The full question is here, and reads:
I’ve bееn аѕkеd tο design a tattoo fοr a friend οf one οf mу teachers, аѕ I аm nοt actualy tattooing thіѕ person, i’d lіkе tο come up wіth a price solely fοr mу design. Whаt’s thе average pricing fοr a tattoo DESIGN (nοt thе actual tattoo). And whаt ѕhουld i consider whеn setting thе price. Alѕο, whаt аrе thе bіggеѕt factors іn thе design price?
So what is the secret to successful pricing of a tattoo design?
It’s an interesting question! I have never had to look at tattoo pricing before, though it could no doubt be compared to other kinds of design. Or it could be compared to other kinds of surgical intervention. Which would result in a better price for the designer?
Here are the factors that come to mind:
- How long will it take? Of course, I would never recommend pricing just based on how long something takes – but this should provide a minimum floor to the price. It will give an indication of the lowest price your competition can afford to charge – especially if they do this for a living, as they will be unlikely to allow themselves to take a loss by charging too little per hour. A professional designer will have a floor price of no less than $50/hour – and many will aim for $100 or $150/hour. Effectively, this should govern whether it is even worth your while doing the work. If you are being paid less than you can earn from other clients or other work that you might do, you should turn down the work. I would imagine it might take around an hour to draw a good tattoo design – but if it’s in colour, or a large design, or has a lot of detail, it could be longer. And if you need to consult with the client, try out ideas on them, and go back and forth with a few changes, the time will add up to a few hours quite quickly.
- What is it worth to the customer? This is a big deal for them. You are creating a piece of art which they will carry around and display for the rest of their life. It’s really important that it be beautiful, that it expresses their identity, and that the details be just right. Imagine all the situations where they’ll show it off to friends or lovers – and how much difference it will make if you can make it really stunning.
- Is there any competition? If your potential customer is looking elsewhere, you will need to be mindful of the prices they will be offered by others. But also make sure they are aware of the difference in quality or aesthetic between you and the competitors. Are the competitors offering a unique design or just reusing one that is already walking around on many other bodies? Think of the difference in price between a Picasso original and a Picasso print. On the other hand, if there is no competition (you may be doing this for a friend who would not ask anyone else for a comparative price) then you don’t need to worry about what anyone else might charge (though see the last point in this list for a deeper issue).
- How much are they spending alongside this purchase? Their main “complementary spending” in this case is for the tattoo itself. Tattoo prices vary widely but an online search shows a range from $50 to $200 per hour – and the process could take from 15 minutes to eight hours or more depending on size. Let’s imagine it’s a midsize tattoo taking an hour and a half, at $100/hour. Then they will be spending $150 – and the price of the design will inevitably be compared to this.
- Perhaps most importantly: what does the customer expect? If the customer is expecting to pay $30, you are unlikely to persuade them to pay $3000. Likewise, if they think it will cost $3000, you will not only miss an opportunity but may actually put them off if you suggest charging just $30. The answer is that the customer probably doesn’t have a clear idea of what to expect – even if there is a figure in their mind, they probably have little confidence in it, and they will want to have something to compare with, to reassure themselves that they have made a choice that works for them. The best way to achieve this is to give them a range of prices with a rationale for the different price points. The customer can then pick their preferred price point and feel that they’ve been treated fairly because the choice was theirs.
Putting all these factors together, here is my recommendation.
Create a small list (6-8 items) of different size and colour options. Establish a baseline to reflect the fact that your creativity and time are going to be spent thinking about this client’s personality and wants. Point out that this decision is going to affect them for years into the future. And make sure that you put enough effort into the job to reflect and respect the weight of this responsibility.
A good range of prices might look like this:
- Large or wraparound design (6×12 inches or more), full colour and with two personal consultations and initial draft designs: $1400
- Large or wraparound, black and white, two consultations and drafts: $950
- Medium (around 4×6 inches), full colour, two consultations: $650
- Medium, black and white: $400
- Small (up to 2×3 inches), full colour, one consultation: $250
- Small, black and white: $150
- Micro (up to 1×1 inch) colour, one consultation: $95
- Micro, black-and-white: $55
For reuse of an existing design which you already have, offer a 50% discount.
This list gives your client the ability to select a price that works for them with a commensurate amount of work for you. Whatever their expectations are, they’ll be able to find something that fits.
If you are a tattoo designer, please let me know what you think – or try this list and tell me how it works. And if you’re the original poster of this question, I’d love to hear what you ended up doing.