More often than not, we are approached by potential clients wanting to know prices for work that we do. That’s completely normal. A business offers a service, service comes with a price.

UNFORTUNATELY, when it comes to visual art, visual design… the ability to standardize against a fleeting, almost ethereal idea seems impossible. How do you charge for making an idea come to life?

Should you decide to use a design firm to do something simple, like an annual report or a flyer. You’re not basing price on art, you are basing it on information layout and timeline (deadline to print).  The layout and imagery really doesn’t matter as much as the content and messaging. So you’re basically paying for someone to hand your information back to you in a new format.

An art project’s process has an endless loop built in. Shown in the figure below(Fig.1), the artist creates the piece and sends it to the client for review. When notes are returned from the client’s review, the artist makes the changes and then sends it back to review. This iteration is repetitive on purpose. This ensures the client gets what they are requesting. WHAT THEY ARE REQUESTING. Not “what they are paying for”.

FIGURE 1

If this is the case, then what is with the pricing? Why price out a service whose process is so dynamic, there is honestly no proper way to charge?

This endless loop is a weak point in any project. A constant back and forth is required to not only live up to expectations, but possibly arrive to something outstanding. For visual media, this process can be exhausting.

So how can we standardize pricing when a process can have endless iterations and the potential to tie up a project and all involved?

The nasty truth is… that we can’t. When you see a pricing list of any design firm, you are seeing a sincere, but in the end, untrue price. The only thing that comes close to figuring out how to price for these services is the Cheap/Fast/Good meme that we all know so well(Fig.2).

Figure 2

Why is it that one company charges $150 for a flyer, another charges $25 an hour for a flyer, and another company charges $25 for a flyer? Assuming that they are just creating the assets and not printing the final product, what constitutes such a fluctuation for something simple?

Is it style? Name? Quality? Nope. All arbitrary numbers.

Here’s my supposition using artists in an example:

IF… Leonardo DaVinci and Jackson Pollack came back to life and started creating more artwork, whose artwork do you think would sell for more money? I’ll give you a second to think that over.

DaVinci

Pollack

So, how did you arrive at your answer? Was it based on your likes/dislikes? The fact that one is from an older era? The subject matter of each artist?

No matter what your answer was, if you asked a group of 100 artists, there wouldn’t be a unanimous answer. Some would pick DaVinci, some Pollack.

This difference is the SAME difference that dictates pricing at an individual/company level. She charges $600 for a 30-second video, they charge $300. He charges $60 an hour for coding, the other he charges $25. The higher price could be better, the higher price could be crap.

Whenever someone says, “you get what you pay for, always go for the higher price,” is that correct? Are Yeezys better than Doc Martens?

In conclusion, I am way too lazy to even start thinking about putting pricing on the services we offer. There’s just no way to put a price on artistic services.

You’re still reading? Wow. Thanks!

 

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