Calligraphy Pricing Pep Talk

Alright babe, it’s time to get down to business here and talk about one of the most anxiety-inducing topics in the girl-boss universe: Pricing. Pricing can be a mysterious grey area for a lot of people, but thankfully, calligraphers and artists all over are becoming more and more open about pricing. Being transparent about what you charge helps to create an industry standard, which then elevates the community, and allows us all to be compensated fairly. Hence why I’ve published my base pricing & rates, which you can check out here. I used to keep my prices under wraps only because custom projects vary in price so much, I didn’t want to give clients an expectation that, for example, ALL place cards will cost $2.00 each (since there are now so many different types of place cards - paper, marble, agate, etc, and the processes are all so different). However, for all the ranting I do about pricing, it felt like time to be transparent and provide a resource for my fellow calligraphy ladybosses out there.

There is a lot of confusion out there about how to price your work, and unfortunately often a lot of pricing variation from one calligrapher to the next. That is a result of conflicting information, as well as the simple fact that for whatever reason, we tend to feel badly charging “too much”. The issue there is the word “feel” - it leads to what is known as Emotional Pricing. The only way to pay yourself fairly is to completely remove the emotional part of it. This requires a shift in mindset, and removing yourself from the equation. When I first started out and had no money, I would think about what I could afford, and feel bad charging anything more than that. Well, not everyone is in the position that I was (burning through their savings because they just prematurely quit their not-particularly-well-paying-anyways graphic design job to pursue the fairly instable world of freelance) - some people are lawyers, or marketing professionals, or chefs, or whatever, and what they can afford is very different from what I could have at the time. Calligraphy has definitely become more mainstream in recent years, but it is still a luxury service. I hate saying this because it might sound mean, but there will be some budgets that calligraphy just doesn’t fit into, and that isn’t your fault. (But it is a great reason to start teaching calligraphy, because maybe you will have people who don’t want to alot $500-1000 of their wedding budget to calligraphy, but are willing to attend a $100 workshop so they can DIY it!).

You will come across people who don’t understand what you do and why it costs what it costs. It’ll be hard not to compromise in the beginning when you don’t feel like you should be turning down work, but the thing is that as long as creatives agree to work for cheaper rates, the cycle of artists being underpaid and undervalued will just continue. It’s kind of like a responsibility we all have to each other not to compromise, and to understand and stand by our worth. For every person who wants you to work for free (you can’t pay your bills with “exposure”!) or ludicrously cheap, there will be someone else who totally appreciates your work and is more than willing to compensate you fairly.

I could honestly go on about this topic until the end of time, but nobody wants to read a 300 page blog post. So instead, here are my main tips for pricing your work with confidence:

  1. Practice until you would hire yourself

    One thing I do regret from when I first started booking calligraphy gigs, is that I probably should have waited a little longer until I was at a higher skill level. Not only would I have avoided a few mishaps (that turned into excellent learning experiences, at least) I would probably have felt a lot more confident charging appropriate prices. I wasn’t charging enough for a long time, and part of that was not knowing better, but also not feeling like I had a right to charge more. In order to prevent that pesky old impostor syndrome from creeping up on you and preventing you from charging high enough prices - ask yourself, would you hire you you? Or better yet, would you hire you to do the calligraphy for your best friend’s wedding? We tend to want the absolute best for the people closest to us, so if you don’t think your skills are good enough for your bestie, it might be best to keep working at them until you feel completely confident in your abilities.

  2. Do your research

    Like in any industry, standard prices and salaries will vary based on the area you live in. An important part of determining your prices should be doing local research and finding out what the going rates are where you’re located. (Bonus points if you become friends with the other calligraphers in your city and form a badass girl gang). You want to be on par with other local calligraphers, even if they are more experienced than you. I think I speak for all established calligraphers when I say that I would rather lose a job to someone because the client prefers their style to mine, than because their price is lower.

  3. Put together a Pricing Structure

    You may have heard me talk about this before, but I am a huge proponent of having a pricing structure instead of using an hourly rate for everything. I feel strongly that charging by the hour should be reserved for very select circumstances. In my opinion and experience, it is much better to have set base prices for all of the services you offer, and develop a kind of sliding scale to accommodate custom requests. So for example, for seating charts: I charge a base design fee, and then a rate per name, a rate per table number, as well as travel and materials fees if applicable. I would say most seating charts take me between 5-6 hours, but depending on the circumstances they can take me less, or more. If they take me less time, then I penalize myself by charging by the hour. If they take me more time, I penalize the client by charging by the hour. So, I completely eliminate that issue by using a tried and true pricing structure. (I go into a lot more detail about this in my Business Babe Course!)

  4. Keep Score

    As you start to send out your quotes and book clients, you should always keep track of how many inquiries you get compared to how many people actually book or not. Sometimes people don’t book for other reasons, but price is usually the culprit for a booking slipping through the cracks. By keeping track of this ratio, you can get a sense for if your pricing structure is appropriate - as a general rule of thumb, if 10 out of 10 people are booking you, your prices are too low. If only 5 out of 10 people are booking you, your prices may be a little too high.


