re: pricing. again. applied to classes too!

So, yeah, here we are again with pricing.


It’s my fav-or-rite subject, let me tell ya.  Yep.  Favorite.




So, back in May, I did this whole blog post about pricing and ensuring that one is fairly compensated for you own time and effort.  The pricing formula I use for my pieces is also the pricing formula that I use for my classes (with some modification–it depends if all the materials are included or not on the materials list).  The reason that I’m talking about this (yet again) is that I keep seeing other artists that are teaching severely under-price their classes–which is fine if you’re independently wealthy, but most of them are not wealthy and are trying to make ends meet with supplemental teaching.


Let’s back up a second and remind everyone what the initial pricing blog and it’s follow-up-with-time-sheets said, okay?


Now, as any artist knows, pricing one’s work is the most torturous endeavor ever.  Critics, professors, fellow artists, openings, grant writing–all of these things pail in comparison to self-pricing.  And, a lot of it seems to stem from none of use ever being told a formula for pricing.  Anything our art school mentors tells us seems to be vague and unclear.  I think the clearest I had ever heard was something along the lines of “figure how much it cost to make and multiple that by seven” (*potentially a very bad paraphrase).
Mind you, this was not told to me.  It was told to ‘Lainy.
‘Lain’s fair-going parents (they’re Feywood) told her something similar about pricing, but it was more like “figure out materials and time and then tack an extra 50% on it.”  Again, I potentially really misheard this.  ‘Lain, please feel free to chime in with a clarification.
The most consistent–and probably fairest–pricing formula that I have found has been on Etsy by daniellexo with a complimentary article about discomfort in pricing by Tara Gentile of Scoutie Girl on Oh my!  Handmade Goodness, and it comes out to something like this:

Cost Price (Labor + Materials Cost) x 2 = Your Wholesale Price


Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price


So, basically, the price of materials and labor–how much an hour do we make as artists?  I’ve read it’s best to think in terms of $10-15/hr.  I don’t think this is terribly unreasonable since, as artists, we are highly skilled and trained practitioners.–multiplied by two equals your wholesale price, i.e., the price that people would pay if they were buying a large stock of your pieces to sell in their stores.  Multiple the wholesale price by two again and that’s the retail price, or as I like to think about it since I don’t make a whole lot of multiples (yet), the price for an individual, unique piece of art.  There was another pricing formula that I had that said that the formula should look like this:

Cost Price (Labor + Materials Cost) + 10-15% of cost price (to cover utilities used like electricity) x 2 = Your Wholesale Price


Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price

That 10-15% covers any utilities that you used like electricity or water–things that a lot of us take for granted in the art-making process.  I can’t really bring myself to use this second formula yet.  I barely can get myself to use the first formula, and I still end up short changing myself because I’m not used to keeping track of the amount of time or the cost of the supplies used to complete a piece.  I’m getting better, but it’s still really hard.
The problem is that under-valuing your own art doesn’t just hurt you, but it hurts other artists because potential buyers end up with a skewed notion of what art should sell for.  And, really, accessibly art for all:  isn’t that why we all have smaller, less expensive pieces or prints?
The formulas take a long time to get used to, and if you’re anything like me, you’re totally going to experience severe sticker-shock and thing “how can my pieces be worth this much and who in their right mind is going to buy them?”  I’m still thinking like that.
Also, remembering that if you show at a gallery, they take a percentage of your sale to support themselves, so you’ll likely have to accept the loss from your pocketbook or you’re going to have to tack on that percentage to the existing price.  <–I haven’t been able to make myself do this yet.


I’d like to revisit the under-pricing-hurts-other-artists-as-well-as-yourself part of this.


Grace Dobush (2009) writes about pricing as “a terrifically tricky area. When you’re first starting out it’s tempting to charge just what you spent on materials…(c)harging for the time you spent making each item might make your sticker price seem high, but a person who makes things by hand can’t compete with big-box stores’ prices. Most people are so far removed from the manufacturing process that they have no idea of what making something really costs” (emphasis mine; p. 27). Dobush goes on to quote Samantha Lopez of Knotstudio on pricing consistency with “It’s important to keep in mind that, although lowering the prices may attract new customers, established clients may feel that they were ripped off and take their business elsewhere” (as cited in Crafty superstar, 2009, p. 29).


