art even if it's only 100 shirts. It's rare, but it does happen.

Occasionally, you find an artist fresh out of high school, has never been to art school nor worked anywhere yet. Maybe they happened to get a hold of a graphics program and started playing and drawing…and got good at it before ever doing a real freelance job for someone. Often times, new artist are shy about asking for decent money or maybe they are unaware of what they should charge. My high school art teacher once said "Dan, if you give your art away for free, that is the value the receiver will invest in it". If someone pays $5.00 for clip art, they see very little value in it and can even give it away to others. If they paid $100.00 for that art, they seem to feel less anxious to give it away.

For the new artist trying to make a go at this art thing as a business, there is a "fair labor price" and there is a …"market value/Supply and demand" factor that would apply and you should consider that heavily after you read through this and you've determined your base rate.

One way to start at pricing  "creative work" is to start at determining what a decent wage these days would be…To me, this means something that is obviously above minimum wage.

Setting aside all of the business related issues that go along with being a freelancer, …Just as a starting point, lets take minimum wage (x 3) for an hourly rate. This is arbitrary but gives us a starting point. 3x seems good for started since something that requires some level of specialized skill. It's not as equal to saying…"you want fires with that?" It requires more from a person, something that not everyone has. When not everyone has it or can do it, the price goes up. Thats part 1 of supply and demand. :) As a side note, I would never take away the integrity of the jobs that those people who work at fast food places do. We all have a place in life and at different times.

I think that the minimum wage is somewhere around $7.25 per hr. here in Fl. Times that by 3 and we are at $21.75 per hour. If estimating a job at a flat rate, consider how long that job might take you. Take your figure of $21.75 times the amount of hours it would take you. Lets say that is 20 hours. So that is $435.00 as a flat rate. Now, given that newer people (even the good ones) often take longer than anticipated, you should keep track of your hours invested in your jobs so that you can really pin point a good "average" price to charge.

I think it's safe to say, that if you at least land near your estimated time (give or take a few hours), you are making far more than anyone at McDonalds. If the customer buckles at that price, (and you will experience this) at least you have some playing room to negotiate.

Once you do this, you will start to learn weather or not your time invested into doing the job is too long, good or great based on how many or how often people will say……You're FREAK'N NUTS if you think I'm gonna pay that much! my customers won't pay that for 72 shirts!! "

Now, comes all of the business stuff that I despise so much, like taxes, keeping track of expenses.…equipment and all that jazz. That has to be determined and considered in the price as well. I think in general, people look at adding another 30-35% to the price to cover these things. If your intending on making a living as a freelance artist, then you will need to look at all of this much harder and narrow down each of your expenses-both personal living expenses as well as your business expenses + your desired profit.

All that together will determine what you are (required) to charge in order to be profitable. Getting enough clientele all of the time is the other part of the business. Knowing what you need to earn on a job is one thing…getting the jobs in…that you need is yet another.

Good luck
Artist & Sim Process separator, Co owner of The Shirt Board, Past M&R Digital tech installer for I-Image machines. Over 28 yrs in the apparel industry. Apparel sales,  e-mail 615-821-7850