Pricing & A Look Back at What I've Learned

I did my first wedding invitation over 5 years ago. And while at the time they weren't bad given my experience, they are NOTHING compared to the invitations you see today.

This photo (to the right). This was the first full wedding suite I ever did. Here's what you don't see: I used weird clip arts that I had to filter way too many times to get the perfect shade of purple; I broke all of the wedding etiquette rules in the verbiage; these were printed with Vistaprint (cringe!) and we had to cut them down to fit the pocket envelopes she wanted because Vistaprint does weird sizes; the bride ordered the pocket envelopes and belly bands herself because I didn't know where to get them; and I charged basically nothing for this, and worked by butt off because I didn't have any rules as to how many changes a bride could have. 

The larger the creative community grows (which is amazing!) the more I've seen of a particular trend. A lot of people are asking, both me personally and in larger groups that I'm in, for information on how to price things. How do you come up with your package pricing or gauge what to charge a client?

To be honest, I don't typically share my pricing information (and I'm still not...entirely). It's not because I don't want to, but quite honestly it is a trade secret for me. It's how I run my business. I went through A LOT of trial and error...I'm talking 5+ years of educating myself to get to a system that works great for me.

I learned so much during that time so that I know not only how to price things but just as importantly why I price them like that. So that when a client asks what's included or why it's priced that way, I can, with complete confidence, explain myself. I've botched invitation suites, I've under-priced myself, I've made typos and mistakes, and used bad printers. But, I wouldn't trade those learning experiences for anything. And by handing over my exact pricing to you, I would be taking those learning experiences away from you. Those experiences that make us who we are as boss ladies (or gents!). So much of who we are as business people comes from the strength we get from making mistakes and failing. 

However, I do want to help. This is a little equation that I wish I had when I first started that could have helped me a lot when it came to pricing myself, both in branding/graphic design and wedding invitations.

Cost of Goods  +  Time You Spend  = Price

Cost of Goods  |  Cost of goods should be any money you spend on the item: paper & supplies, printing (cost of using your own printer and ink vs sending it to a printer), shipping, files, etc. So for wedding invitations, typically you purchase the paper and envelopes, have them shipped to you, assemble, and then have to ship them to the bride. For branding, this may include font or graphic files. It also includes a client gift, if that's something you include in your packaging.

Above all, you want to make sure you aren't losing money on a project. And by losing money, I mean that at an absolute minimum, don't charge less than what you spend on a project.

Time You Spend  |  Before anything else, my suggestion would be to estimate your wage per hour. Now I don't mean go forth and claim your time is worth $1 million per hour (we all wish though!). I mean, realistically factor in where you are in your business, what experience you have, and what training you have. Then be honest and ask yourself 'what is an hour of my time worth?' This is a question I can't answer for you, only you can. If you really need to, research on career/job sites and see what similar jobs are charging by the hour and start there.

Once you have your hourly rate, you then need to calculate how much time you spend on a project. When calculating that time, factor in everything: correspondence, phone calls, meeting time, design time, driving time, assembly, etc. I'll admit, I used to be terrible at calculating how long it would take me to do a project. But I've gotten a lot better and even use time trackers now. So don't be discouraged if the first few projects you do are totally off base. Just learn as you go and be flexible. 

Examples  |  So let's say you get a job for wedding invitations. You have to design the suite, purchase paper, envelopes, ink, etc., have it all shipped to you, complete the suite, and then ship it to your bride. (For sake of ease, I'm just going to use very basic, non realistic numbers here). Your cost of the goods is $100. You have an hourly rate of $50. You spent 4 hours designing, printing, assembling, and driving the suite to the post office to ship it out. So here's a basic pricing equation:

$100 in Goods  +  (4 hours x $50/hour) = $300 to the client

This is just a basic starting point. Everyone's pricing is different. The way I price things (and even this equation) is probably different from a lot of my amazing stationery friends. As you grow as a business, so should your pricing and your experience. There may be other things to include or another way that makes more sense, but the most important piece is that it works for YOU.

You didn't start your business to be like everyone else!

At least I didn't....:)