Should an Artist Charge More Than a Plumber?

Should an Artist Charge More Than a Plumber?

Could a Plumber do this?

Could a Plumber do this?

Artists, are you charging more than your plumber does?  I think you should.

We live in a historical home, built in 1926.  They didn’t have good plumbing back then….so we spend a lot on plumbers.  Typically, our plumber charges about $200.00 an hour, PLUS parts.  (Southern California’s not cheap!)

When I price out a small commissioned painting, (particularly surfboard paintings) many times Drew will question my quote, saying, “oh, that’s too much.  Charge less.  It’ll only take me about 2 hours…..”  And I argue, “But I don’t want our plumber making more than you do!”  Here’s my thinking, in two parts:

1.)  A 2 hour painting takes more than 2 hours.  You spend at least an hour talking to the client, discussing the painting.  Then you spend time researching, then drawing the sketches.  Then you scan & e-mail sketches, then, after the client gives their changes, you re-sketch.  Then add 30 minutes to go to get the supplies, if necessary, and another 60 minutes to prep the item you’re painting.  So now your small, 2 hour painting actually took over 5 hours.

2:)  When it comes to art, people aren’t paying for LABOR, they are paying for UNIQUE TALENT and all the YEARS it took you to learn your techniques, build up your name, develop your skills and talent.

Unlike plumbers, who are a dime a dozen (just look in a local phone book – there are at least 50 listed in your town), there is only ONE DREW BROPHY (or only one ___________you fill in the artist’s name here).

The next time you go to price a commission, or a project, ask yourself if you are really, truly charging a fair price for yourself.  Take into consideration ALL the time you put into it, including the time discussing it with the client, your research time, prep time, etc.  If you aren’t sure, start keeping track of your time.  Keep a sheet handy and write it down.  You may be surprised to see just how much more time you are spending on a project than you realized.

For general pricing on commercial art, check out the BIBLE for pricing guidelines for artists, graphic artists, photographers: THE GRAPHIC ARTISTS GUILD HANDBOOK:  PRICING AND ETHICAL GUIDELINES.  

spunk-head-shotI want you to be profitable!  Make sure you are charging enough!

xxoo Spunk Brophy

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  • Amber McMann
    Posted at 07:17h, 18 October

    I think the answer to that question is a Yes! Because for me, an artist has more complicated work compare to plumber. A plumber knows what to do when it comes to their work, but an artist think everything before they start their drawings. Beautiful post!

  • Author Laura Lee
    Posted at 08:20h, 11 October

    […] The Paint Shop: Should an Artist Charge More than a Plumber […]

  • Maria Brophy
    Posted at 07:52h, 26 October

    Actually, you can teach a chimpanzee how to be a plumber! They can learn to do just about anything, except maybe rocket science. As for elephants – they don’t have fingers so they couldn’t fix your drain. But what’s that got to do with anything?!

  • Sandra
    Posted at 17:52h, 21 October

    Chimpanzees and elephants have produced paintings.
    None have learned plumbing.
    Plumbing and art is not the best analogy.

  • Maria Brophy
    Posted at 12:09h, 17 October

    Actually, regardless of where plumbers are in their career (new, mid or advanced) they still charge the same….that’s been my experience.

    Anyone can learn to fix pipes, not anyone can paint. That’s the point I’m making here!

    PS: I thank God for my plumber – he’s great – and without him I’d have some serious trouble with this old house! I’m not digging on plumbers – just using it to make a point!

  • Rick
    Posted at 14:03h, 16 October

    Hmm – You cant compare the two.
    Your article makes it sound like you are saying all plumbers are the same, which they are not. Also, after reading the article it sounds like you assume plumbers have no talent and all of them are the same which they are not. It takes many years of experience to become proficient in any trade whether it is a plumber, electrician, elevator constructor or even an artist.

  • Chali
    Posted at 16:58h, 15 October

    Ah, but art is not a needed service…
    The licensed plumber keeping water from spraying, is needed. Art is just a picture.
    Try skipping a destroyed floor…then try skipping arts and crafts. See which mattered.
    The practical application is the key to worth.
    Please, I am not offering offense, just logical accessment.

