September 29, 2011

Do Artists Undervalue Their Own Work?

I was posed the question: do artists undervalue their own work by an amazing jewelry designer and friend, Anna of Della Messina, and my initial reaction was to say YES, yes we do!!!

The more I sit here and think about it though the more I have to disagree with myself.  I don't believe Artists undervalue their own work, I believe they allow the general public to influence their decision to undervalue their work.

Does that make sense?  Let me break this down a little bit.

What Am I ME?

I ask myself this question a lot because its really the best way to determine what I should be charging for all my work, be it smaller pieces in my Chucka Stone Etsy Shop or an entire room full of a beautiful faux finish.  The toughest part is always how I can justify charging the same hourly/square footage/materials price on my decor items as I can for my room finishes.

The answer, however, is easy.

Because that's what I'm worth.  Period.

Here's a little example of what I mean. 

Say I'm pricing out a focal wall in a client's home -- a gorgeous brick faux finish like the photo above.  The wall is 8' high x 12' wide and there are no windows, doors or other obstructions at all.  Let's also pretend in my fantasy scenario that there are no issues with the wall to address before the finish goes on, a perfect wall with perfectness all around (hey, I said it was a fantasy scenario!). 

How do I price this finish?
  • My first objective is to determine exactly what the homeowner wants -- all red, perfectly rectangular; some varied tones on individual bricks; a keystone pattern; traditional stacked pattern; shaded/highlighted bricks; raised relief; etc. -- as this will greatly impact the time it takes me to complete the job
  • Next, I have to determine the number of rows/columns of brick to account for & all other measurements required for the installation
  • The next step is to determine the materials and how many passes over the surface this entails (relief for example will raise the passes by at least 1, usually 2, because of the need for plaster then the paint)
  • My final adjustments determine -- can I install the masking on my own; are there other accommodations to account for such as a sloped ceiling; how far away is the job; are there limitations on days/times the homeowner or I can not be available for; etc.

And that's sometimes not even the half of it!  Yes, there is a whole lot of information required for pricing a finish which is why:
1) I never quote without first seeing the space.
2) I never bend on my price once I've quoted it unless the specs of the job change.

A long time ago I was given advice by someone in the industry that it is better to lose a job because someone thinks you're priced too high than to let your work suffer because you cave into the pressure to lower cost just to get the job.  That simple act right there will leave you feeling desperate to finish quicker so you can get out to make more money and trust me, the quality of your product will ultimately suffer for it.

So How Does All This Apply to an Etsy Shop?

Simple.  I take the basic considerations above and still price my pieces accordingly!  Same time, material, labor, etc. adjustments apply in smaller items as they do in larger ones. 

On top of all that, for Etsy, I have to figure out if I was able to create multiples at once (cutting out 8 pieces of fabric instead of just 2 for example), if the finish is done in the same manner as a wall (for example, there's no need to snap a chalk line for brick on an 11" x 14" canvas but there will be on that wall I talked about above!), etc.

It may seem like a lot of work and that's because it is.  Many business owners find it cumbersome and tedious to try to price their work so they immediately undervalue it in an effort to just get it out there.  Business owners who want to make a name for themselves may just price haphazardly or way too low to begin with in order to get a foot in the door. 

Sounds great in theory right?  Only problem is then you're stuck there forever.  Raising prices to what you know in your heart and head you're worth is way tougher once you've established yourself than it is to establish yourself while charging exactly what you're worth from the start.

I'm not the highest priced finisher out there but I'm certainly not the lowest either.  I know how labor intensive certain finishes are on my body, how much critical thinking is involved in others and even how quickly I can whip out certain things just because the product allows a faster turn around time.  All of that is accounted for in my quote.

It doesn't matter if you're a jewelry designer like Anna, a painter like me, or some other type of artist selling themselves and their wares to the public, the basic principles of how you arrive at your worth apply no matter what you create.  My advice -- start charging what you should.

How much are you worth?  Are you undervaluing your work?  Could your shop or website use an update on listing prices or estimates?


Almost Precious said...

All too true. A friend of mine runs a gallery and she refuses to have sales as she says if a piece of art is worth $200 one day, it should not be worth $159.99 the next. She also thought it cheapened a gallery to have sale and discounted tags on things ... kind of like the clearance section in a cheap department store.
And I also agree with you that if one begins with bargain basement prices it becomes very hard to work one's way up out of that basement. Unfortunately the ones that become so eager to make a sale that they cut their prices to the bone make it very difficult for those of us who value our creativity and what we have put into our work or art. :(

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Thanks for posting this. I am struggling with this right now as I am considering pricing for my new collage products - especially since each takes a different amount of time and may be different sizes, etc.
Thanks for helping to think this through.
Peace, Judi
Judi FitzPatrick Studio

PrairiePeasant said...

Yes, I couldn't agree with you more. The challenge comes when other artists under price their work and therefore make it impossible to compete. Hopefully this is where quality will shine through and make the difference.