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How to Find Your “Happy Price” as an Artist

“How to price my fluid art classes?”

I get asked all the time. My answer, what’s your ‘Happy Price’? Throughout this guide we’ll go over pricing your fluid art classes so everyone wins! Similar to your Happy Place your Happy Price will motivate you to do a great job for your students!

Results of Sad Price 

Honestly, pouring art teachers come and go without these insights. I have a group on Facebook dedicated to teachers of fluid art, and although it has 4,000 members -1,000s come and go! They love the work but lose motivation. The #1 reason is burnout. They burn out because they just didn’t get paid enough for all the work. 

So there are two solutions: 

  1. Less work 
  2. More money 

Recently, I was consulting with a client who was having trouble figuring out her pricing. She is a talented fluid artist that had a passion for introducing people to the magic of fluid art! 

Finding your Happy Price 

I asked her how much she’d like to charge for her classes if she was self-employed full-time and the ideal amount of students in each class. 

Case study: Claudia wanted $30 each student and likes 12 people in a class. Her classes are 2.5 hours but there is also 2 hours in prep, 2 hours set up and 2 hours clean up for a total of about 6 hours, plus actual instruction totals 8.5 hours. $360 divided by 8.5 = $42 an hour. I asked her to check her gut to see if her gut response was happy or sad–and she was happy with that return on her investment. 

That is low in comparison as many of the teachers I coach make above $100 an hour, but that’s the cool part of this approach as it doesn’t matter! Claudia was happy with that price! She was also encouraged that there is a potential for more and she is retiring from her full-time job in about a year and plans on ramping up her fluid art teaching business at that time. Great plan Claudia! 

As an aggregate example (let’s call him Mike) Mike said he wants $1,000 per 3-hour class he teaches and ideally wants 25 students. This struck me as odd, because he’d been charging a fraction of that, and even working for free a lot. He had no history of charging premium pricing. So I said, “We’re going to get you there soon. However, I’ve noticed that people don’t go from undercharging to charging premium pricing, in one step. There are intermediate steps.” 

“Well how much should I charge then?” Mike asked. 

“This is how we’re going to figure it out,” I said. “Imagine someone called you tomorrow, and said, ‘I want you to do a fluid art class for Team Building at my business and I’ll pay you $100.’ Would you be happy, or sad, to do that job for that price?” 

“Sad,” he said.

We went back and forth for a time, steadily modifying the price ($300? $500?) until we came to the winning number, his Happy Price, is $700! Your Happy Price is the minimum amount for a service, that would make you happy to get additional opportunities to teach again and again. Usually, just below that is your “Meh, I’ll do it” price. And below that is your Sad Price. You should always charge your Happy Price. Why? Because that’s the minimum you need to be happy doing that work. If you charge less, you’ll eventually hate the work, and it will show in your quality of delivery, earning you a bad reputation and low-or-zero word-of-mouth marketing. 

When you charge a Sad Price or a Meh Price, you will also be unmotivated to market your services. Why would you want to spend all that time, money, and effort on marketing, only to bring in work that you resent and that feels unfulfilling and like a ‘job’ to you at that price? 

Pricing is a huge obstacle in all aspects of the art community, here are a few tips on how to price your art: How to Price Acrylic Pour Paintings

 

Understanding Pricing Limits – Ludicrous Price

OK, so we’re clear you shouldn’t be charging your Sad Price. But here’s another question. Why not charge more than your Happy Price? 

This overpricing is the second most common mistake I see people make around their pricing, after undercharging. So don’t over-inflate your pricing either– puffery is any sense of whether your clients are actually getting value for these prices. I’m not saying you could never provide value to your students at Ludicrous Price. But if the only reason you’re charging really high rates is that your Dynamic Fluid Art Coach told you to “reach for the stars” and envision yourself living on a yacht in 3 years (not that I would do that), it’s probably not the right price. Also, you’re probably having trouble finding customers at those prices, and probably getting zero word of mouth.) 

