During the seventies when I was still living in Barbados, I was approached by a cruise ship company to produce destination mugs for the on board gift shops.
The proposal looked tempting, but on careful examination, it would have taken at least 95% of my yearly production time to produce the order; but the price was unacceptable.
It would of meant a guaranteed contract but working for the company for peanuts. I rejected down the offer; and they even went as far as approaching the government minister of trade to intervene and persuade me to accept the contract.
I declined on two grounds, firstly it was not profitable and secondly, I was informed by one of the crewmembers that it was customary for the ship to offer souvenirs of the approaching destination in the gift shops, and at competitive prices, thus depriving local retail businesses of potential sales.
When you are a full time artist it is important that you manage your business professionally. Pricing is of the utmost importance.
1.Set yourself an accepted hourly rate for your labor.
2.Be sure to produce a collection of bread and butter items; but use the same principle for both creative and bread and butter production.
3. Time management is important, if your are producing ten of the same item; It will take less time to produce each in you produce them in set stages rather than produce one at a time from start to finish.
For example when I am producing hearts I will cut out at least 12 shapes at a time on the band saw; then I will rough carve all 12; thirdly I will fine cave all 12; fourthly I will sand all 12, fifthly I will oil and burnish all 12 for the final stage.
Time each stage then divide the total time by 12 and that will give the time it took to produce each heart; Then calculate the price according to your hourly rate for labor.
You are not finish yet; add the overhead costs-materials, power, gas or electricity or both, rent if any, calculate also at an hourly rate, plus a small figure for depreciation of tools and equipment. For example I keep a bucket of at least 15 3M sanding pads with hoop and loop sanding discs; all ready to use.
One other important factor to consider is efficiency of labor, for example try to make sure tools are in good working order, and readily at hand, try to have two of each tool, and an adequate supply of support materials; particularly if availability of replacements or repair facilities are not close by.
Organize your working materials in a way to maximize time for example ,I design my sanding pads in a way to have at least 15 in ready to use working order; you will be amazed how much time you can save. I work on average five hours non-stop.
I do not allow unauthorized visitors to my studio unless its my wife. and only in emergences. It is dangerous if you are using dangerous tools and every five minutes interruption is 15 minutes loss of labor time.
One other thing, when you are producing your bread and butter items, If the market can take it add on a small figure for creativity or deduct a little for quick sales; use your judgment.
Don’t cheat yourself on your creative work; always add a little for creativity so that when you have to give a discount it wont hurt your heart so much.
Only once in my 47 years did a collector offer me more than the display price for a sculpture, because he thought it was worth it.