A lot of people look at the cost of a product without considering every single variable that goes into it. Too often, artists under value their work. Below is a detailed guideline for pricing your next project.
For the purpose of this article we're going to do a mock sale. Patty Mae is interested in getting a custom hand gun made for her D.Va cosplay that's con safe. As we go through this article, we will determine what we should charge her.
Cost of Materials
The first thing to consider is the cost of your materials. No matter what you do, you don't want to be spending money on the project rather than profiting. Look at every minute product you might need for this project, whether you have it available in your shop or you'll need to order it/run to the store.
If you have the material readily available, will you be using it all? What percentage of the product will this project take? Take the percentage of the original cost and add it to your total.
If you need to go to the store or order the product, will you be able to use any left over material on your own projects? If not, you can bill the whole product to the client.
So for Patty Mae's D.Va gun, I have EVA foam, contact cement, wood glue, and a few acrylic paints. But I'm missing the proper pink so I'll have to run out and get it.
Our cost of material is fairly cheap, running us $21.
A huge oversight by creators is the tools they use. They think because they use it, and already purchased it for their own projects, that they don't need to consider this a factor. Of course this is up to your own discretion, but before you brush this section off, consider all the tools you use for a single project.
How many sharp blades do you go through to cut out the foam? How much wear and tear goes into handling the dremel and sanding down edges? What about PPE (personal protective equipment)? You're sanding down fine foam dust. A respirator and safety glasses are required. If you already have these in your shop, do you need new filters for your respirator? Think of your various brushes you use from priming to painting - those bristles can only last so long, no matter the quality.
Thoroughly consider your project, and mentally walk through the steps to completion. You may be surprised how many tools you use and how much time you spend using them. This all adds up to wear and tear on your tools that may eventually need replacing.
For Patty Mae's gun, we're going to charge $9 for tool overhead.
The biggest consideration for your project will be the time it takes you to build. Give yourself a base hourly wage for your work. We'll then look at some variables that may change this rate.
For the D.Va gun, I'm giving myself a $10/hr wage.
The first variable to consider is - have you made this prop before? If your answer is no, consider if you've made a similar prop (for example, working with EVA foam for a small prop with sanded and detailed edges using a dremel, etc) If you're comfortable in your skills you can keep it the same, if you think you might take longer working through new skills, perhaps drop your wage a few dollars.
I'm going to drop my wage since I've worked with EVA but I'm not really confident in my sanding skills yet. New wage: $8/hr.
Now you'll want to figure out how long this prop will take you to build. I recommend using Cosplanner to track ALL of your projects. It gives you a great idea how long it takes you per project, or prop, or armor piece. You can look at the average times for similar pieces and determine a time based on that.
If you've never used Cosplanner, or kept track of your time and you're jumping into your first commission, we can break down your time in rough chunks.
Phew! That's a lot of work!! Based on past experience, and the work I'll put into this prop, I'm going to estimate 15 hours for this prop, charging $120 for labor.
Now there may be different variables from project to project that may change your cost. Now this is where you consider your client more than the actual project. Let's look at our options.
Does your client need it next weekend for a con in another country? Rush fee!! Charge what you need to ensure that project gets done asap. BUT!! DO NOT sacrifice your quality for this step. If you paint over layers that aren't quite dry, you're going to have a really bad, cracking prop that you probably don't want to send to your client, let alone have your name attached to. If it's TOO rushed, you can say no.
Is your client kind of a big deal? If your product has the potential to be advertised for free by your client because they have a big following, or high end friends, or whatevert the reason, feel free to discount your rate a bit to account for the free advertising!
While negotiating, has your client been overly annoying or rude and you just dread the idea of working with them through the project? If the answer here is yes, jack your price right up. This might deter the client from working with you, and if they still choose to pay, at least you're getting compensated for the extra complaining.
This only applies if you really don't want to work with the client, but kinda maybe still wanna do the project. If you just don't want to do the project at all, just tell them you're not able to and you can either refer them to another creator you respect, or suggest a few other options to wrap up your conversation while remaining professional.
Another variable to consider is a possible up-sell! In the example of D.Va's gun, you could offer to build the headphones as a bundle to ensure matching colors, materials, and details. The idea of continuity in the costume might persuade them.
Lastly, you have the option to reduce the price of the build if you're really excited to build the project. Excitement makes it more fun than work, and it could be an enjoyable experience.
All variables considered, my client is in a minor rush; needing the project in one month, she has a medium level following, she's generally pleasant to work with, she declined the up-sell, and this is a standard job for me. So I'll charge her an extra $40 to rearrange my current schedule and be able to finish her gun in a timely fashion while maintaining quality.
It's time for a grand total! You've considered everything you're putting in to the project so it's time to add it up. If you're working with international clients, it's best to specify the currency of your cost to avoid confusion.
Tool Overhead: $9
Labor Time: $120
Variable Costs: $40
Total: $190CAD + shipping
Shipping costs should be covered by your client. You can either charge it as a stand alone fee, or group it in with cost of material or variable costs. Don't forget the cost of packaging your project with bubble wrap, the box, tape, and postage!
You should also have a shipping deadline set prior to starting as well. If your client wants the cheapest shipping, that could take ten days off your crafting time to ensure it gets to them in time.
Hopefully now you have a clear understanding of how to value your work and to price your next commission! Happy Crafting.