The best advertising is word-of-mouth and it depends entirely on your student’s perception of great value on the part of the happy student spreading it–and their perception of value is connected to your price. (Think about it–what was the last great restaurant you recommended to someone else? Would you have recommended it if the prices were $125 per dish instead of $25?) 

Getting a super-premium Ludicrous Price is possible, but only after you’ve built up a massively successful brand. Like many high-end fashion brands, in which people are willing to fork over ridiculous amounts of money just to be connected to the brand experience. If that’s what you are going for more power to ya! 

You’re going to need to base your business on providing complicated layers of implicit and explicit value to customers. Before you laugh at the idea, think of the most you’ve ever paid for a pair of shoes and say the name brand out loud. I’m curious, do you have a warm fuzzy feeling now? See how this works? What did that brand have to accomplish over time for you to have that feeling? Well, that’s what you will have to do too. 

Your students have an internal algorithm that analyzes the value they received from your class versus what they paid for the class. While it’s true if they paid little they will value it little it’s also true that if they paid too much the value diminishes in relation to feeling like they overpaid and have buyer’s remorse. 

So it’s a careful balance. Think of it like a scale or an old fashioned thermometer that starts at the bottom with Sad Price up to Meh Price to Happy Price and tops at Ludicrous Price. Set your price at Happy but challenge yourself to nudge it up a little! 

😆Ludicrous

😉 Happy

😕 Meh

😢Sad 

 

The Value Balance

So how do you make sure your customers have the experience of receiving great value for the price, while also making sure you feel glad to do the work at that price? The solution is simple. Charge your Happy Price. Remember, your Happy Price is the lowest price at which you are happy to provide a given service. 

Caution: this is not the same as a Loss Leader or giveaway. I’m not suggesting charity work or suffering while you build up your business. No that would only work for a short time and then you will lose motivation. 

Many factors go into determining what makes one price for your services Happy for you, and another price Sad. It could have to do with dozens of things, such as: 

  • your living expenses 
  • how much you enjoy or dislike the work, (we all dislike aspects of this work.) 
  • what your competitors are charging
  • your sense of how much value you actually provide to your clients
  • how much energy and work it takes for you to do a good job for your clients, etc.

But fortunately, you don’t have to pay attention to any of these different factors to figure out your Happy Price. What do you have to pay attention to instead? Pay attention to your body, as you contemplate different prices. Or more accurately, your gut. 

Here’s a simple, quick exercise to help you figure out your Happy Price. I’m going to describe a scenario, and I want you to pay close attention to your own physiology (i.e., your gut) as I describe this. Don’t worry about what your mind thinks–pay attention to how your body responds. Do you feel excited or deflated, energized or depressed? Do you get an expansive feeling, or that sinking feeling in your gut, when I describe to you the following scenario… 

  1. Imagine A x B/C = D 

(A) number of students, (B) Paying $_____ each for your class, (C) Divided by (your total hours.) Equals (D) $______ 

Make sure you include your time in prep, teaching, and clean up after. …and check your gut. Happy or Sad? 

What did your body do? Did you get a sinking feeling in your gut when you heard the total? You might have heard a “No thanks!” arise in your mind, or just a sound…. “Ehhhh” or “Uggggh.” 

Many of my members tend to net more than $100/hr (no judgment here if that doesn’t describe you, it’s just what I’ve noticed about my own audience). 

To find your Happy Price, we just repeat the above thought experiment, raising the hypothetical dollar amount in increments of $25 or $50. When I guide clients through this experiment, raising the amount by $50 each iteration, usually there is a price at which my client says, “Okay, I’d do an hour for that amount.” Their gut eases and they feel less stressed and disappointed by the price. But they don’t seem too excited by that amount either. That’s the Meh, Whatever Price. 

Adjusting to Perfection – Meh, Whatever Price

Usually, when we find the Meh, Whatever price, one more iteration of $50 or so per hour will get us to the Happy Price. That is the first and lowest price at which you say, “Yeah, I’d be happy to do it at that price.” Your physiology brightens, you feel expansive rather than contracted around that price, and you get a little spring and sparkle in your step thinking about that money coming in. 

