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Hey I am starting a business putting custom graphics on guitars. and I have been using this site for help. Well now my first customer has arrived and i don't know what to charge. How much do people generally charge for Custom Graphics on a guitar? If someone could let me know i would appreciate it greatly.


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You deffinately need a business plan of some sort.

I'd recommend taking a small business course at a local college.

You need to break down all of your expenses so you have a ratio of expense to income.

This will give you an idea of how much to charge but always keep in mind that some things that can earn you income are not always something you can record at the end of the month books. ie, lowering costs for a customer that could potentially bring you in more business.

Do you have a business liscense?

Do you know what type of business liscence you need?

I found out that just having a business liscence wasn't enough if I did work in a town that was different than where my business address was located.

Also, be prepared for a headache at taxtime...and know when your business tax is due.

Anyways, this is just a small fraction of the knowledge you need BEFORE you get involved with your business.

Otherwise, you'll be looking at failure, dissappointment and maybe even legal problems.

You can do it. You just have to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. :D


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I appreciate all the information> I didn't know if there was a set rate for certain graphics. No its not a decal I am airbrushing and fine detail painting. My dad is going to help me with the business license when i decide to start.. and with some of the financing and taxes. Because he is a small businesss owner as well. I was just looking at what a market average would be.

Appreciate it

Edited by Venom300
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I would say something like materials+25 dollars an hour+extra costs

I don't know your skill level, so you may want to raise or lower the hourly wage, extra costs is just if things come up you know, sh%t happens.

good luck on your new business venture

Edited by Nitefly SA
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I think Nightfly is on target. To quote a job, usually you figure YOUR total cost of materials, mark that up a percentage, say 50% and then it's just a matter of your labour rate. That is really the variable figure.

If you're just starting out you would have to base it on a fair wage. After you have some jobs under your belt, enough to provide a good portfolio of work then your pricing can be more geared to an artists rate. If people like what you do you can pretty much name your own rate. But you have to earn that right with some killer designs and happy customers.

Good luck, don't get discouraged. Treat the customers right and they will do the advertising for you!

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My best advice is do NOT even start doing work for others until you KNOW what you will charge. Airbrushing rates are generally $100 to $150 an hour, BUT, you better be damn good and KNOW what you are doing. If you don't know what to charge, you haven't been doing it long enough to be doing it for customers. Yes, it sounds harsh but backyard painters who don't know what to charge because they don't know what it should cost are the ones who create major problems for painters doing it for a living. Paint adhesion issues, clear issues, never mind work quality that brings upset customers to other painters looking for a cheap fix.

There are two things to keep in mind when doing custom airbrush work.

Good paint isn't cheap

Cheap paint isn't good.

If you are serious about this, post a bunch of pictures of your work, then we know where you are. And it can't just be your airbrushing that is good, are you set up to do high build primer? 2 part clear coat? And willing to accept the warranty issues should one arise? If you're going to charge custom graphix prices you have to be SURE of what you are doing in EVERY aspect, if you're not sure please don't get involved, it makes things difficult for everybody.

Based on the questions you have asked in your other posts, you are nowhere near ready to start painting guitars for customers, or anything else. It sounds like you aren't experienced with the products. Painting is one thing, painting for customers is an entirely different thing. You have to know your product, be able to trouble shoot, be able to work with it on any surface, and be willing to deal with any issues that may arise. If you haven't learned yet which paints are compatable and which aren't, you have some reading and researching to do. I sprayed probably 60 gallons of paint in practicing before I ever decided to do work for other people.

I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm trying to open your eyes to what can be a very unstable and risky business venture. The only painters that succeed in the custom graphix industry are those who know their sh*t. Product and skills.

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For graphic design stuff in general, check out the book "The Graphic Artist's Guild Handook of Ethical Pricing Guidelines". It will not only tell you typical hourly rates, but typical total charges for different jobs- not guitars per se, but it's mighty similar to other decorative arts, illustration, airbrush, auto custom, etc.

Generally jobs like this involve two seperate charges- one for the mechanical craft of executing the design on the object- i.e. painting it on. The other is for the actual planning of the design- if it's something simple you might give them this part for free ("I want a big 01 like the General Lee") but if they want something complicated, and need to have their hand held as you lead them through the design process, giving them options ("I want something hip that I can also use as the logo for my business") then the extra time that will take gets billed seperately.

It's vital to separate the charges this way, because if you don't, and you skip the design process (as fine artists are prone to do- they think their first version will be accepted as 'finished') then you get into the region of hell known as 'design by assasination'- where you do the work, the client rejects it, you do it over, he rejects it, etc etc.

Since we're talking about design process, I'd heartily recommend following something like this:

First meeting: Gather data, find out what they want, they decide if they like you.

Sketches Meeting: Show them 6-20 sketches of possible different concepts. The sketches should not be refined at all, just indicators of different ideas. The client's job is to pick which idea.

Drafts Meeting: Show them a worked-up but not final version of the design. Now is the time to do any fine-tuning, make color choices, etc etc. Often this will mean showing color test swatches, etc. Go over each detail with the client and get their decision/agreement whcih way it should be.

Final Delivery: you deliver the finished work, and they love it. Better yet, they love you: "It's so easy to work with you, I didn't even know what I wanted and you helped me get it." And that's where the word of mouth starts spreading. Your customers are not jsut satisfied, but ecstatic, and they tell all their friends, and you get more work.

If you follow the above process, you'll do well. Note that the process not only helps you do good work that makes the client happy, it also protects you. If the client comes back at the last minute and changes their mind, you say "OK, that will cost extra" and you bill them extra for any work you have to do over as a result. This is a VITAL factor in ensuring you get paid fairly for your work, and a key point in your contract..

BTW, the Graphic Artists' Guild Hbk mentioned above has not only pricing, but sample contracts you can use, or adapt the wording to your own. When the customer is ordering standardized stuff, a simple order form will suffice ("one Mary Kaye strat body in alder please") but when it comes to doing design work you really need a proper contract- and your client will understand that it protects them as well- and makes you look good.

(FWIW, I've worked as a professional designer of all kinds for nearly twenty years, and I teach design at the Art Institute of Seattle, so I'm not just making this stuff up. I've used this process countless times with success, and so have my students, on everything from business cars to custom motorcycles. If I can help with specific details on the business of design, let me know)

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X189player's comments are excellent. I agree with them 100%. That's a great way to structure your clients, but your first step is learning your product, all the info I mentioned above.

X189, are you in seattle still? If so I wouldn't mind hooking up with you and talking about a few things. I'm only a couple hours away up in Abbotsford BC.

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