I can confidently say that for those just starting out, the creative industry is one of the most undervalued areas you can work in. Not only are the hours long, but the pay isn’t necessarily great until you reach mid-senior level employment (for a designer anyway). Even if you’re freelancing you have to do a lot of work outside the actual service such as; accounting, writing proposals, consulting etc. When I was in my early 20s I decided to make the jump into self-employment, and boy was it hard! So, I can understand how hard it is for a creative to make it on their own. Whether you’re a designer, musician, event planner, or content writer, we all have the same consistent problem when we’re freelancing; Pricing. Whether you like it or not, you must learn to price your work. Here are some things to consider.
Stop underselling yourself
It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to price my work. Over the years, I’ve done projects that I’ve majorly under-priced, resulting stress and time wasted. Take it from me, unless you’re doing a rare favour for somebody, do not underprice your work. When we do this, we do several things that negatively affect us:
- The client can’t take you as seriously because you’ve made yourself a cheap option just to get the project
- You’ve shown that you’re not confident in your ability
- The lowest priced projects tend to be the most stressful and demanding
You don’t want to build yourself as the cheap option and keep getting the same kind of clients. Most creative work is based on word of mouth so you want to control what’s said about you as much as possible.
Your time is precious
One of my core beliefs is that Time is Money. I hold fast to this belief and it stops me from getting involved in things that I don’t need to. Even if you’re doing a favour for somebody it’s still got to be worth your time, and not something you do out of compulsion. People aren’t just paying for the service you’re providing them, they’re also paying for the time spent building up to that. Most creatives fail to factor this in when they start off and they end up feeling overworked and undervalued, and it’s nobody’s fault but their own. This is your bread and butter, and if you want to eat, you’ve got to get paid for your time.
How much do you value your skills?
At the end of the day people are paying for your skillset because they can’t do it themselves, so they see the value in what you do already. It’s up to you to be confident in knowing that you’re actually good. One thing that helped me was focusing on my strengths and not bothering with my weaknesses. I can design a great logo, but don’t ask me to build an APP! What are you best at doing? Once you know this you can confidently say that you’re great at what you do and price based on that.
Not all clients are your clients
Remember, we don’t all shop at the same supermarket. Some of us prefer ASDA, some prefer Tesco, others prefer Waitrose. If you can’t provide what someone is looking for then don’t force yourself to do it unless it’s a skill you need to learn in the long-run, i.e. basic HTML and CSS. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling somebody that you can’t give them what they need. This is also relevant when you’re giving a quote that exceeds somebody’s budget. A lot of the time budgets are unrealistic, so don’t feel like you must give a massive discount just to get the work. It’s better to have fewer clients that match your price, than a lot of clients that you’re underselling yourself for.
I’ve read all of that, now how do I price my creative work?
When I price for creative work, there are three core factors that I consider; time spent, hourly rate, and ownership rights. By thinking about what’s most important to me as a designer I’m able to give a price that’s reasonable for both me and the client. If I need to adjust the rate, then I’m able to do so depending on what’s being delivered. The three factors can be put into a formula that’s easy to work with. This isn’t the only way to price a project, but it’s a start.
The formula is; (time spent x hourly rate) x ownership rights = Price
It can be as simple as that. Here’s how it works in a bit more detail.
The time spent is the number of hours you think it will take to complete the project, including; consulting, planning, building, and delivery. This varies depending on the person doing the work, so you know how long it would take you the work.
How much do you value your time? You might not know this, but you could take your level, e.g. junior, and look at the average wage for your industry. For the sake of this example let’s say the hourly rate for a junior level designer is £30ph. Let’s also assume that a logo takes 20 hours (which it doesn’t in most cases).
In the case of a designer, the artwork created is intellectual property, and many of us miss this out when we quote for work. You’re basically handing over your creation to someone to use as they please (if it hasn’t been outlined in the terms). You should give a figure for this, whether it’s limited ownership rights (use only as instructed), or full ownership (full use of the artwork). Again, for the sake of the example let’s say full ownership rights is valued at a figure of ‘1.2’.
Using the figures above, the formula for a logo will look like this:
(£20 x 30hrs) x (1.2)
In total the logo is worth at least £720 (there are other factors that determine the price of a logo but let’s keep it simple for now). You also have to remember to add the unbilled hours at the end of the project when the final deposit is requested.
But I’m not a designer!
I only used the example above because it’s the world I live in, but what if the formula can be applied and adjusted for other creative jobs? The whole reason the formula exists is so that you charge what you’re worth. Let’s use a session guitarist as an example this time. The formula could look like this:
(Rehearsal time + performance time) x hourly rate = Price
Let’s say the rehearsal time is 2 hours a day from Monday to Friday, and the performance is on a Saturday for 1 hour. The guitarist’s hourly rate is also £50 an hour. It’ll end up as:
(10hrs + 1hr) x £50 = £550 (disclaimer: I don’t know how session musicians charge but I know plenty that choose not tk because they don’t know how). Again there will be other charges such as time spent travelling to the venue and rehearsal space, extra rehearsal hours etc.
I didn’t write this to make anybody follow this formula, but it’s worked for me in the past and I thought it would help other people stuck in the same predicament I was in. If you’ve tried this out, let me know! I’d love to hear from you.