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May 13

Mountmaking Forum ›rates for service


attaboy 10/2/08

Independent mount makers,

I think my rates are too low.  Can I ask what others are charging relative to your years of experience?  How do you charge?  I charge (locally) by individual mount, usually ranging from $45 for a simple one on up to hundreds for complex ones.  But when I contract for services that are "bulk" - that is, over a period of days or weeks, I charge between $45 to $65 per hour.  Is that too low?




Suzi McG 10/2/08

That sounds about right to me.  My hourly rate fluctuates in that range depending on factors like how long I'll have to do the job and if I will be working "normal" hours or turning into a mountmaking zombie.  Zombies are much more costly. Suzi



Bradley Sanders



RE: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service

Hi folks,

I must caution you that, as you begin to expand (if you so choose), and employ others, then the equation becomes much more complex- you begin to have to pay exorbitant liability insurance; payroll taxes, workman’s comp- all of the trappings of business. We sometimes employ as many as ten to fifteen practitioners on a large museum job, and if we charged this rate, we would not last through one job. One ironic thing to me is that there are not that many Mountmakers, and you are competing against each other on bids. You can bet that the Designers and Curators- also highly skilled practitioners in their own field, are being paid twice and three times what you are. As we’ve grown over the last 25 years, I have continuously fought to keep the quality of our product up while competing against those who have just left our employ to go into business for themselves- and are charging less than we do, because they don’t have a high overhead (yet).

In my opinion, you should be making more than you are. Compare the complexity and demands of your work to that of a Designer- one who is also a Fabricator. You practice a very specialized multimedia craft. You have to know and be at journeyman or master level in brass, textiles, paper, acrylic, steel, and other mediums. You are asked to take potentially career-ending risks every day. Your pay is very modest for the service that you perform, believe me.


With regards,

Bradley Sanders





RE: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service

I’ll second that.



James Gielow 10/3/08

Re: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service I’ll third that!






Re: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service

Dear all, yes, I agree that I should be charging more, that is my reason for asking.  But how much more?  I consider myself a master mount maker and feel my rates are too low.  However, I get lots of work at these rates so don't want to price myself out of work.  By the way, I learned my first real mount making skills while an intern at DAM.  Nice to hear from you.

Thanks for the input, other comments welcome,



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Bradley Sanders



RE: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service


I'm sure we all agree that this isn't the best time in the world to raise rates (or is it?). We have been getting plenty of work as well. In my opinion, this board is the first I've seen of mountmakers communicating about anything much. I wonder if we in the field have been following the standard corporate pattern of guarded secrecy. This board is a welcome relief from that for me. In my opinion, we should be as united as possible, even up to and including a guild. There is so much going on in our field, especially as related to conservation practices, and given the thin spread of practitioners, there is plenty of work for everyone, but there are some major problems in staying in business.

The main problem we have had in our growing was expansion and contraction. Since most of our projects are fairly large now, we may have to expand from a core of eight or so total staff up to twenty, and then back down. One of the things we have done to allay this expansion is to train (usually on site) one or two people in each big installation. There are beginning skill levels where new personnel can be eased into the Mountmaking work safely. This has gained us a small cadre of practitioners from other cities who have their own trade or are college students, but are willing to join us for a couple of weeks or months at a time. A very small percentage of these become full time mountmakers. Since there is no training available for Mountmaking, we have found this to be the only way to get qualified practitioners. This all pertains to organizations as well as single practitioners. Few of the big exhibit companies staff mountmakers, because the expansion and contraction renders the trade too volatile to carry.

In my experience, the scale of costs and charges directly relates to the size and location of the project. I can't imagine how independent practitioners stay employed. If there is a six month break in projects, then what? If you bid on a project that will require ten people, then what? It seems that there are only certain plateaus of personnel numbers that will sustain themselves.


Just thoughts, Bradley    



Bradley Sanders



RE: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service

Hi all-

I work in a Filemaker database and do a line item cost estimate on every procedure, plus whatever materials, perdiem, etc. The database can be as simple or as complex as you like, but it sure helps to frame things up. Right now I am costing a projects with 550 objects of all sorts. When it's this big, I add fields for type of object, position, orientation, etc- to let me sort and compare like objects. Filemaker is wonderful for this sort of thinking, because you can set up layouts for any kind of page you want- on the run. I even use the database for figuring out building projects- like building a lamp or chair. I'm so forgetful that I have to have a map for everything I do.....



Suzi McG 10/3/08

Re: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service I agree that there are certainly lots of variables to consider when pricing your work.  But as far as an hourly sort of wage, for me that's sort of a starting point or a point of reference that I use when I work up a bid.  I think we all have come up with some innovative ways to manage figuring costs.  I learned a lot working with an architect/builder in school.  Sometimes it's all about how you define the types of costs including hiring extra hands that will help you shape out the estimate. There are definitely times of feast and famine but that can be said of almost any business - certainly a small business.  Let's just hope that the economy won't make it worse for us. Suzi



attaboy 10/3/08

Re: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service Yes, for individual or just a few custom mounts I charge by the mount and its complexity. 


attaboy 10/3/08

Re: [mountmaking-forum] Re: rates for service James, yes, san diego, "it was too beautiful for me - I had to leave" [kevin klein, french kiss] i'm so happy you've been able to fill in.  SanD is a huge mount-makers niche.  there's actually room for more folks if you're willing to work as far as orange county.  lot and lots of wealthy types in del mar an 'jolla with works in need of display stabilization. glad you're in the forum.  this means you are serious mount-crazy affecionado - not just display monkey. mountmaking is based on good stewardship, and that's based on letting the artifact's needs come first.  [yeah - i know, preachy, preachy] Please pass along my best to John and Dana and the rest of the registrars [and a special hey to Lisa Duclow]. best regards, scott

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