Crooked Business

CROOKED BUSINESS: Pricing Your Calligraphy (with a real Case Study!)

How to price custom calligraphy

“I have no idea how to price my calligraphy!”

I hear this from SO MANY beginning calligraphers. And I get it… PRICING IS FRIGGIN’ HARD!!

When I first started selling custom calligraphy pieces in early 2016, I charged $15 for an 8x10” piece up to 10 words long. $15!!! That barely even covers the paper and ink.

But, I was scared to charge more. I had only been doing calligraphy for a few months and I didn’t feel like I was worth very much.

Now, in 2019, I don’t do very many custom pieces. And when I do them, I charge a LOT.

And in this post, I’m going to break down WHY.


THE CASE STUDY

The client request: a 99-word poem written on vellum paper and a 2-word quote written on decorative paper. Both would be pieces in a shadowbox she was having made to honor her beloved dog who had recently passed away.

What I quoted: $350 (plus tax)

Why I charged that much: Honestly, I got the sense that there might be a lot of coordination and communication to get this piece exactly the way the client wanted. And a 99-word poem is no piece of cake. Mess up one letter and you have to start ALL over again. But more importantly, I wanted to challenge myself to ask for what I was worth. When I do live calligraphy, I charge $150-200/hr. So why would I settle for WAY less when doing a custom piece?

Still, I felt a little anxious when I sent my pricing to her. I thought she might change her mind and find a more affordable calligrapher. So I was a little shocked when she quickly agreed to the price… because she loved MY calligraphy. And she felt that it was worth it.

How long the project actually took: You know what? We’re TERRIBLE at estimating how long it takes to do something. So I kept track of everything on this project. All the emails, all the unpackaging and set-up and extra communication.

And here’s how long it ended up taking:

  • 20 min - Draft email asking questions about details and quoting an initial price

  • 10 min - Email confirming formatting and materials

  • 10 min - Create, double-check and send invoice

  • 5 min - Email confirming shipping times and address

  • 10 min - Correspond with third party (framing store) to answer question about dimensions  

  • 10 min - Create quick sample to see minimum size needed

  • 15 min - Create quick sample to show calligraphy style

  • 5 min - Email responding to client request for a more “casual” style

  • 5 min - Email verifying layout with client and asking which paper she wants me to use (she sent me 9 different kinds)

  • 5 min - Email sending photo of final to client with options for final paper

  • 20 min - Calculate spacing, layout and sketching

  • 30 min - Do the actual calligraphy

  • 35 min - Do the calligraphy again ‘cause I wasn’t happy with the first draft

  • 15 min - Create small add-on piece that client requested

  • 30 min - Package everything up securely and drop off at UPS

  • 10 min - Emails about how the 2-word piece was cut too small due to a miscommunication

  • 20 min - Decide what to charge to re-do the 2-word piece. Send invoice for an additional $25 set-up fee.

  • 10 min - Communicate with client on new paper to be mailed to me and exact dimensions for the piece

  • 15 min - Re-do piece

  • 20 min - Package and drop off at UPS

FINALLY DONE!

Total estimated time spent: 5 hours

Total charged to client: $375

Amount made per hour: $75/hr

Now, $75/hr sounds like a pretty sweet rate. But, not all of that money goes into my wallet. About 40% of it goes to taxes, business expenses, transaction fees, etc. So even though $375 sounds like a SHITTON of money to charge a client for a custom piece… it’s actually a fairly reasonable rate when all things are considered.

The moral of the story: Really THINK about what goes into your pricing. Time yourself doing an actual calligraphy project - everything from the client communication, to invoice preparation, to the packaging and mailing. Then think about what percentage of that money you’ll actually get to go spend at the grocery store. Even if you worked on projects all day….are your prices bringing in enough for you to live on? Pricing is SCARY AF, but knowing all of this data will give you the strength to charge more… because you’re probably worth more than you’re charging right now.


PANIC-FREE PRICING ONLINE COURSE

If you want more concrete help with pricing, my friend Becca at The Happy Ever Crafter put together a pretty bomb-ass online course and resource guide to help you.

It’s called Panic-Free Pricing and the course helps you calculate what YOU need to make, get over the mental blocks we all have about charging our worth, and determine prices that make you actually ENJOY your work (instead of feeling resentful about it).

It also comes with a 98-page workbook full of ACTUAL MINIMUM PRICES you should be setting for all kinds of lettering jobs - like wedding signs and store windows and logos and envelopes.

I’m a proud affiliate of Becca’s course because I know it can save you mental anguish AND make you more money.

So click on the link to check it out: Panic-Free Pricing


Hope this blog post was helpful! Now get out there and CHARGE WHAT YOU’RE WORTH (plus tax).

Love,

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