Need a little more guidance?

The Calligraphy Business Bible is the resource that I wish I had when I first started my calligraphy business! In the course, I tell you how I got started, how to carve out a niche and build your clientele, and all about pricing, workflow and policies.


Recommended Reading: Graphic Artist Guild Handbook & The Calligrapher’s Business Handbook

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The Someday Art Babe Challenge! A Calligraphy Practice Challenge

Okay so, I know I started this whole Someday Art Club thing, got everyone all excited and then DISAPPEARED from the face of the earth. The Wedding Season rush of August and September pretty much consumed my life - but now that it’s almost October and I have some pumpkin-spice flavoured caffeine coursing through my veins, it’s time to get back on track!

So, in order to do that, I am launching an Instagram Lettering Challenge! Partially inspired by #Inktober, and partially inspired by my old calligraphy practice sheets that I came across while packing for my recent move - I came up with the Art Babe Challenge, aka The Someday ABC’s - a weekly lettering practice challenge meant for both beginners & experienced artists alike!

I’M EXCITED. I hope you are too.

 Calligraphy Practice; November 2015

Calligraphy Practice; November 2015

 Calligraphy Practice; September 2018

Calligraphy Practice; September 2018

A little back-story for you: When I first learned calligraphy, my teacher (the wonderful and amazing Joy Deneen) would have us do this great exercise to practice words. You pick a Category (So for example - Cities) and you fill an entire page with an alphabetical list of cities, with one for every letter of the alphabet (So like - Athens, Barcelona, Chicago, and so on). Despite my earlier mention of pumpskin spice, I’m not exactly the most basic person, so I would get REALLY specific when doing my Alphabets…. As you can see by the alphabetical list of Lana Del Rey song titles (at one point I even did Quentin Tarantino movie characters). As much as practicing things like days of the week, colours, and individual letters, is fun and very useful - there’s something about getting weirdly specific about things you’re SUPER into that makes practice just that much more enjoyable (which means you’re that much more likely to actually do it!). Not only is practicing words that make you happy a fabulous self-care exercise, it allows you to truly enjoy taking the time to practice your craft & develop your own unique style.

Since I’ve been so crazy busy working on seating charts & other wedding signage since May, there are two things I’ve been MAJORLY missing in my life - actually practicing calligraphy, and doing calligraphy for FUN. This challenge is going to force me (and hopefully you) to do BOTH. 

SO, here’s how it works:

1. Sign up here:

2. Check your email! I will send out a new Alphabet Category every week, for 4 weeks, starting on October 3rd*. Your challenge is to use that prompt to practice your calligraphy/lettering by writing a word for every letter of the alphabet. So for example - one week, I might tell you to pick a favourite musician, and letter their song titles in Alphabetical order. You would end up with something like this:

ABCImage5.jpg

You can use any medium and tool you want! Nib and Ink, Brush Pen, Paintbrush, Pen, iPad/Apple Pencil - whatever you’re most comfortable with!

3. Share your work on Instagram! Use the hashtag #SomedayABC and TAG me in it so I can see your work! (I will be reposting my favourite pieces in my stories!) This is a great way to hold yourself accountable for your practice AND see who else is into the same oddly specific things that you’re into! (Like, you know, semi-obscure movie references)

*

via GIPHY

4. That’s pretty much it! Enjoy the process, see your work improve and help encourage others along the way by engaging with their work! Also, hang on to the Alphabet practice pages that you do during these 4 weeks, and try doing them again a few months from now to see how your skills improve and how your style evolves! My teacher encouraged us to keep all of our practice sheets, and I’m so glad that I did since it allows me to look back at how far I’ve come and feel good about the difference that practice and experience has made.

I’ll be sending out 4 different prompts, which will be a surprise until the day they go out, so get excited! Also…I’m not saying there are going to be giveaways and freebies, but I’m not NOT saying that, either ;) So pull up a chair and your favourite autumnal beverage, and let’s get after it!

XO

Jodi

 From Left to Right - Lana Del Rey Song Title Alphabet done in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018

From Left to Right - Lana Del Rey Song Title Alphabet done in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018

The Someday Art Club

I decided to combine two of my favourite things - wine and watercolour - and teach beginner watercolour classes featuring free flowing wine and of course, lots of snacks. I started by explaining that I wanted to teach my students technique, but that I wanted them to feel free to use their “artistic license” - to paint according to their own taste and not force something that doesn’t feel right. I noticed quickly that even though I was showing them all the exact same basic exercises, everyone’s work looked different. Some of them had never picked up a paintbrush before and yet they already had an inherent style that was immediately noticeable. I felt exhilarated, seeing them take the things I had taught them and translate it into their own unique artwork.

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Too Long to be an Instagram Caption!

I did the original “Good things come to those who don’t wait” drawing back in October 2010, in my dark, damp basement apartment that I shared with two roommates (it was my first apartment ever and man, was it ever gross). I was re-watching Six Feet Under on DVD for the millionth time - we didn’t have cable and I hadn’t discovered Netflix yet - so I was in a very “I could get hit by a bus or lightning and die at any moment” mindset. And this drawing is just what came out.

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