Archive for the ‘underpricing’ Category

Came across a new group of young caricaturists yesterday, all advertising their services online, as a collective. They took the unusual step of advertising prices for various counties, on their site and the fees were roughly half the industry standard! They clearly do not have a long term business plan!

I am self employed. I am trained and qualified as an artist. As such, my business mentality has always valued my services and artistic talent, while realising that I would never be given a wage rise, unless I made myself worth it.

These new artists clearly do not value their services or their place within the industry and by pricing themselves so low, they will only make themselves the poorer and less popular! They exhibit a ‘short term gains’ mentality and encourage existing artists to compete by lowering our prices in turn. Be aware that lower prices do not encourage new jobs, it just means you work harder for less money at the same job! The logical conclusion being that we will all have to offer more hours for less money, in order to win the same jobs; pretty soon we will all be working a 40 hour week, while earning a little above the minimum wage! Is that all we caricaturists are worth??

Get a business plan guys! If you want to stay in business, then find your worth, find your place in the market and charge accordingly. The only way you will get a pay rise in the next 25 years is if you make it your self and that will never happen if idiots like you keep lowering our market value!!!! WISE UP SUCKERS!

 

 

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To all cheap caricaturists:

While discussing fees with colleagues recently we found ourselves divided into two camps; those who knew their value as artists and entertainers and those who didn’t care and were grateful not to be jobless! Unfortunately the latter camp are driving our prices down as they battle to get paid less and less!!  One northern caricaturist publicly boasted (to paraphrase) “I charge low fees because I’d rather be working every night than charge silly fees and be sat at home!”  Great business plan brainiac! So what is the net result of your pricing structure? You work more frequently because you win jobs from other artists by undercutting them, you do not create more work by under-pricing, no-one ever said “Wow I found a cheap caricaturist (he’s shit but cheap) so lets put on an extra party every night just to hire him!” No! There are a finite number of gigs available in any area on any date, no matter what you charge. You simply now have to work three times as hard to earn what you should be earning in one night, while other full time artists go hungry, unable to drop their prices lower than you. Well done – great ethic.

Know your value and stop undervaluing your colleagues by association and if you are grateful not to be stacking shelves, then maybe its because that’s closer to your true vocation, but I trained all my life to do the creative job at which I excel and will not be comparing my talent to that of a shelf stacker or fairground busker anytime soon!

Do some basic research, find out what your competitors are charging and value your skill by comparison, then endeavour to raise your prices and standards, instead of lowering theirs to meet yours. If you still find yourself at the lower end of the price scale, then maybe its down to the quality of your work and you should consider retraining?….

Recently opened up a debate regarding new competitors in the Carix market and it became clear that a few artists just have no clue what is potentially controlling their business’ fortunes. Some were unaware of competitors within their own geographical patch and one was surprised to come across a Carix who’s been caricaturing for at least two decades on their doorstep!

I thought it was  a good time to remind all fellow Carix to check their SWOT analysis, which should be done on an annual basis anyhow. SWOT is an analysis of your Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats, which should give you an idea where you sit in your own marketplace. If you do not carry out this simple task, then you may as well be fishing in the dark, because your business will be beyond your control!  Visit this simple page which gives you a few good business models to look into, including basic advice on Competitors and Pricing…

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/compare-business-model-competitive-strategy-76349.html

Strengths and weaknesses are internal qualities, determined by who you are and how you have chosen to operate your company. These include your USP and your chosen Mode of Operation.

Opportunities and threats relate to the business climate in which your company operates. These include competition and business trends.

If you are unaware of your target market, your selling points, your competitors, your potential markets and potential threats, then frankly I’m amazed you’re still in business! Get on Google and give it a look-see, it could be the making of your business.

Each year it takes us all by surprise and each year we end up crossing our fingers and hoping that the spirit of celebration takes the nation by storm again. So far its the usual slim pickings for me, with a stark November and and even bleaker looking December ahead. I am comforted by the steady stream of random last minute commissions, from bosses who remember they have to produce a calendar within 5 days or love struck boyfriends wanting to show their affection by spending £5 on a scribble!  Most of these enquiries I tend to shrug off, unless my bank balance tells me otherwise, as they tend to be a huge waste of time, often ending with the blunt email, telling me that after a week spent chasing the project, they have found someone cheaper!!

