This month at Rise & Design, Yao and Danielle addressed a topic that all creatives find themselves struggling with at one point or another in their career: pricing. As small business owners, designers, and students working in a variety of different industries, we heard insights from designers who work primarily in licensing to others who bid for client jobs. We even gained perspectives from an art management rep, Ryan Appleton of Satellite Office. The range of experience in one room is truly what makes these meet-ups so valuable to us all!
Our experiences in dealing with pricing is made up of so many variables; it's a constant balancing act between years of experience, the industry, scope of work, and so much more. This makes it all the more challenging to come up with a fair price that is catered to each client. So it's no wonder that we all find ourselves often wondering...are we charging too much or too little? Are we being fairly compensated for the work that we make, or are we undervaluing ourselves?
When approached for a project, designers and clients engage in a lot of back and forth before settling on a proposed quote. There are instances where one asks for the budget prior to quoting and other where designers are given the budget and required to work within that range. Either way, it's important for us to remind ourselves that a quote is just part of the conversation. Everything is negotiable and creatives should not be afraid to propose what they think their work is worth. Companies are paying for a designer’s ideas, concepts, and expertise – and those are very valuable!
So… How does one determine a reasonable price point for a project? One suggestion is to itemize every step of the process (from the conceptual sketches to the final piece). Ryan had great advice regarding how to bill, breaking down quotes into á la carte options to keep from scaring clients away with the "take it or leave it" approach. If one is expected to "do everything," one can also charge for various skills sets, which requires the client to pay a little more for one person than a little less across a crew. Itemization also allows designers to clearly mark extra fees for additional revisions and concepts throughout the process so that there are no surprises.
There are naturally a few exceptions. Allison Black lives a double life, working on retainer with Target while explaining pitching for books and editorials, both of which price differently. Havilland Maxwell, a voice actress and on-camera coach, explained that readings and auditions are part of the voice/acting industry, but her per-project pay is generally better once hired. Naturally every industry is different, but sharing strategy helps us renegotiate what we perceive as rules in our respective practices.
As creatives, we are our own toughest critics, that's why this month's conversation proved to be so invaluable. We surprised each other by discussing a baseline pricing (with some exception) of around $1k; some balked, feeling they couldn't ask that much per project. However, democratizing rates allows us to educate our clients and better service our industry. Ben Stafford shared an instance where he priced himself out of a job by coming in too low, proving we sometimes forget our own value. Perceived value can work for or against us. Not only did we all learn a little more about how fellow creatives in other industries price, but we also learned reasonable numbers fortify our industry standards.
We have a feeling that this topic will be brought up again in the future! There is truly so much to unpack and share about something as important and crucial as pricing. No, it's not the primary reason why we started our own businesses, but it is a crucial part of sustaining the work that we believe in and take pride in. Expect more money sense in Rise & Design.
The Rise & Design crew
- Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro
- A Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns
- The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau