What do Wedding Invitations ACTUALLY Cost?

  1. Tahlia Stevens says:

    I’m a design student in Australia who has been asked to create a wedding suite, I had no idea how to go about quoting for this job as well as justifying what I’d add on for designing fee. This post has been a huge help as stationery design is an avenue I’d love to specialize in. So a big thank you for doing this blog post!

    Tahlia x

    • Laney Schenk says:

      Hi Tahlia!

      I’m sorry for the delayed response but so glad that this was helpful! I know it’s a tough thing to understand and I have played around with my pricing a million times (and even have changed some things since writing this a little!). I hope that this post is at least a small step towards better understanding in the industry as a whole!

  2. Helene says:

    Thanks Laney for this post!
    I am saving it as a bookmark because I will definitely need to read it again and again!
    I am a calligrapher and want to start my business here in the UK but I’m at a complete loss as to what to charge and for what! I find that pricing transparency isn’t really good in the industry and it’s hard to know how to position your business, especially with bespoke services.
    I needed to read that not only for me and so I can be confident building my pricing list, but also so that i can explain it better to people asking why it is so expensive! I feel like there’s a lot of education to be done about the value provided by art/craft businesses when people are so used to buy everything in bulk and for so cheap!
    Thanks and love your IG stories, keeping it real!
    Helene x

    • Laney Schenk says:

      Hi Helene! I am sorry for the delayed response but so glad you found the post helpful. I agree that things are just not transparent and there are SO many different ways to price that it makes you start to question yourself (and makes your clients start to question you too!). Hopefully this is a tiny step in the right direction for the whole industry!

      • Helene says:

        Hey again!
        reading your post again and I just realised you are allowing yourself 5 hours of specialised time within your $500 design fee. Are you really designing a 4 piece suite such as in this post in 5 hours? colour palette, watercolour, calligraphy, font choice, digitising all in 5 hours? Do you mind clarifying because if that is the case I really need to work on my speed!

        • Laney Schenk says:

          Hi Helene!!!!
          GREAT question! So the short answer is that it depends on the suite entirely. I have been able to get much faster at most of my processes, but a lot of the time designing is spent kind of sketching and dreaming up ideas, and honestly I don’t always include that time in my count. This is one reason I’m hoping to up my design fee this year. However, most suites once I nail down a design can be done in that 5 hour timeline. I task batch to do all my watercolor painting at the same time during a week, or all my sketching, or all my calligraphy, so that I’m working on multiple suites at a time and that helps!

  3. Kathy Reece says:

    Laney, this is so great. As a custom designer I have struggled with the issue of clients not seeing my worth. Bravo.

    • Laney Schenk says:

      Hi Kathy!!! I definitely get that (I know we chat about it a lot in WSC) but hopefully more education will help with that issue overall 🙂

  4. Lily says:

    such a timely post for me, lady! thanks for the breakdown!!

  5. elsa murray-lafrenz says:

    Hi Laney!
    Thanks so much for posting this! I am launching my stationery business in September and it is really helpful to get a sense of how others charge. I have been building my portfolio for over a year now, and am now fine tuning the business side of things.
    I got the sense from your post that there was a small part of you that felt bad about charging "too much" but another part that felt like you weren’t charging enough. Not that my two sense matters, but I actually think you should charge way more for your design services! It can be hard when there are companies like minted out there charging just a fraction of what we need to charge to keep our doors open, but I think all the reason to distinguish yourself from them (which you do). I think that charging one rate for your time is perfectly acceptable. Sourcing papers and colors takes so much skill as a designer, and I think should generate the same rate as your graphic design fee. When it comes to things like emailing, marketing, creating proposals, networking etc…I imagine these things need to come from your hourly rate, not to the individual clients? I have been told that you should expect to take home just 20%-30% of your hourly rate, and the rest needs to account for those such un billable hours, margin of error, overhead. I would love to know your thoughts on what percentage of your hourly rate you actually take home… I hope I don’t come across as an arrogant know- it -all but I just thought I would share my thoughts 🙂 I am so appreciative of how generous you share your ideas and experiences. Truly truly! And I love your work and want you to feel completely justified in charging what you are worth!

    • Laney Schenk says:

      Hi Elsa! You are so sweet and I thank you for taking the time to write this!!! I agree with your assessment that there are two sides to all of my feelings – on one hand I’m ALWAYS telling everyone they should charge more and talking the talk, but on the other hand it’s tough to walk the walk, especially when you’re still somewhat new to the industry. I think one part that’s tough is that we can’t be like lawyers and bill actual hours – some jobs I feel like I got a steal of a deal because the client was simple, didn’t make many revisions, and all the printing and production went perfectly. Other jobs, there are hours of phone calls, a million tiny revisions, and 52 mistakes during the assembly process haha! So I think I do a decent job of taking home a majority of that income, but an exact percentage or number would be tough to quantify!

