The Cost of Showing

by bethwicker on February 8, 2009

I did a show this weekend that was a new one for me, and in talking with the other artists realized that when I figure up the cost of doing a show, I do it rather differently than a lot of them.  I’m an artist, but I’m also a business person, and I do try to keep track of costs!

I kept hearing comments like “Well, I’ve made my booth fee, so I’m ok.”  Which made me wonder if they really throught that was their only cost for the show!

When I figure my show costs, they include ALL the costs associated with that show.  It starts with the time to fill in the application, the application fee, the booth fee, the postage.  If I have to submit photos, then I have to include a portion of the cost of taking the photographs of my work, plus any cost for having photos printed or put on CD.  Plus any time involved in doing these things!

Then you have to figure the costs of your booth displays and set up – a portion of that should be assessed to each show’s costs.

Next, the time to pack and load your work for the show, then to travel to the show, to unload and set up, to break down, return home, and unload again.  That is all time you should be “paid” for.

Part of your cost is your time on the show floor – that is time you are not in your studio creating.  What is it worth?

You need to include transportation costs – gas, mileage; food; and any accomodations needed.

Then you have your office supplies – price tages, signs, sales receipts, etc.

You balance these costs against the proceeds of the show.  The proceeds inclued sales, but can also include gallery contacts, custom orders, repairs coming out of the show – any benefits that accrue as a direct result of your exposure to the public in the show.

THEN you can figure out if your costs are outweighed by your proceeds!

It gets tricky trying to be sure you have included all your costs, and then trying to include the sometimes delayed or nebulous benefits.

I have a friend who sold nothing at one show, but got a solo gallery show from the exposure, which then resulted in large sales.  So sometimes the “benefits” may be delayed and at a distance.

In my most recent show I received two custom orders from the show, which will count on the proceeds side of the equation.  At least one of those customers has already indicated that if she is pleased she has more custom work she wants done – so that would also accrue to the show.

Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that once you have covered your booth fee you have covered your costs!


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Teri Baskett February 13, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I really appreciate this list and the topic in general….I think it is SO easy to underestimate our costs of doing business. I recently wrote a post about adding in all our costs, and while, it does need some tweaking—a few things truly are just a cost of doing business that we can’t really include in pricing our designs—-I felt it had very important things that many designers, particularly new ones, forget when they are pricing their work. If you wish to read thru my list, check it out here: and then read the follow up post also related to it! Hopefully others will find it interesting and relevant too! Teri
Twitter: Teri_B

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