March 11, 2017, Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts, Concord, MA

Cindy pointed out that her perspective is not that of a pricing professional, but reflects her experiences as a professional mosaic artist.

Mosaic making is a very hard way to earn a living. It can be useful to write a business plan for your business, but you need to be very proactive about marketing yourself and getting work. And since mosaics are so labor intensive, you cannot expect to make the same hourly rate as a painter might, for example.

There are many things to consider when pricing your mosaic art.

The time it takes you to make a square foot of mosaic

Log ALL your time from sketch to completion, including time with client, purchasing materials, etc.

Direct cost of materials per square foot: substrate, material, adhesive, grout, sticky paper, use of tools, etc.

Your goal is to pass on your costs for the project.

Ask your accountant if you have questions about how to account for some of the costs if you aren’t sure.

Shipping costs should be kept separate and charged separately. Make sure you tell the client that this will be a separate and additional cost. (If you make shipping containers, you should not be charging your artist fee for that).

What you want/need to earn per hour to cover your direct and indirect costs

Indirect costs include:

Not all your hours as a small business owner are billable.

You can charge more than usual cost per hour to account for some of these costs. Include:

Health insurance, disability, life insurance

Company match on 401k

Mileage reimbursement

Cost of paid continuing education, training, conferences

Coffee, snacks, and periodic lunches

Regular raises and bonuses

Vacation, sick days, holiday pay

Business expenses of home office

Cost of transporting materials (not shipping, though), restocking

What do you want to earn per hour? You should think about:

Your expertise (eg., you are expected to make a mosaic that won’t fall apart)

Years of experience

Cost of learning from/eating your mistakes

Knowledge of what price the market will bear

Subjective, depends on location, demographics, size of selling environment, etc.

Making money on low-end items is difficult

You could do the reverse and think FIRST about how much the market will bear and then design/create your work around those limitations.

Additional things to consider in pricing:

Learn what market prices are for the types of work you do.

Sonia King’s general price (a few years ago) was $300/hour installed for public installations. Public installations usually support a much higher cost/hour than projects for individuals. (This is similar logic to the price an illustrator charges a publisher for artwork that goes in book with a large print run vs. a piece that is sold to an individual.)

Galleries: 50:50 is standard ratio of distribution of money received on artwork. This means you have to price your work at double the price you already established (which, because it’s a mosaic, is high by comparison with painting, etc.) Make sure to double your materials costs as well. Thus it’s hard to put mosaics in galleries and have them be affordable.

Remember that you should charge as close as you possibly CAN to the real price. If you undercharge, it hurts the art community at large because good artists who price based on real costs won’t be able to sell by comparison with what you charge.

Establish a first payment in case you don’t complete the job. (eg., the whole cost will be $3000, and the initial payment will be $300, which includes certain deliverables).

Really important to tell your customers what goes into your pricing so they understand, before you even get to the selling price.

Try to be flexible about what you do (e.g., fill only part of the allotted space to save the client some money; use paint for the background, etc).

You can also sell prints of your mosaics, etc., if you want to sell something at a lower cost. Can be helpful if you are trying to make a living. Of course a print sacrifices lose some of what makes mosaics special (e.g., 3D, light reflection).

Advice from the audience: Create a contract that spells out what you will do, as specifically as possible, and what’s included. Anything outside that is out of scope and requires renegotiation.

Pricing form from state of New Hampshire Liquor Authority (See Appendix A or link to original online:

Pricing formulas:

Formula 1: Square feet x dollars (per sq foot)

Formula 2: (hourly wage x hours spent) + cost of materials