      • I am just SO glad to be having the conversation! Coming into this industry, it is like shooting in the dark figuring out pricing, so having you share your insights about the business side of things is so awesome. Eight years ago, I was over-the-moon excited to get my first job illustrating a children’s book (it had been my dream since forever, and illustration was my major at art school) But the reality of it was that I was paid $5000 for a project that took a full year, and it was totally unsustainable. I hated it. It was honestly so disheartening, that I abandoned all pursuits of being a freelance artist and became an art teacher instead. (yes, i see the irony) But I really have that entrepreneurial bug, so I am plunging in again! I also do enjoy business strategy and feel that all my failures in business (way more than just that one including opening a restaurant. That was totally cuckoo) have taught me well. I am living in San Francisco which is of course one of the most expensive cities in the world, and this definitely has to play a factor in my pricing. I also have been working as the business manager for a cake maker/artist who has a minimum cake order of $2,000, and although she certainly doesn’t do the volume of cakes she did before I came on board, she is doing the kind of projects she wants to be doing, which is awesome. When I first came on board, Jasmine felt like she was a slave to her business and although raising her minimum was SO scary, it made space for opportunities we never thought possible! (Granted, she has been at it for over 12 years and is very established which is part of the reasons she can charge that). But still! Seeing all the positive change that happened when she valued her time more has been SO inspiring! Jasmine charges more than most others in her field, but honestly, I don’t know how others keep their doors open charging what they do (especially in San Francisco). Granted, running a bakery has way more overhead than a stationery business does, but running any business has many unforseen expenses that come up which need to be accounted for. I am planning on allocating my hourly income as follows: 10% towards tax, 30% to go back into my business for all those unbillable hours such as emailing, marketing, reinvestment into my business etc, 10% towards fixed overhead expenses, 30% towards my hourly take home, 10% margin of error, and 20% profit. I will also be up charging materials 50%, so hopefully some of this can go towards my take home. If I charge $100/hour, this puts me at $30 take home which still isn’t much, but my hope is that with more experience I will become more efficient and will be able to make a larger percentage of that. I have spent around $8,000 for start up costs ( I am using unusual materials, and had to do a lot of prototyping, so my start up cost is probably more than most other people starting out). I am hoping to use my hourly rate to pay myself back for the first 6 months. When I broke it all down, I realized I am charging more than others which is so scary considering I am not yet established. But, at the end of the day, if I don’t value my time, who will? Anyways, Laney, would love to stay in touch, and continue to share stories, insights, frustrations, triumphs etc. ! My gmail is elsa@elsamadeline.com if you ever want to reach out and my ig handle is @elsamadelinedesign Thank you again for starting this conversation!

        • Laney Schenk says:

          Hi Elsa! Thank you for such a thoughtful comment – I apologize for just now responding! I wish you all the best of luck and think it’s SO important to charge what you are worth, and not worry so much about what everyone else is charging. If they want to do it for $xx, then let them! That doesn’t hurt you, because that client isn’t your ideal client in the long run. I’m so glad you’ve had a lot of experience with various artistic businesses, I think that will all come in handy starting your stationery business!!!!

  6. Wow thanks Laney for this. I was not mad at all. As a DIY bride I was amazed how much things cost so I decided to do it myself. Then I realise how much materials actually cost and the amount of time it consumes. I love crafts and art so much anyway that even if I had the money I would do those crafty things myself anyway. I have great appreciation for the experts and why the price is the way it is after it all.
    I’d have to say this was my starting point of my calligraphy journey. I fell in love with calligraphy the moment I discovered the pointed pen.
    Thank you for this post and I think the whole world needs to be educated about this. Artists I’ve always believed is to be one of the most underpaid workers there. They put in so many hours for only a few dollars earned. This post just solidified how and why that is.
    This is so true now that I want to embark my calligraphy journey into something more and start a business in a world where “why am I paying $5 for a piece of paper” when people pay hundreds of dollars for clothes you’d only wear once if you get to it ?

    • Laney Schenk says:

      Hi! I’m so sorry I’m just seeing this but I appreciate your kind words so much. I truly find that the education is all it takes to help quell some of those negative feelings about why stationers (and wedding vendors in general) are charging "so much". A lot more goes into it than people actually realize when it comes down to it, and there are so many moving parts that it takes a lot of time, experience, and effort to coordinate all of that! I can’t wait to see where your journey takes you – I hope to follow along with it!!!

  7. Sydney says:

    This is an amazingly helpful article! Thank you so much for your transparency. In the end, it really does just help the entire stationery industry make sure they’re getting paid for their time! Your resources are so valuable to somebody who is slowly starting out 🙂

  8. Emily Olsen says:

    Thank you for your transparency, Laney! I always have had a hard time explaining to clients where all the money goes and how I am truly only making a small profit. I’m so thrilled that you shared this knowledge and now so many brides and other stationary and calligraphy artists have it too! Keep up the incredible work!

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