How much do I charge? Posted by Billy D. Fuller on Mar 14, 2006
I was wondering for those that are a little more experienced. How much does one charge for basic services to teach someone to make a puppet? This would be exclueding the cost of materials. Does one charge by the hour, or a flat rate?

I know we have discussed this with some of pattis projects, but I would like input to what you folks consider a fair rate. I know that the persons knowledge and experience does play a factor and that this should be considered. i know Andrew ask this question as to what a fair price would be for his pattern.

I am trying to put together package deals together for different type puppets. I know how to figure the cost, but when it comes to my time and what I should be paid has always been a issue in quotes I have made. I usually end up just breaking even or just make a little profit.

I'm not really into puppetry for the profit so to speak, but I have to make enough  to be able to restock and buy new supplies.

What do you think?

How much do I charge? Posted by Shawn on Mar 14, 2006
I think it depends on if it is a private lesson or a class that you are holding.  I would say that if it was a private lesson that you could go with somewhere between $15.00 to $25.00 per hour on your time.  I use $25.00 as my starting point.  Now when I say starting point it means that sometimes I drop down.

With a class I guess you could take what you had decided to charge hourly for a private lesson and divide it by how many would be in the classs then adjust from there.  Now that is not an in stone rule since if it was a class of $25.00 for an hour and you had decided on $25.00 and hour for private lesson then you are not really being paid for the effort it takes to teach a class.  I know that often a bottom price used for classes is a labor cost of between $5.00 and $7.50 per person with materials added on top of that.

If you are creating workshops for children I think you need to try and keep the total cost under $10.00 per child for an hour workshop.  Question for you... How much an hour does a babysitter charge in your area?  

Puppeteers will often do shows with a workshop attached.  In that case I think you could adjust down the cost per person for a workshop.  In fact you can actually "sell" that idea and often in the long run make a better fee by having them book a show with the workshop.

Don't forget travel cost.
Prices for teaching Posted by Billy D. Fuller on Mar 14, 2006
Lets try this scenario.... A customer has a class of kids ranging from 10- 13 years old. In spite of your reccomendations they want to make a ( regular puppet) by that they want a hand in mouth puppet. To do this type of class it would require quite a bit of prep work. I would pretty much have to build the puppets and just let them finish them off.

We are talking about a clas of 15 or 20 students. I have no teaching skills and have not worked with children other than family and friends. I suggested that they bring plenty of helpers.

I thought I would pre-assemble the pieces and let them watch me put one together to the point of the puppet they are holding. We would then finish them by adding hair, eyes and clothes ( provided by there accomanied adults)

I think a class that size if I taught them step by step, would take a long time and I'm afraid of losing the attention of the younger ones. These are church groups and they would have to bring all the kids at once.

This brings me back to price, do I assemble one puppet and see how long it takes me charge $7.50 hr. plus the cost of materials and come up with a final value fee.

I used to have a formula that gave you the correct way to figure what to charge on craft items (example: cost + labor divided by the total of the cost and labor) this of course is not the correct formula. It seems as if I got this from Home and Gargen or someplace like that.

I am hoping that this will answer my questions and perhaps help someone else that would be thinking along these same lines.

How much do I charge? Posted by Billy D. Fuller on Mar 14, 2006
I did a quick search and found a simular one on HGTV,1789,HGTV_3311_1369143,00.html

How much do I charge? Posted by Shawn on Mar 15, 2006
First let me first say something about the scenario you set forth. NO run screaming from the room!    Ok maybe you do not need to be that dramatic but I do belive that you have to sometimes stick to your first instincts.  

Let use say that Ford has a program that does workshops with kids.  In these workshops the demonstrate some of the things that go in to building full scale car and then they have the kids build a a very simple model of a car. If a person came to Ford and said hey I hear you do workshops for kids.  I want you do a workshop where they build a Ford Escort.  They would say no simply because it is something that is not possible.  

Now I know the above seems way out there but I see the insistence that you hold a workshop for kids 10-13 where they build a hand in mouth puppet just the same.  I guess if they where willing to have one adult per child it might be possible.  

