But, Bill, I still want to try to make money costuming...

Okay, then, here are some things I've learned that may help you.
  • Let go of art: embrace production. We've all heard the phrase "starving artist." Ever wonder at the reason for that?

    Let's do the math backwards: let's say that in order to support yourself and your family, make the mortgage payment, save for retirement, and pay taxes, you need to bring in $1500 a week gross. That's not an unreasonable number. (If you're single and living in your parents' basement, find your own number. And a job.)

    In the best of all possible worlds, you shouldn't have to work more than forty hours a week to accomplish that. That means for your work you have to make $37.50 an hour.

    Now let's pretend that "Brittany" comes to you for a bodice. She's a handmaid to one of the princesses on Royal Court at the local ren faire, so it needs to be pretty nice. Figuring in fittings, shopping, and sewing time, it's going to realistically take you eight hours to make this thing: that's $300. You sketch all that out for "Brittany" and her mom, who's writing the check.

    They freak. $300 just so you can go play out at the renaissance festival? Does that include fabric? WHAT? I have to pay for fabric on top of that?

    Yeah, been there, seen it happen.

    You want the job, so you cave. Okay, you say, I'll do it for $100. Yeah, seen that happen, too.

    Now you're making $12.50 an hour, and you're screwed. But it's worth it, you think, because people will see it and love it and come to you to make their stuff.

    Here's a hard lesson, and you need to learn it right now:


    What happens is you're training people that you're a whore, and they'll abuse you for the rest of your career. You'll be screwed at a lower price.


    Sometimes you just need to have money coming in the door. I understand that. Charge what you must, but start with your normal rate and then, if you're about to lose the job and you can't pay your rent, offer a discount. Don't start low. You might be surprised at the response you get to an honest number.

    So, what to do? Stop thinking about making art: start thinking about production.



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