For military spouses who work in creative fields, it seems like the words “portable,” “flexible,” and “enjoyable” should go together. But the joy of creative work can quickly turn sour when it comes to setting a price for your labor.
When you’re getting started in a creative field, you know that you may have to offer your services for free (or at a highly discounted rate) to build a portfolio. But after you’ve had a few successful projects, it can be daunting to think about setting (or raising) your rates, especially if it will mean renegotiating with existing clients. To lessen the anxiety of this process, consider:
What are your basic needs?
A base rate isn’t worth having if it doesn’t factor in the costs of your business, taxes that you must pay, your realistic yearly billable hours, and the total salary you need to make this job worthwhile.
What type of project is it?
Are you creating a website or designing a logo? Writing an article or an entire manual?
Photographing a wedding or a portrait? When it comes to setting your price, you can have a scaled list rather than a flat hourly rate. The type of project will dictate the amount of time, energy, and effort you must give.
Who is your client?
Are they a small, local business owner, a mid-size firm, or a large corporation? While a small business may have fewer resources, they may also give you more creative space. With each job, you must determine a balance between your interest in the project and an obligation to your finances.
Not sure, just ask! Your client already has an idea of how much they're willing to pay. By asking their price range, you’re better equipped to leverage the price you want rather than undervaluing yourself.
What kind of value does this project provide?
Think about the problem that your work will correct rather than an hourly rate. If a client’s website crashes and you fix it, your work may have more value to that client. Although it may only take an hour to fix the problem, the value of a fix in an emergency is worth far more.
What are other creatives charging?
This is where the importance of a network comes in. They can give you inspiration, encouragement, and referrals, while also answering questions about the market in your industry. Although it may feel awkward to ask how much someone charges, if you do so politely and professionally, you’re likely to get an open, helpful answer about how they calculated their rate.
What if they say “No”?
Once you’ve determined your price plan, create a list of contract negotiation talking points. You should include the reasoning behind your price points, as well as ground rules and expectations for both parties. By listing the questions you could face (and their answers), you’ll feel prepared for any negotiations. As a creative entrepreneur, it’s important for you to be clear, consistent, and confident in your worth.
Don’t be afraid to turn down a project if a client doesn’t agree to your rate. You aren’t saying “no” to your work. Instead, you’re turning down the chance to earn less while doing more and an unsustainable client relationship.
Remember: you’re talking about money because your creative work is worthy of realistic compensation. You’re talking about money because you are a professional, and professionals get paid.