Over the last year and a half I have learned many things about being a mompreneur. Many of you have questions about how to start an at home business, everything that goes along with that and what to charge clients. Hopefully this post will shed some light on those things.
1: Think longterm. My first year refinishing, I started off charging little more than the cost of paint. My goal was to get my name out there. Word of mouth is a very powerful marketing tool. Gradually, I raised my client work prices as my experience and the quality of my work increased. After a year, I hit an hourly rate that felt good to me. There is a lot of trial and error involved with figuring out the product pricing, the estimated completion time and the labor involved with each individual project. Expect this and think longterm.
2: Set a minimum fee. Your time is precious. Without a minimum fee, it's easy to get wrapped up in several small client projects and make the same as you would on a couple large projects. I set a minimum fee when I felt I was getting too many requests for end-tables, coffee tables and small items that didn't pay well and ultimately created unnecessary stress. After I set a minimum fee, I felt an immediate decrease in my stress level.
3: Consider a rate increase. It's a good sign you're on the right track with your business if your inbox is full of rate requests. It's not a good sign if every estimate you send out is being accepted. That's an indication that you're undervaluing your skills and your time. If your rates are inline with the quality of your product you should have some would-be clients turn down the estimate. When you're setting prices, think about the product you are offering. Is it high quality? Could someone easily replicate this on their own?
4: Be comfortable with rejection. When you send out what might seem like a high number, you have to feel comfortable with rejection. I heard something relayed from a presentation at Alt Summit that said something like, "if you don't have a pit in your stomach as you send off your rate, you're not charging enough". Ultimately, if you're producing a high quality product many will feel that your price is worth your talent. On the flip side, many may not. You have to feel okay with that and move on.
5: The right rate brings deeper satisfaction. Even though it's not something often talked about, most of us start businesses to help with the bills. Everyone wants to be adequately compensated for their time and talents. Once this compensation feels fair, expect to find a lot more enjoyment with your work.
6: Quote an estimate. Always quote an estimate and make the word "estimate" clear. Everyone's expectations are valuable. You never know as you get working on a custom piece what issues may arise. Leave wiggle room for that.
7: Give deals for exposure. Good exposure pays off in the long run and is worth every penny you don't charge.
8: Stick with your style. When it comes to client projects, I do whatever my client wants - regardless of style. Often I take a hit on the pay out of my own projects because the general asthetic in Arizona is a lot different than the pieces I generate when I'm painting something to sell. My colorful, vintage modern style is not common in here and I am very comfortable with that - the painting I enjoy the most is where I have free reign. Those projects ultimately keep my love alive for what I do and are necessary to fuel my creativity.
9: Embrace mistakes. Every single mistake I have made has ultimately been positive. That's how we grow, learn and become better.
10. Custom work pays better. In the refinishing business, taking a piece of furniture a client already owns and making it what they want pays higher than refinishing a piece of furniture you've picked up and made the artistic decisions for. Most of my income is generated from custom client projects, but because it helps me enjoy me job, I do mix in my own things to sell when I have time.