Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting Closer to Being Paid What We're "Worth"

About a month ago Paul and I changed our rates as a result of the economy-- we raised them by 50%! But we also went back to offering a sliding scale that went down to half our previous rate at the bottom end. Well, today I realized that was a great idea.

Since there’s not a lot of people lining up for metaphysical spiritual counseling and healing services here in the Great Recession Mormon desert you would think the opposite would be true and a few weeks ago I would have thought so, too. Our first two takers on these new rates paid us at the bottom. Okay, not great, but at least we had a couple of sessions with some new people. Then a semi-regular client paid us at below our previous rate. She most likely would have paid our old rate for that session if the scale didn’t exist but we just took a deep breath and sucked it in. Then last week a brand new client who had never had a session with us paid our top rate and if she hesitated we don’t know because she paid that new higher rate in advance...so there really are people out there who still have jobs and are not worried so much about money! What do you know?!

Odd thing is I had to confront my working class fears about that right away. I was unusually nervous about that session and Paul gave me some listening time before we worked with her about it. I was concerned she might expect too much at this higher rate. Well, I have no idea what she was expecting but she got her money’s worth! It was a great session! I left it thinking she got a bargain.

None of these sessions came from the local area. We haven’t gotten one of those yet and half our business in Santa Cruz used to be conducted in person so, despite those new client calls, we’re still facing the challenges of how to get ourselves to a location where our work will be utilized and accepted. But I’m glad Paul and I are turning this corner together. Having a large number of clients who are wealthier than we’ve ever been (as well as being able to support people lower on the payscale) really wouldn’t be bad at all.

On a related note in regards to art: the Cafepress wake-up call has alerted Paul and me to other ways we’ve been selling ourselves short financially in our lives. When we set our mark-up rate we never set it as high as we’ve found out many other artists charge. We kept thinking in terms of what we would pay for a t-shirt, never realizing that I have never paid for an artist designed “limited edition” t-shirt in my life! I realize POD is not exactly the same as what limited edition is meant to be. Theoretically, if your work is well-known enough (Peanuts, Dilbert) you could sell hundreds of a single design in an afternoon! If you sell slogans and funny sayings related to hot current events you could do pretty well, too. But if you’re like most fine artists, it doesn’t matter how great your work is, the demand for works of art on t-shirts just isn’t very big! It’s a niche in a niche and, generally speaking, that niche values the idea of wearing something that’s unique. Special limited editions go for much higher prices!

When my mom, who was an artist, originally heard we were going to sell our work on t-shirts and other products she said “I hope you plan to charge enough! You should get $50 a shirt!” I didn’t believe her—I thought she was out of touch and discounted it. Yesterday a new friend of ours in Snowflake mentioned the same thing. A trendy designer selling cynical negative sayings with stick figure art is getting $40-50 per t-shirt in Flagstaff and she sees people wearing them there all the time!

I'm raising my prices on some of my fine art products online, not too much right now, halfway between what they have been and the prices we’re talking about here. And I’m planning to look into what artists get paid for licensing their work in the real world—standard upfront fees with royalties on sales after that. When you get paid upfront by a company who believes in your work enough to choose it as part of a limited line THEN it might be acceptable to get 10% in royalties after that, but not before then.

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