OK, I’ve officially had enough!!! In a tough economic climate, we all have to tighten our belts and be flexible with our prices, but some artists out there are guilty of under-pricing, which is ruining the market for all of us!

Today I was approached by an Agency who’d been let down by another artist, due to ‘family illness’. The booking was for 3 hours, North UK, fee was £215!! I’m guessing, but I suspect the artist in question under-priced himself then was offered a more lucrative booking elsewhere. A more experienced artist would never have quoted for so little, especially in mid-wedding season and would certainly never have let down the hand that feeds him.

For God’s sake people, lets keep a reign on this and school these unscrupulous traders, before they put us all out of business. Anyone disagree with me on this????

What Are You Worth?

Remember that setting your own rates also sets the rates people expect to pay for ALL caricaturists and so you are contributing to our over all market value.

For those who have not yet made a basic business plan, try this simple exercise;

A) What is your break-even point, how much do you need to survive per month?

B) How many paid bookings can you realistically expect to get in a month, a median figure?

A/B = Minimum Fee

Example;

A)  Break-even pcm = £1500

B)  Realistic Workflow = 4

A/B = £375

Some simple research should give you the above figures and if you can’t manage that, you shouldn’t be Self Employed!  I realise each artist has their own value, based on quality of act and product, but if your product isn’t worth enough to make you a good living, then maybe consider another job?

Artist should know better…

When I looked closely at one highly ranked (Google) Super-market style Agency site recently (W***le Ents), I noticed the price structure. I Quote:

2009:  AH £215,  NT £240, MH* £220, RC* £220 for 2 hours!!  All figures quoted are gross – BEFORE agency commission!

I was gob-smacked!  After nearly 19 years in the trade, I’m still having to contend with Agencies promoting bargain basement services by publishing cheapest available artist prices, like a menu at McDonalds! As if 1st Choice weren’t enough to battle against, with their ‘Bid for a Job’ price-war structure, I’ve just about had enough!  If I find one instance of another budget artist publishing such stupidly cheap rates I’m gonna have serious words!! This is my living – MY LIFE and I’m not about to roll over and let some low budget charlatans ruin what has become an excellent way of life for so many of us.

Chicken or Egg? Do we hold the artists accountable for lowering their prices or the Agents who tell them thats all they’re worth?

As a community we should be nurturing and teaching the next generation their worth. Perhaps some of the above named (*veteran) artists could lead by example? I’m happy to welcome new-blood into our community, but if they keep undercutting the market I’m afraid I’ll raise the drawbridge and prepare for battle.

So what about quality? I will continue pitching to the upper end of the market, providing them with a polished entertainment package and let the Bargain Basement Traders squabble over the scraps. Time will tell who has the gumption, the reputation, the talent and commitment to stick around.

 

Shopping Center Anyone??

Today I was once again approached by an agent requiring 5 hours in a Shopping Center on St Valentine’s Day… I quoted a good rate, as did my colleague John Roberts. The Agent informed us we’d both been undercut by at least two artists, who’d offered their amateur services for around half our fee (£250 for a day). I was incensed and asked for names of the offending traders… the agent refused. I then circulated an email among 20+ colleagues, asking who would offer such a low price and under-value us all?!     So far one response from Dave.

“Hi George, I’d be on for this.”
 

Am I alone in caring about the minority of charlatans that are steadily undermining my trade and slowly putting caricaturists out of business in the UK??  My colleague Tim Leatherbarrow made an astute observation;

“Due to a variety of reasons i’m off the ‘circuit’ for the foreseeable future anyhow ,but still am amazed at how much and little has changed. Nearly 10 years ago i went to live abroad for a few years and an average evening work was about £300-350  (us northerners never, well hardly ever got travelling expenses)….And now after all this time i’ve been offered jobs as low as £120 for a day. And ,when on the rare occassions i’m able to do a job ,i’m always glad to see and work with the ‘old hands’ that ‘i learnt my trade with.’…. But the majority of the ‘new kids on the block’ haven’t really impressed.”