If you decided to try and make it happen and built the puppets to the point you spoke of where they only had to add the "decorations" then you would really need to charge the price of a finished puppet for each student. I would say this is going to really drive your cost way up there.  Figure it out using the formula you found on HGTV.  Unless I am mistaken this is going to end up being somewhere between $50 and $75 maybe higher. BTW they only thing you might have to tweak in that equation is the materials X 3 since that is based on buying them wholesale.  I think if you buy retail materials X 2 would be a bit more reasonable.  You may wonder why double the cost and not just charge what they cost you.  You have to somehow factor in the time and effort you put in to gathering the materials.
How much do I charge? Posted by Ron G. on Mar 16, 2006
Posted by: $1
Figure it out using the formula you found on HGTV.  Unless I am mistaken this is going to end up being somewhere between $50 and $75 maybe higher. BTW they only thing you might have to tweak in that equation is the materials X 3 since that is based on buying them wholesale.  I think if you buy retail materials X 2 would be a bit more reasonable.  You may wonder why double the cost and not just charge what they cost you.  You have to somehow factor in the time and effort you put in to gathering the materials.

I think Shawn is making a lot of sense here. I wanted to comment specifically on calculating the cost of materials. I know that my mechanic generally doubles the price on parts that he gets from his suppliers when doing repairs. In fact, I can find a lot of the same or equivalent parts cheaper myself, but in my experience automotive mechanics don't usually let you walk into the garage with your own parts and just charge you labor for installing them.

It was the same thing in the jewelry trade, back when I was studying jewelry design - everyone who touched the materials or finished product along the way doubled the price. The price doubled several times between the raw material producers and the retailers.  If you're the one who has the experience to select the right products, and either orders them online or drives to Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby and picks them up, then as Shawn says you're entitled to add a markup to them in your final total.

When you're selling them a nearly completed puppet, plus an hour or two's worth of instruction, you're selling them a valuable product.

And also like Shawn, your scenario kinda scares me too - and I worked with kids of all ages for several years in a number of capacities. (Maybe that's why it scares me a little.) I agree with both of you that you'll want to keep things really simple - either by having them start out with a nearly-finished puppet, or by building a very simple puppet to start with. There are a number of books available with designs for simple puppets to build in a classroom setting. It might be best to begin your puppet-building instructor's career with some of those designs, and limit the more involved ones to advanced classes that aren't offered to every single kid in a Sunday School class, or whatever.

The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta offers puppet building workshops before most children's puppet performances, and they've got it down to an art. Don't let your client dictate what kind of puppet they want to build. Cover your butt, do your homework, and come up with a selection of puppets designs that work for you. Then have them select one of those designs to be built by everyone. It's fine if it's a watered-down version of a more complex puppet. That's what they do at the Center sometimes - if they're showing Pinocchio, for instance, they'll have a simplified Jiminy Cricket puppet for the kids to make, which helps the kids identify with that character while they watch the performance. You could show the kids one of your "real" puppets, and how to perform with it, and then have them build a simplified version. You could even try having the puppet character help teach the class.

Teaching art to kids can be fun, but you need to be really choosy about the design you're making if you expect everyone to make pretty much the same thing. Normally you'll just show them how to use a medium like watercolor or paper mache or whatever, and turn them loose. I'd really hunt down some some books on puppet making for classroom teachers if I were you. I'd recommend some specific titles, but most of my puppet books are currently in storage, and a lot of them are also out of print and hard to find now. "Puppet Mania" and "The Muppets Make Puppets" might be a good place to start, and they aren't too hard to find. Maybe you could check Amazon, eBay, and for some kind of "Puppets in the Classroom" books.

You can get some great deals by buying used books from Amazon Marketplace, often much, much cheaper than what turns up on eBay, where the prices get driven up by bidding wars. Some Amazon affiliates actually make a lot of their profit from the fixed shipping and handling fee that Amazon charges on their behalf, and offer some common books for 1¢ apiece. I just found a puppetry book there the other day for less than two bucks that sells regularly on eBay for $15-$25, so the book itself actually cost half of the $3.50 flat fee that Amazon Marketplace charges for shipping.

So anyway... do yourself a favor Billy, and don't let yourself get in over your head, OK?


Re: How much do I charge? Posted by amybeth on Apr 24, 2006
I used to do craft competitions with needlework.  To assess the "value" of the finished item we were given this formula (like it or not).  Cost of Materials + hours x minimum wage = value   - Multiply your time in hours by the current minimum wage.  Then add cost of materials.  I know this only applies to product and not workshops.  Then, however you could use the old "baby-sitter" method .... increased percentage/child.  Helpful at all?
Re: How much do I charge? Posted by Andrew on Apr 25, 2006
I think the pricing model from HGTV is not bad for a one-off costing, but I wouldn't use it if puppetry is your primary source of income (or if you want it to be). It's a little oversimplified and doesn't take in to account your fixed expenses, paying yourself a salary, etc.

