Charging Your Worth
Dianne de Las Casas
For many artists, setting and negotiating fees is akin to getting a root canal. The mere thought of it can make you wince.
Charging Your Weight in Gold
Business schools teach a standard formula for determining an hourly rate. Add together your labor and overhead plus the profit you want to earn (usually 10-20%), then divide the total by the number of hours worked. Artists have many “soft” labor costs they don’t usually count – research, rehearsal, travel time, etc. Besides performing, writing, or producing art, think of all the things you do in a typical day that relate to your business – packaging and shipping orders, mailing confirmations, sending out marketing materials, etc. What would you pay someone else to handle these jobs?
Assuming you work out of your home office, overhead includes all of the costs you incur to do business, including:
• Telephone expenses
• Internet charges
• Cell phone expenses
• Office equipment and supplies (computer, fax machine, copier, etc.)
• Office supplies
• Postage and delivery costs
• Business insurance
• Travel expenses (not covered by your clients)
• Professional association memberships
• Advertising and marketing costs
• Business-related meals and entertainment
• Legal and accounting fees
Also included in your overhead are:
• Medical benefits
• Disability insurance
• Life insurance
• Retirement benefits
• Income taxes
• Self-employment taxes
Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just step on the scale and charge your weight in gold? If that were the case, I’d be rich!
Dollars and Sense
Let’s illustrate. Say you are making $50,000 a year and your overhead is $20,000. Your income is $30,000 per year. Divide that figure by 2,000 work hours (50 weeks X 40 hours). That would mean you are making $15/hour. Let’s say you perform 200 shows per year. That would break down to $150 per show.
Let’s look at how “Mary” might structure her fees. Mary wants to make $50,000 as a storyteller. Her estimated overhead is $20,000. Salary and overhead are added together to equal $70,000. Mary is aggressive and wants to earn a 15% profit. That figures equals $10,500. The profit margin of $10,500 is added to $70,000 to total $80,500. Mary decides that she wants to perform 175 shows per year. Mary should charge $460 base price per show (not including travel expenses).
Research the current marketplace. You may need to increase or decrease your fees depending on what the market will bear. Keep in mind that the above figures do not take into account residual income such as product and merchandise sales. An artist can significantly boost his/her salary with supplemental income through merchandise sales.
Say No to the Starving Artist Mentality
You don’t have to starve to create good art. It is okay to make a good living as an artist. Your accountant, attorney, doctor and dentist all expect to be paid fairly for their services. So should you. Charge your worth – you deserve it.