 Clearly I am not alone, simply the only artist with a spine and some passion for his living. Thanks for your input Tim.

Veteran artist Rick Coleman chose to respond via a colleague:

“For sure it’s down on what we’re used to but needs must. Simple supply and demand I’m afraid. If you can afford to turn it down then stick by your guns but earning £300 a day isn’t exactly chicken feed either. You have to be careful you don’t get labelled as ‘too expensive’ because the phone won’t ring at all. Things will get better and I guess we have to increase our fees as that happens in the same way we decreased them as it got worse. We are a ‘luxury item’ after all.  We all think we’re worth a lot more than the fees we’re getting but actually we’re worth what the market will pay. The annoying aspect is that our money has been reduced to the same as the inexperienced artists out there and of course the agents don’t appear to distinguish between us and them and therefore neither does the client. All we can do is carry on doing the best we can and delivering a top job so that we educate the clients and agents to making that distinction and when we get more job offers we can start again to command a better fee.”

In response to RC; You clearly do not have the courage of your convictions. I’ve stuck to my guns (on the whole) and still successfully command high fees. I’d rather be seen as ‘too expensive’ by a cheap Agent than ‘too cheap’ by a top class client!!

£50 an hour isn’t a bad living, unless you’re actually worth £100!!

Exactly how do we manage to raise our prices in better times, if we can’t even maintain our level now? Ain’t gonna happen. We’ll be stuck in Bargain Basement, thanks to artists like you.  You’re not educating anyone, except to raise people’s expectations; to expect every artist to work for peanuts, good or bad and the only reason you will get more job offers is because you’re taking £500 jobs for £300 and advertising on W***le for £220!

If you scavenge on the pavement you’ll be treated like a beggar all your life, but check into the Penthouse and you’ll be treated like a Star! Anyone can be a beggar, why not be a Star for once??

On the positive side, Rog Bowles responded (via JR):

“I dun a year in art college and got this great book by Krugerr wot I copied and signed as mine and now I are a carikatewrist. The agent doesn’t give a shit cos he’s got his commission.

Nobody cares except us. How come singers, bands are only as good as their name and rep but ALL caricaturists are equal.”

Nicely put RB!!

 

An example of bad business:

Lets say a well know Supermarket sells kiwi-fruits at £5 a punnet (1000 per week). They want to raise their sales in hard times and so drop their price to £2 a punnet.  The primary effect is that the same core of kiwi lovers get a cheap treat and a few poorer customers clamor to buy what they see as a bargain thus increasing sales marginally (1200 per week). Secondary effect is that some customers will assume kiwi-fruits must be faulty or that the fruit is no longer a luxury and switch their fruit tastes, thus losing sales (200 per week). End result is that they still sell 1000 per week, but to a poorer market and raising the price of these luxury fruit in the future will simply lose more customers. In addition, all the other Supermarkets have slashed their prices and are losing money too, while we all become sick of cheap kiwi-fruits and buy nectarines instead!

The lesson is;

1) Lowering your price will never generate more custom it will simply make you and all the other Grocers poorer in the long term

2) Not everyone likes kiwi-fruit and no amount of price slashing will make them attractive!!

George says “Lowering your fees will not generate more work, it will simply mean being paid less to do the same job,  so while you have to work twice as hard to earn what you did before,  the rest of us watch our market tumble.   I’m not lazy, but I’m not being exploited either!”

PRIME EXAMPLE of bad business:

I just worked a hi-profile event with 3 other artists, all having quoted individual fees. The client of course took the lowest quote and offered it to the other 3 artists. All 4 artists then worked an extra day for the client, making 2 full days at the event.

The gig itself was worth a fee of £1000 per artist, 3 artists accepted £600+ each, one artist accepted just £300. Who’s the fool in this scenario? How much will the client offer future artists? Just £300!

Nice business plan!!