Which all leads to how de-valueing your own work causes problems for other producers.


What it boils down to is exactly what Dobush says: under-pricing (or over-pricing) skews people’s perceptions of what it costs to actually make something by hand. If, for the purposes of this example, two crafters made the exact same blank journal–same paper, same binding, same adhesive–and one charges what it cost her/him in materials alone and one charges what it cost in time, materials, utilities (cause you totally have to wash out those glue-y brushes when you’re done) plus a bit so that s/he was actually making a marginal profit on the deal rather than (maybe) breaking even, whose book is going to bought? And, really, is that fair?


Yes, yes, yes–I know. Capitalism. *thppppppppppt* Whatever.


Fair and consistent pricing by all independent producers so that everyone can win out in the end.


This also applies to class pricing. I know a couple of very talented artists that are teaching children’s classes for not-for-profits at ridiculously low rates (like a 4 hour class–materials included!–for $30, maybe $50 dollars). Unless the classes have 30 kids in them, these talented artists/teachers are barely recouping the costs of class time.


Forget about materials. Forget about their prep time.


The worst thing is, since they’ve set these prices now, they’re never going to be able to really raise them. Parents will continue to expect these classes cheaply because, in a lot of their minds, it’s just babysitting.


I think babysitters actually make more per child than teachers do anyway. *throws in towel and become a babysitter*


Part of the reason that this is coming to light again is that I’m supposedly teaching an Artist Book class on November 11th and 12th, and some people (not people that have signed up for the class, but other people who have not let me finish telling them what we’re going to do in the class) have been making an ado about the $150 price tag of this class, which is a 2 day workshop lasting 12 hours in total materials included.


Now, here’s a break down of the materials that I have to come up with for each students:


  • PVA
  • x-act knife
  • x-acto blades
  • awl
  • bonefolder
  • needles
  • brushes
  • book clothe
  • book board
  • linen tape
  • utility knife
  • utility blades
  • binder clips
  • clothes pins
  • sandpaper
  • wax
  • thread
  • paper
  • cutting mats


Assuming that I dip into the materials ‘Lain and I already have and I make people share, that’s still close to $50 of materials per student. That doesn’t take into consideration the handouts I need to print (which are many), my prep time (which is already at three hours and counting), or my time in class.


Also? I’m going to be teaching them to make 5 forms of insta-books, concertina books, 4 kinds of Japanese stab-binding books, pamphlets, codexes, tunnel books, do-si-do books, folded structures, and “catepillars” as well as piercing cradles.


So, yeah, $150 is really, really inexpensive for a class. Has anyone looked at what classes cost at the local technical colleges?


Okay, I’m done being the whiniest whiner of whining-ness. But, I do think that accurate(-ish) pricing bears consideration.


On everyone’s parts. Producer or consumer.


This concludes the cranky!artist portion of y’all’s day.




  1. I think you’re spot on with this. Hell, I figured I was over-pricing my circuit bending class, but it was right about where that sort of one-day thing was going for and none of the participants complained about the price, all of them thought it was a fair amount, and they all walked away happy with their learning and toys and eager to learn more advanced things at a later date.

    I think setting the price of a class low because you’re a newer instructor also tells people that you’re new and inexperienced and might not sign up for the class because they think that they won’t get a good experience out of it. Setting the price at the fair amount with everyone else’s tells the potential student that your class is just as good as everyone else’s in addition to making sure everyone gets paid fairly.

    Can’t let the detractors get you down.


    1. You are exactly right. Low pricing just because you’re new–which, none of us are “new;” just new-to-the-area–sends the wrong message about any class you’re teaching.

      In addition to the whole shooting-yourself-in-the-foot-for-forever.


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