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Artists: Should You Charge By The Hour?

Artists working

In a word, no! Art is a different skill to most paid trades, and it doesn't really work like that. I'll explain why.

When you are just beginning, your art is likely to take longer and you'll be charging less for it. As you gain experience, your art will likely take less time to create, yet you can charge more for it. We have to put in the hard yards as artists to start with, but it ultimately pays off!

While it is good to have a rough idea of how long an artwork takes to produce, if you work out your price divided by your hourly rate, it is likely to be slightly depressing at first. I used to paint with tiny brushes, and would take weeks to finish a painting. My prices had to be low to begin with, but my few sales enabled me to create more art, get better, and develop new and faster painting techniques.

I can now paint fast and focused, and charge three or four times as much for a painting . But it has taken me twenty years to be able to do that, and at least five years to develop this particular technique. I can make a good living from my art now though, so it has absolutely been worth the time.

There is a well-known story about Picasso, who over the course of thirty years, learnt to paint and draw with record speed, and sell his work at increasingly high prices. When customers queried his prices for something they watched him create relatively fast, he reminded them it had taken him thirty years to reach that level of skill.

So while it is important to know the time it took to produce, the cost of materials etc. when it comes to pricing, earning an hourly rate as an artist isn't something that really applies, unless you are a graphic designer or illustrator perhaps. It needs to be worth your while, but keep practicing and developing your craft until you have the skills to charge what you like.




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