Addendum:

The same hi-profile client launched their product on a nationwide tour, six months later, involving several artists… reportedly paying just £250 per day!  The perfect illustration of my point.  “I told you so…”

 

Another example:

A colleague recently worked a full evening gig (4.5 hours) alongside an Agency caricaturist. The new Carix boasted of his fee of £250 and how the agency loved him, keeping him in work, despite his needing trains and hotels to each gig, he managed to take home £150 that night!  My colleague charged nearly 3 times his fee direct!

The (blacklisted) agency in question are now regularly hiring the new carix and no longer hiring more seasoned, talented artists, but I doubt they will be charging the client a mere £250. So who is the fool here?

The new carix and agency in question are both ruining the market place for other artists, but so long as they’re both happy together and the client is happy being fleeced for mediocre artwork… The rest can go hang, right?!

 

Wanna Draw Potato Pickers?

I always recall having a heated exchange with one Peterboro Agent; SA over my fees. Now I’m no more expensive than most established artists, but he was convinced that I would price myself out of the market and that none of his clients would pay more than £295 for a caricaturist. That may have been true, but we parted ways in 2005 and I went on to appear several times on TV, work in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, plus a chain of gigs with Samsung. None of these were booked through SA. I tried to convince SA that nurturing high quality talent and farming it to high paying clients would pay dividends. I believe he is still booking parties for potato pickers…

 

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Comments
  1. Jed Pascoe says:

    Unfortunately, I see all sides of the argument. But there is a basic business principle involved in all this. That is, if the only job you get in a week pays £120 for an hour’s work, then you aren’t being paid £120 per hour but £120 PER WEEK. And your expenses must come out of that, too.
    It just makes sense that even in challenging times (and looking over the last ten years, it’s been pretty challenging even when it was good) you must decide on your basic minimum target wage for the week AND add in a little to save for the inevitable rainy day. Oh, don’t forget the Tax Man- he’ll want his cut, too.
    All this at a time when the petrol companies are charging more, the Government is raising taxes, my food bill is going up despite the loss-leaders in Tescos and Morrissons.
    (Don’t know what a loss-leader is? It’s a cheap priced item that stores use to hook their customers. Once in, you pay over the top for other stuff- but you still think you’re getting a bargain!)
    Here’s a thought- we all go in at £50 for the first half hour- but every subsequent hour we charge £200!
    BAh. Agents. ‘Do me a favour’ they say- then you never hear from them again. Sod the lot of them.

    • George says:

      Basic business scenario: Someone is shopping for a price and says they expect to pay £100. If we all refuse and say we want £300, then that sets a basic market value. If ONE of us says ‘OK’ to £100…. WE ALL SUFFER and the market crashes, never to recover unless we convince the client to pay an extra £200 for no reason.
      We all have varying expenses, we all have geographical differences and some are heavily subsidised. Therefor fees are determined individually, each to their own. But undercutting a colleague by nearly 50% is doing no-one any favors!

      • Jed Pascoe says:

        Yup. Agreed. So, how do we get the message across?
        BTW,
        Came across JOSIE CAMUS today who quoted £150 for a 5 hour wedding, but couldn’t do the date. Then she was very rude when the bride-to-be asked her to keep the date as a pencil in case of a cancellation.

      • George says:

        Just looked up her site; she’s new on the circuit, fresh outa Uni in 2002. Prices start at £70 – £150!!! Unbelievable!

  2. Kate Bacon says:

    Thanks for the link back to my original article…glad it’s useful. I had a sneaky feeling it was not just virtual assistants who sometimes undercut each other. Here’s to all business owners making a decent living despite the supposed current economic climate!

  3. subwaysurfer says:

    Im with you on this one. You got to have the integrity not to underprice yourself. In NYC where I am you have folks who will work for as low as25 50 per hour , and consequently, when their “clients” talk to you, they are outraged when you ask for more. Its strange how everyone cries, “the economy” when offering you a low price but completely forget that YOU TOO are being effected by “the economy!!!” Its also sickening how these same clients will drop you like a hot potatoe to cut costs but think NOTHING of hiriing a CLOWN a MAGICIAN and of course a DJ instead of you. This is the major reason I work with contracts and ask for a non refundable amount up front.

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