I am currently whittling away at a studio commission which will pay my mortgage and help me into December, but my diary is still clear. I have fielded a couple of dinner party enquiries “Could you pop to Guildford/Blackpool for an hour to entertain my 20 guests?” which all ended predictably in the negative.  That said, I have just negotiated a booking from a new agent who thought he would school me on what my fee should be and how lucky I should feel to get an enquiry in today’s climate… The cheek!  I was probably entertaining diners when he was potty training and have survived 23 years without his help!!  But beggars cannot be choosers and so a deal was struck and I now count 4 bookings so far this Xmas season.

Gone are the days of 18 parties and too much work to manage, thanks in no short part to the influx of new artists, who believe the agents that dictate their fee and remind them how lucky they are not to be stacking Tesco shelves!

My standards have not slipped, my quality of work is still very high, yet I am suffering at the busiest party season of the year. Punters are still hiring caricaturists, according to tales from my many colleagues, therefore I must surmise that its simply down to a flooded market with increased competition. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so!

 

UPDATE: 16/12/13

One more Xmas party tomorrow, a last minute booking as usual, then I have no more weekly wage until… perhaps March?  The perils of self employment.  Along with the freedom of being your own Boss, you have to endure the hardships of no guaranteed wage and when you are used to being paid a weekly wage, that can be harsh!

Merry Christmas

Following the publication of my advice regarding underpricing and lowering the market value of Caricatures, I felt the need to point out the dangers of flooding the market with cheap artists.

New caricaturists are currently quoting clients ridiculously low fees for their services (and even charging ‘per person’), the net result of which is to lower the market value of all caricaturists in the eyes of the customer. The long-term result is far worse; Lower fees lead to more clients being able to afford to hire caricaturists, in turn the caricaturist will need to work twice as hard, just to earn a decent weekly wage. Pretty soon, every event will see cheap, crap caricaturists, scrawling their trade and becoming common-place. The end result being that no-one wants or respects caricaturists anymore, having grown tired of consistently crap, cliche’d renditions of caricatures being pedaled for pennies… Indeed hiring a caricaturist as a wedding gift will be as popular as giving a stick of seaside ROCK!! The mass influx of new artists, presumably prompted by the Recession, high unemployment and the idea of making an easy buck will magnify the above effect and possibly see the end of established artists and newbies alike

Please, please, please Newbies… SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE!!  All I have to do to compete is lower my fees and I would mop up the customer market, but we’d all lose out, so lets keep the fees at a respectable level, along with the levels of drawing and professionalism.

Update – December 2012

This year’s Christmas season is predictably bleak once again, though several dates have been flooded with enquiries and events are popping up all over. Reports are coming in of new artists at events and old agents not getting in touch. This is the effect of Flooding the Market! A recent web-crawl of Google showed several new caricaturist sites popping up and one particularly hideous Agency website listed around 50 artists, the top 20 of whom, I didn’t recognize!  Presumably this is the new influx of would-be artists, attracted by a flagging employment market and the promise of a good daily rate with a pen in hand.  The agents of course are lapping them up like sharks in a feeding frenzy! All that fresh meat, willing to work for what ever rate they’re told by the puppet-masters. Not one with a proper business plan or knowledge of their own market, many will flounder in the next year or so, but not before they’ve taken the work from established artists and re-enforced the artificially low fee scales, set by agents who (on the whole) don’t care about the survival of their artists.

I have secured 5 Xmas parties this year, compared to a previous 18, most via cherished agents, who know my worth and offer me proper rates. I thanks them, but must assume the other bookings have all been snapped up by the Supermarket sites. I can’t blame the public for wanting to cut costs, but its the Agents’ job to look after the Artists’ interests, not just grow fat off the feeding frenzy caused by inexperienced artists and budget conscious clients.

