How to price your murals
Last month I ran a FAQ around being a muralist. You can watch the recording here. The number one topic discussed was around money and how to quote on mural projects. So I thought I'd try to tackle the question: How to price your murals. I have tried to write this blog post multiple times and I can't seem to figure out a definitive answer. I don't have the correct answer for you. You will need to figure this out for yourself. What I can do is tell you what I know so that you can make the most educated decision for the position that you are in. Below are the notes that I have been taking on the subject:
NAVA has a pricing list, but the last recommendation was $120/hour for public art. This doesn't seem right to me because I don't charge per hour. I do know of a few other prolific mural artists that do charge $120+ per hour for their mural projects. They also charge materials, accommodation, lifts etc on top. Maybe the $120/hour will work for you?
I have spoken with prolific street artists who charge per hour on projects and other artists who charge per square metre. Not one pricing strategy is the best.
For muralists whose style is really detailed and are on site for days, and even weeks - I understand pricing at an hourly rate is easier and possibly the most profitable option.
Having a base rate for the straight forward projects and then increasing that rate based on the project is acceptable. For example, increasing that rate for working at heights (to cover the extra training needed), or painting on corrugated iron that has to be treated and sealed, or even adding 10% contingency for working on an outdoor mural to cover for rain/weather issues.
Increasing your rate as you get more murals under your belt is highly recommended. As you learn and grow your portfolio, so should your rates.
Platforms like Book an Artist (BAA) pit artists against each other. It makes it tough, if you don't have a distinct style or offering to win projects. The guaranteed way to win work on BAA is to be the cheapest. This doesn't help you, this doesn't help the industry, this doesn't help BAA. It's a tough space to work in. I'd suggest really focusing on one style if you're on this, or similar platforms. Clients will come to you because they love your style and they will be more likely to pick you as the muralist for their project assuming your quote isn't astronomical.
A great way to understand a general budget for mural art in the region you've been asked to paint is to look at local Council Mural EOIs. Simply google 'Scenic Rim Council Mural EOI' for example. Often these EOIs will have a photo of the wall, the dimensions and also the budget for the project. From this information you can either estimate the time you would spend on a project like this and work out the hourly rate. For example: Council might be offering $4500 to paint a 5x5m wall. You estimate your time on a project like this would be 30 hours. $4500 / 30 hours = $150. Therefor your hourly rate would be $150. Or, (and this is what I do) work out the square meterage of the wall and the per square metre rate. For example, if the Council had a Mural EOI for a 5x5m wall and they had a budget of $4500 for the project, you'd work out that the square meterage rate for this project is $180/m2. 5m x 5m = 25m2. $4500 / 25m2 = $180/m2. This rate gives you a fair idea as to what pricing is acceptable in that region.
There are general elements to take into consideration too: the wall type. For example, raw bricks drink so much more paint than undercoated brick. This means more paint. Working at heights will mean hiring a boom lift or scissor lift which needs to be factored into the cost. If the client wants the community to be involved, there needs to be community consultation fees added. All of these costs are on top of your regular rate.
I believe that if mural artists are going to charge per square metre the minimum they should be charging should be $150/m2 with a minimum of $1200 per project. Taking into consideration paint costs (which have gone up a lot recently) and time to create designs and time on site, these prices should be a minimum. Your price should go up from here the more experience you have.
I don't think there should be a maximum fee. If you are amazing, with a distinct style, people can pay whatever crazy amount they want to pay and you should feel great about it.
I do know of practising artists who charge upwards of $220 per square metre.
How I price:
For me, I charge $180 per square metre with a minimum fee of $1600+GST. Stencil art is fast. I would make less of a profit if I charged per hour and I believe it would be penalising the streamlined process I have spent years perfecting. It used to take me 2 days to complete a small mural. It now takes me 6 hours. The outcome is just as good, I've just managed to improve my process.
That per square metre rate covers meetings, mural designs and digital mock ups, three rounds of changes to the chosen design (although I'm flexible with this when working with communities). It covers all paint and materials and an anti graf coating if needed. It does not include lifts or scaffolding, workshops/group consultations or power cleaning the wall.
I worked out my hourly rate for the last three projects I completed (even thought I charge per square metre) and they varied so much that I believe an hourly rate wouldn't work for my style. The hourly rates were: Project 1 was $100, Project 2 was $60 and the Project 3 was $140. If you'd like more information about this break down of costs/hours you can grab the Mural FAQ recording here.
I have two things going for me as a muralist artist which means I can charge a decent rate. I have a distinct style that is uniquely me. Often clients fall in love with my style and they don't really care what my rate is - they just need my art in their life (yay!). The second asset is that I work really well with communities. I know not every artist will work with kids, or community groups - I love it. These two skills are what has allowed me to stay competitive in a fast growing mural industry.
I understand it's really tough when you are starting out in the mural industry or there is a shortage of work (and a saturation of muralists). Trust me, I've been there. You don't have any jobs on and you've been asked to quote on a project. Can I make a few suggestions to help you win the job without compromising on price:
Instead of lowering your cost to land the job, why not add to the value you will bring. For example, you will provide a free digital mock up of the mural on the wall prior to painting, you will provide 20+ photos of the painting process and a time lapse for the client to use on their social media. Or maybe you could write a press release about the mural project and send to local media to gain traction for yourself and your client. Add value rather than dropping prices.
Really refine your style. Make it unique to you. It will give you more of an opportunity to increase your prices in the future if you have a unique style.
Help solve your clients problem. Acknowledge the reason they are getting a mural ie. glare from the wall, reduce the heat on a wall, simply wanting something cool in their home etc. Pin point their problem and offer some really creative outcomes that solve their problem. You're the creative - be creative!
A few final tips when you are wanting mural work but don't want to have to drop your prices to compete:
Find your own clients. Don't reply on platforms like BAA to send clients to you. There is instant competition. Target who you want to work for and pop in or email them your portfolio and remember to mention how you can add value to their business.
Listen to what the public says about your work. Go through social media and find the top three murals that people liked or commented on or even said 'this is your best work yet' and push those murals. It's a good indication you're on the right track with those designs.
I feel like this blog post is a little all over the place. It's an unusual topic and I will continue to talk to people about it and pass on what I discover. Having a reasonably consistent pricing strategy within the industry throughout Australia can only benefit everyone in the industry. Have any other thoughts on the topic? Have I missed any vital bits of information? Does anyone disagree?
I have a You Tube video on this same topic. So if you retain information better from videos, head over here.