It’s important to note that you do not need to quote or charge by the hour to use this price-discovery technique. You can modify it to work with per-project pricing (as my client did in the first example.) However, even if you charge per class, square inch of a painting, or on retainer for a consultation, it is still useful to know roughly what your hourly rate is to use as a base or starting place. 

Let’s say you did this exercise, and you found your Happy Price was $150 per hour for your services. At this point, the temptation is to say, “Well, if I’d be happy at $150 per hour, I’d be even more happy at $200, or $250!” 

Not so fast. Remember our discussion about value

The Happy/Value Intersection

A great deal of whether your client has the experience of receiving value has to do with the price they paid. You want to charge your students the lowest price at which you’d be totally happy to give them your absolute best and go the extra mile for them. 

“But will my price always be stuck at that level then?” clients often ask next. Of course not. I’ve noticed that when people figure out and then start charging their Happy Price, they start getting a ton more students and classes. Why? Because it’s a price that actually motivates them to get the work and do the work well, yet it’s not an over-inflated price either–it’s the very lowest price they’re genuinely happy to do the work. 

And because they’re genuinely happy to do it at that price, it shows up in their marketing, sales, and delivery. They are motivated to market and sell the service effectively, to get more happy money. And they’re motivated to deliver awesome service to their students that become returning students that bring their friends! Happy customers do the best word of mouth marketing for you! 

And as soon as they start getting more work at that price, often within a month or two, they get busier, and thus their Happy Price naturally rises. It’s an upward spiral in which your current customers are always happy, and you keep charging more to new clients, and everyone is happy because you’re delivering awesome work, and everyone knows the system is honest and not puffed up pricing. 

So the goal isn’t Ludicrous Price, it’s to systematically and continuously bump up your Happy Price! 

But here’s the trick: if you wait until you are a “perfect” teacher that offers “perfect” classes you will never get there. Go be your imperfect self, have fun with your students, get paid what makes you happy and then you will not burn out and will stay motivated to do the grunt work between classes, marketing, and building your brand. 

Try the exercise yourself, change your pricing for a new special class based on your answer, and then tell us in the comments section how it goes for you! 

Finding your Happy Price is also a course with a workbook with exploratory questions and homework assignments! Acrylic Pouring has arranged for you to get a special price! Normally $47 you can get it for only $19 for a limited time. The free bonus really makes this a no brainer! Also get Casey’s flagship marketing course for fluid artists normally $97 as a free bonus! 

Sign up for your discounted course here!

How to Find Your \

2 thoughts on “How to Find Your “Happy Price” as an Artist”

  1. I understand all Casey has outlined except for one very important item……PRODUCT…..he doesn’t mention cost of product to be included in calculating price per class….☹️

  2. Sherly -that is a good point. Standard pricing factors also include applicable: cost of location, additional labor, advertising, mileage, storage of inventory, dues, event cost (food, beverage, paper products, etc.), rental equipment (tables, chairs, etc.), insurance, processing fees, numerous utilities and professional help like bookkeepers accountants, and more.

    But you are right, the most predominant is cost of supplies being the most common consideration of pricing both art classes and what to price our art pieces. Which is unfortunate. Our supplies are relatively inexpensive. I personally do not give much consideration of the cost supplies in the process of pricing my art either.

    This article intentionally chooses to focus on the value of our time. Our time is how we spend our life. Having coached 100s of fluid art teachers on pricing in the last three years, the larger sense of someone’s time is the most overlooked consideration in pricing related to net income. When I lead a teacher through this process many find they were actually netting less than min wage considering all their related hours.

    Ironically in a book that I wrote was published the day before this article came out. This book dives deeper into growing the profitability of our teaching business through a 9 stage process that moves beyond our time. So after we consider our real time-cost in Finding our Happy Price, next is to make changes to no longer be bound by the limits of our time (trading hours for dollars). The 3 categories of this path are: Attract, Automate, and Grow.

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