  • Why Artists Should Not Be Paid for Their Artwork | business of art - Maria Brophy
    Posted at 10:26h, 15 October

    […] And an even better question is this:  why should my plumber be paid more than an artist?! […]

  • Plumbing Quotes
    Posted at 23:52h, 20 September

    I think both Plumbers and artists are doing the work of art so they should be paid by the same scales

  • Franky
    Posted at 06:34h, 10 February

    haha…hello…i like all the comments here…i just want to add one important thing…like Tony says, a lot of people can draw, but every artist has a signature, a style, of his own, thats what makes the difference with the plumber…if you want art like Drew Brophy, and ask somebody else to do it, its not gonna come out the same..there is a special signature style in every artist…as of the plumber, once my leak is fixed for good, it doesnt matter to me what “style” the plumber had…
    i hope i helped

  • Jamie Kelly
    Posted at 10:06h, 08 February

    I think you are right on w/ this, but I also have to agree w/ Ron you do have to know how to negotiate.

  • Maria "Spunk" Brophy
    Posted at 13:29h, 06 February

    Well, you must be a plumber! And believe me, I need plumbers – at least 5x a year with my lovely old house.

    But, if one guys not available, I can call another, and another. Art, however, is very different. If I want a painting by Picasso, well, he’s dead. And I can’t find him in the phonebook!

    Don’t write in here & argue with me. You are supposed to agree with everything I say, damn it!

  • Tony Lawrence
    Posted at 13:23h, 06 February

    And exactly why do you think artists are not a dime a dozen?

    Lots of people can draw, lots of people can sing, play a musical instrument, etc. Some are better than others, of course, but artistic talent is hardly a rare commodity.

    If you can get $200.00 an hour, good for you. But reality is that there are likely plenty of equally talented people who would do it for less.

    Same for plumbers, of course 🙂

  • Maria "Spunk" Brophy
    Posted at 10:08h, 06 February

    Ron, I agree, sometimes you have to “negotiate” a little. With your experience, talent and good reputation, you probably have a great understanding of how to properly price out your art. Many artists tend to under value or give their art away. When they do, they hurt the professionals like you and Drew, who now have to compete with lower prices or walk away from a job. It would be nice if there was a software that helped artists to price their work appropriately. (Photographers have fotoquote, which keeps that industry all on the same page….)

  • Ron Croci
    Posted at 10:00h, 06 February

    Idonknow Maria, After 40 years in the commerical, and fine art business, making paintings, books, movies, commericals, murals, you name it. I can only say, I have lost many jobs because I held firm on my price.
    You are correct. However, an artist must do what he can to make ends meet. No matter what the dollar figure, if an artist can make a living producing their images, they are on the top of their field.

  • Maria Brophy
    Posted at 11:26h, 05 February

    Rusty, you’re lucky to have a wife that keeps an eye out for you! Every artist should be so lucky…..

  • Rusty Sherrill
    Posted at 10:40h, 05 February

    My wife always adds more to my original art charges. I try and remember how long and all the hard work it took for me develope my art each time I price a piece. Than my wife adds more.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Dr. David Powers
    Posted at 09:36h, 05 February

    Great post! If everyone could do art like Drew’s or any other great artist, then it would be worth less. If everyone could do plumbing, then it would be worth less. Skill and talent is worth money, no matter what the profession is.
    Believe me, Drew is worth every penny he gets. His business manager is certainly worth every penny she gets too.

  • Annie Wilbur
    Posted at 19:35h, 02 February

    This is right on the money and it is especially important to think about in this economy. Let’s face it, for most of us these days work is scarce and there are plenty of unscrupulous types out there just waiting to take advantage and exploit our “UNIQUE TALENT and all the YEARS it took you to learn…techniques, build up a name, develop…skills and talent.”
    It’s not that I think it’s right to charge exorbitant fees, on the contrary. I know personally when it comes to the money thing, that’s where I get all soft a squishy-like and afraid of scaring off work more than anything else. BUT…we cannot afford to sell ourselves short!

    Thanks again for writing this. Well put and a thought worth holding on to,


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