You should definately not price using minimum wage as a guide. Anyone doing that is absolutely setting themselves up to be a "starving artist" (at best). In fact, you should never price your product or service to be as cheap as possible which is what many builders often do. Selling at the lowest possible price is ultimately a losing idea. It only works financially for large mass-volume retailers like Wal-Mart.

Pricing is one of the trickiest things for any business and I think many artists - especially in puppetry - don't take the time to learn how to price properly. There's a number of factors to consider, including:

  • The cost of your product or service
  • Your sales volumes
  • Your competitor’s prices
  • Your company’s competitive/creative advantage

I've put together a spreadsheet to help anyone who is doing costing. I've used puppet building as the example, but the same process applies more or less to anyone in any field with a few modifications. Here's a rundown on how to fill it in - I've emailed the actual spreadsheet to WildJoker and maybe he will be kind enough to post it somewhere on the site and provide a link so that anyone interested can download it:

Step #1 - Calculate Your Fixed Expenses

Fixed expenses are expenses you pay no matter how much you sell. Examples would be:

  • Telephone
  • Office supplies
  • Web Hosting fees
  • Insurance
  • Wages and salaries (if you have anyone working for you)
  • Anything else I've missed

You should also include in your fixed expenses a salary for yourself - what you pay yourself should not come from your profit (more on that in a sec). You should determine a realistic salary that you would like to earn every month.

Once you add up your fixed expenses next you have to figure out how many products (puppets, workshops, or whatever) you can realistically do in a month. Then divide your total fixed expenses by the number of products you can produce in a month. The result is your fixed expense per puppet sold.

Step #2 - Determine Your Variable Expenses

Variable expenses include anything you pay per item you sell or workshop you do (materials, transportation, etc.). Don't include shipping costs because they should be added on top of your selling price. Add up your variable expenses for one item sold and add them to the fixed expense per item sold. The sum is your actual cost per item.

Note that you can't sell your puppets/workshops/whatever for less than this number...otherwise you loose money every time you sell something!

Step #3 - Determine Your Selling Price

Once you know how much each item you sell costs, to determine your actual selling price. Basically, you have to decide how much of a profit margin you want. For example, in the spreadsheet the cost per puppet is about $585. If I wanted a profit margin of 10% then my selling price for each puppet would be about $645 and I'd make about $58.50 in pure profit after every puppet sold. That doesn't sound like a lot, but remember I've already calculated a monthly salary for myself as part of my monthly expenses.

Calculating your profit margin is more art than science and it usually takes some time and experimenting to decide what will work for you. The really important thing financially is that your profit either goes in the bank to be saved or gets re-invested in the business (to buy equipment for example). You should calculate a salary for yourself as part of your expenses.

This is not a fool-proof pricing method by any means. There's a zillion variables involved with pricing, but I hope this is a little helpful for everyone. IOnce Wildjoker is able to post a copy of the Excel spreadsheet this will probably make more sense if you re-read this while looking at it. If anyone has any questions just ask and I'll do my best to respond as quickly as possible.

UPDATE: Excel spreedsheet attached to post in a zip file.
Re: How much do I charge? Posted by Billy D. Fuller on Apr 25, 2006
Thanks Andrew, you brought up some very interesting points. I have thought about those things but just did'nt know where in the calculations these things belonged. I really could not focus on which was a priority and which should or should not be inclueded.
This makes things a little more clearer, but a spread sheet would be very helpful. I'm a black and white guy and need a guide to keep things in line.
I will have to play around with the calculations and see what I come up with. I know that you are much more experienced than I am as a puppet builder and how does this effect the calculation of a salary for your self.
Thanks for sharing, I know there is no fool proof formula and they will vary from project to project. This does help.
Re: How much do I charge? Posted by Andrew on Apr 25, 2006
Experience has nothing to do with salary when you're first doing pricing. If anything, your experience or the demand for your puppets should effect the % of your profit margin. The higher the demand, the higher your margin should be. Your salary should be calculated based on what it costs for you to live and that's why it should be a fixed expense.

For example, Scott Radke's work is in high demand and he sells out almost everything he makes. I imagine that his margin is quite a bit higher than someone who builds puppets for Christian churches or preschools, but both people might have the same living expenses or salary.

Figure out how much you need to make to (comfortably) live on. Be realistic, but don't make it too low.

I also forgot to mention that the spreadhseet is under a Creative Commons Attribute license so it can be freely copied and distributed as needed.

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