A punter remarked the other evening; “You draw for GQ and have been on TV? With talent like that you must be booked solid?!” With 22 years experience and a good reputation, I’da hoped so, but as I explained; some people aren’t shown an Artist’s pedigree, only their fee and Cheap is always Better isn’t it?….

A flooded caricaturist market does have one up-side; a recent enquirer was flabberghasted by the proliferation of websites and Agency lists. Not knowing where to begin, they simply chose the most professional looking and least confusing site and ended up booking me. Some are still prepared to be discerning… That gives me hope in the caricaturists’ version of Where’s Waldo?

Update – January 2013

Just lost one of my only bookings to a cheaper artist in Chester. Had a further two enquiries, which came to nothing, presumably for similar reasons. I cannot blame the clients for wanting to save money, though it is always a false economy, as cheaper artists have a tendency to disappoint their clients. Quite basically, the flood of new artists bumbling into my industry and charging bargain basement prices, will ruin the industry for everyone. As caricaturists become more common and less valued, we will all be forced to drop prices to match these idiots and many will be forced out of full time business. Its heart breaking to watch for an artist of 20+ years experience and reputation, who can do nothing to change the trend other than to Blog about it!

“HOW TO MAKE A LIVING….”

Just read with interest a colleague’s Blog, which gave helpful hints on how to become a professional caricaturist.  I found the read interesting and well informed, it offered good advice and followed a basic business model, which many new artists forget about. Nice to see a professional offering his advice. However I must question the logic of encouraging other caricaturists onto the market and helping them to take your work away! The basic business model given aimed at working 2 bookings per week, every week of the year (104 per anum) which is a realistic average. However, speaking as a veteran caricaturist, I have seen the market flood since I began in 1991, when there were around 30 Pro-Carix trading, at 2 bookings each week. Now there are more like 80 artists fighting for the same market, which is not growing, but shrinking! Imagine if another 10 artists are encouraged by the advice given (on the Blog in question) and they take the work from my colleague; making his business model unattainable, with just half the bookings available each year. That is sheer madness surely?! Recent full-time converts may be reveling in their new life choices and enjoying the Caricaturist community, but it is a fragile existence and should be shared with care.

In addition to this, the basic attraction of hiring a Caricaturist is in their unique skill, rare talent and novelty value. If everyone becomes a caricaturist, then everyone will own a caricature, thus no-one will want a caricature anymore. This was underlined last weekend at a wedding in Preston, where a guest remarked:

“I’m not getting a bloody caricature, had one in York and it was crap. You can’t move for bloody caricaturists up there, all over the town they are!”

Quite simply, caricaturists will soon become as commonplace as Magicians and no-one wants a Magician at their event anymore! I would seriously consider the bigger picture before I encouraged any new caricaturists onto the market!!

Update – 26 April 2013

The effects of a flooded market are starting to show. In recent chats with colleagues, most complain about how quiet the market is and how few jobs they currently have, some artists struggling to keep afloat and deeply worried.  They wonder why Agents are no longer calling and offering work and who exactly is getting all the jobs? Presumably Agents are now spoilt for choice and can ‘cherry-pick’ the cheapest artists for each job, as is their Modus Operandi, with no thought for those artists who have helped build their business.

By comparison I have had a recent flurry of work,  but none through Agents. I saw the flood coming a few years back and took precautions, by ploughing my time and efforts into promoting myself online, in order to become independent of Agents and their whims.

I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again; Agents should not have the power to control our industry, they enjoy  a one-sided relationship with their artists, where they wield the power of survival, but offer no loyalty in return. In hard times surely some signs of loyalty would help those established, yet struggling artists to survive…

Seems clients are  just not learning their lesson, neither are new artists.  I took a last minute enquiry from a Bride yesterday, who’d been let down by a new Carix at the last minute, with 3 days notice. I gave her my sales pitch and explained the perfect time to work and then gave her my fee. She nearly swallowed the phone! I asked if her original artist was cheaper and she replied “Much cheaper”, to which I explained – this was probably the reason he had let her down in the first place;

1) He is probably a Hobbyist, learning his trade, while taking a wage from his weekday job, so has no need to honor a booking and can afford to not turn up.

