Friday, 10 July 2015
Things you might not know about being an artist - part 2
As a creative person who works for herself, running her own business, I have the lovely job of painting for a living. As much as I love this side of things, I have also had to embrace the more businessy side of things, which includes organising my accounts, filing stuff, emailing people, and pricing.
Pricing. Ah yes, that little chestnut which can cause so much grief and panic for the creative person, bring up all manner of insecurities and fears.
I have been using a basic formula for a few years now which seems to work well for me. It's jolly simple and includes these elements:
Cost of materials used - such as paint, canvas, framing(including supporting costs and any overheads)
Time - how long it has taken to create the work
Profit - which speaks for itself
Usually, profit is the last thing I figure in, because lets face it and be totally honest - we're in business to make money - its not a hobby, its not a bit of a laugh - we're earning money to pay for our kids swimming classes, new clothes, a bill, to put food on the table so the profit is the essential bit on the top, the amount we get after we've covered our outgoings.
Most of us run a creative business because we love it, and if we didn't, we'd combust or something equally awful. It's not always an easy career choice, it can be antisocial, sales can fluctuate with the seasons and it can be a giant ballache at times when your mojo goes on holiday.
We also want to contribute to the family income, we want to have something to do alongside being a Mum, a partner, a wife and so on (or, not wanting to exclude anyone - Hubster or Dad if you're a chap who happens to be reading this post). We want something for us, but we ultimately want a bit of financial independence doing something we love.
So, with these three basic elements covered I then check out the competition. By this I mean that I look at what my contemporaries are producing, and I also see what they are currently charging.
The reason I do this is because I don't want to price myself out of the market, I don't want to undersell myself, and I also don't want to undercut others as this devalues what EVERYONE is doing. It's not good business etiquette and you're not doing your reputation any favours in the long run if you do this. Familiarising myself with what other artists are doing helps to keep me on track.
There's a whole heap of other stuff involved in pricing too - such as marketing your work and actually getting the stuff to sell (which I'll save for another post) but for now I've covered the basics.
I'm going to bring up the subject of discounts in this post too, because I feel it's relevant.
Sometimes I offer a percentage off certain ranges of my art. These have been carefully calculated and are not usually done on a whim. I have still factored in all of the three elements above, and have decided that yes, I can still cover costs and earn a profit at this particular time - it's also a nice gesture to offer my loyal customers, or gives new ones an incentive to buy something from me. However, I couldn't afford to run my business like this all of the time, I'd be running at a loss. So, I sometimes feel a little put out when I get emails from people asking for discount. In the past, I've agreed to it, but now I don't. I personally wouldn't wander into a shop and ask for a discount on an item I liked. I'd see what it cost and accept that that was the price, and if I wanted it badly enough I'd pay it (or save up until I could afford to buy it).
I wonder if the people who ask artists for discount actually understand what goes into creating an original, or a run of limited edition prints? It's not been mass produced in a factory in China, it's something that has been produced over time with a lot of thought and love. It's emotive, it creates a connection within the person who sees it. The need for a piece of art can be impulsive or calculated (based on whether it will match the furnishings in the living room). When you buy art from an artist, you are essentially buying a little piece of that person - before they created it, it didn't exist. You're getting a glimpse of the insides of someone's imagination. What is produced by brush, pen, stitch, clay or any other medium is a rare and unique piece of work. When you stop to think about it, it's pretty amazing isn't it?
Some artists I have spoken to in the past have broken down their pricing and discover they are earning way below the minimum wage when calculating their costs on an hourly basis. They've been shocked by this and it is shocking...you wouldn't expect anyone else to work for less that that, so why would anyone expect an artist to do so?
I think it would be lovely if there were more support for artists and creatives. People such as our Education Secretary don't exactly help when they suggest that choosing art is a future of limited career choices- what belittling rubbish! Imagine a world without art, without colour...imagine a world without the possibility of illustration, photography, paintings, ceramics, greetings cards, wallpaper, textile and pattern design...oh the list is endless! Lets be honest, it would be a dull old place without it, wouldn't it?