There is a fellow mural artist in Denver with whom I was working on a project recently. Our projects were separate but within the same home. I have been finished for over a month, the house is finished but this artist is not. The home owners are frustrated and the general contractor is furious. Add to this the fact that this artist never put a bid together (although she was asked to repeatedly) and she just sent in a bill for about nine times what mine was. If I had done her projects (which were more complex and larger than mine) I probably would have bid them at about a quarter of what she is charging.
The situation just gets uglier and uglier. It is really none of my business and I am only thinking about it because the business of decorative painting is my business.
There is a standard rate range for mural artist and decorative painters and it is important that we all respect this. If you are nationally known, have won awards and have published books of your work then, sure, charge more. Maybe your work is worth it. But, before you charge more make sure the client agrees with you on your work’s worth.
The standard rate for decorative painting is between $300 and $600 dollars a day (yes that is a wide range but there is a wide range of ability levels within the industry). I generally charge about $500 p/d but will employ discounts if appropriate. I also paint fairly quickly so in three days I may accomplish what it would take someone else four or five days. Most of us also charge for sample boards and renderings.. sometimes these prices are just included in the overall cost, sometimes artists choose to itemize extensively. It just depends on the artist.
Fine artists (by that I mean artists who sell work in galleries etc.) have price tags on their work. They can charge whatever they want and the buyer can decide whether or not to pay it. Because of this pricing on this type of art is far more subjective. Decorative painters do not have ‘finished works’ to put price tags on so we have to conform a bit. We are, after all, contractors and we are often bidding against one another.
Especially in a situation where there are other artists working in the same space (who’s prices will be compared to your own) do not grossly over charge.
Never, ever, is it fair to charge a client more just because they can afford it. It is often hard to stomach hearing what people have paid for the drapes or couch after you have only charged a tenth that for your talents. But, the client gets to decide how their money is spent, not you. Maybe your work is worth tens of thousands but the only way you should get that, as an artist, is to let the client decide that your work is valuable. Hang your paintings in a gallery and put prices on them. If your clients have millions in disposable income than they may agree with you and buy your work.
I do not like underbidding my fellow artists (as I have been in the receiving end of bidding comparisons often enough) but if my prices are fair than I can’t feel guilty. I charge my clients what is fair and honorable to charge them. I respect their homes and their money and, as a result, I often get repeat business and referrals. As far as I’m concerned this is the only way to run a successful business.