2) He was probably offered a better fee from another client or Agent, more in-line with the standard fee and so took it, leaving the Bride without an act!!

Either way, he has done himself no favors, with his client or his colleagues and has only made a mockery of our full-time professions. Idiots like this should at least make an effort to find stand-ins when letting a client down. This scenario sounds all-too familiar….

I did explain to the bride that if she expects to pay peanuts, then monkeys will turn up at her wedding… or not!! LOL

ANOTHER let down!!

Just had this email circulated from a client:

“My best friend is getting married this Saturday, 5 October, however the caricaturist that she has booked has let her down.  I was wondering whether you might be available on this date, and whether you would consider the ***** Hotel in ***** as a location that you could travel to……?  Ideally we have a budget of £230 for the 2 hours work.”

I’ll say this again – PAY PEANUTS AND EXPECT TO BE LET DOWN BY A MONKEY!  Going rate is £325 – 400 for 2 hours, which the original artist was undoubtedly offered elsewhere!!! This is of course no excuse and this charlatan should have supplied a replacement if reneging on the agreement.

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Another TWO let-downs

Nov ’12 – Last week I was offered a last minute job, in the wilds of Portsmouth, after the client was let down by an artist. I refused the job, due to the lack of fee and distance involved, but a colleague was happy to stand in (luckily for the client). Yesterday another job was on offer, this time for a pityful fee (which would barely cover petrol costs for some), after the same artist let a client down – again! This job was much harder to fill, due to the lack of money on offer, which is presumably the main reason for the let-down in the first place. True to say, times are hard and we all consider accepting lower fees in order to pay the bills, but if we accept these jobs, WE SHOULD HONOUR THEM!

Calling all potential clients; Should you wish to book an entertainer (such as a caricaturist), but decide not to complete the booking or cancel an existing booking, could I please ask one thing? Have the decency to let them know! Simply call, email or write to the artist and show some courtesy. Remember, for most this is a full time career and a missed email means a missed wage.

I have spent many hours (this year) dealing with, corresponding with and negotiating with clients who book a date, then simply ignore my contract, my emails or phone calls. At least 7 clients this year chose to treat me like an amateur, by not following my simple cancellation procedure.

I estimate that I have lost at least £2000 wages in 2010 alone, from holding a date, only to be let down without notice.

An email is painless and we won’t bite… unless you ignore us and lose us money! Thanks for your time.

01/05/11 – Wedding Cancelled!

Just heard from my sunday Bride (cancelled 10 days prior without reason) following my third attempt to contact her regarding payment:

“Dear George, you will receive your money shortly. I do not wish to discuss the situation, but the wedding was actually cancelled  due to very tragic circumstances, and your pressure is not in any way helping me at present. Other contractors are not being so aggressive due to the circumstances….”

Well I’m afraid thats what happens when you cancel without notice, explanation or payment, then ignore my calls, letters and emails… my patience begins to run low as my mortgage payment looms. Perhaps if I had received an explanation or a cheque, then I could offer my sympathy, until then I shall continue to chase my contractual payment.

04/06/11 – Dog Died!

Just had an email cancellation of a wedding just 2 weeks away; Bride claims her dog’s illness and death has left her broke! Awwwww… thats so sad. Tell you what, I’ll just eat dust for a week and tell my Mortgage provider that I can’t pay this month cos YOUR DOG DIED!

When will people realise they have a responsibility to the people they employ. What if her boss told her not bother coming to work, as his dog had died and he was broke?!

28/01/12 – “Hired someone else”!

Client hired me two weeks ago for his wedding, last minute booking, limited time to exchange paperwork etc. I drafted a contract and waited for its return. I didn’t hear back after initial booking emails, realised on wedding day (tonight) and contacted the venue to double check. After 3 calls to the Wedding Planner, she finally tells me “The client doesn’t want you, they’ve hired someone else”! With just two hours until my performance time and a 100 mile drive ahead, I think maybe some notice would’ve been nice. Now I’m at home, in my suit, out of pocket by £420!!  How exactly shall I pay my mortgage this month?? Thanks Adam Westall, common courtesy clearly was never taught in your home.