In a recent edition of The Capsule, I shared a glimpse of an exchange I had with a recent client, and how it doubled the market price of my work in one strike. It so results that pricing your creative work relies more on instinct and intuition over rationale, and today we'll learn why.

Creative work tendentially low-ends because we, the makers, fail to see what the outsiders do. The “business” aspect of things was forgotten along our manufacturing process. For the worse, there's no visible neon sign anywhere that reads “Look! This is how much your work could make the client bank!”. Well, I'm here to plug the first cable into the socket.

Learning where to draw the line between “fair price” and “I could exchange this for a popsicle” is where it gets all fuzzy. Us designers and artists enjoy playing the role of people-pleaser frequently because, as I said, we're enamored with our craft. Thus we take in work here and there, unfiltered, stockpile it into our pipeline, and pray to Chuck Norris our awake time will suffice.

It is time to become more assertive about our pricing strategy, grow confidence over our creative outlet, and bring in the money fellas and felletes.

Simply ask for more money

Yes, you read right. Just ask for more. Can it be that simple? Confirmado.

Chris Do is well known for procuring paradigm shifts in creative minds. His discourse is meticulously crafted to dismantle the self-undermining talk some of us involuntarily put together when we question ourselves: am I skilled enough? Professional enough? Prepared enough? All silly, all woo-woo, questions that handicap our potential.

I've known outstanding creatives charging pennies for the work. I've also known average joes cashing in for the simple fact they asked for more money. It boils down to a matter of attitude. No matter how good you can draw, how A-level your perspective game is, how proficient you are in creating vector burritos; if your earnings aren't in ascent over time, there is a piece of the machinery that needs some greasing.

During this interview with Cuban-American visual artist Magdiel Lopez, both Chris and himself drop a couple of golden nuggets. I advise you to watch it, listen closely, and take notes if necessary. Magdiel recalls one particular “Aha!” moment following a client exchange which radically changed his outlook upon the value of his own work. Go look it up...impact guaranteed!

Enlightenment arrives when you dart that four, five, or six-figure number, swallow hard, and hit send. In that very instant, a chunk of the impassable paywall bias crumbles down right before your eyes like soda crackers. All of a sudden you feel empowered, capable, and most importantly: valued. So don't be afraid to simply ask for more.

Google your client

No, no. Not in a weird way!

Depending on who's soliciting your services, the company may or may not have financial data on the internet. The bigger the business is, the more likely this becomes. For instance, if Coca-Cola reaches out to you to create graphics for their winter campaign you could do one of two things:

  1. Assume that for it being Coca-Cola they are going to count with a big bag of cash for this job, a valid argument.
  2. Dive into Google to do lightning research on their campaign budgets or yearly ad spend. This will give you a hint of how far you can toss the spear without risking losing the client...or stabbing it.

Now, let's say the client is not Coca-Cola but a local eyewear brand. What should you do? You could go even further into the research. How many shops are there? What is the average price point of their product? Are they selling locally only, or region-wise? Can you look for competitors with similar profiles to cast a guess on Ad spend? These are all pointers you can later use to craft your project proposal with some solid arguments to support it. Bring me ze money!

Price based on foreseeable impact is a valid outtake strategy. What I mean with that is: create a hypothetical scenario of how your work will bring positive results to your client. What is the project scope and reach? Will it be showcased worldwide? Art creates emotions, moves masses, and provokes change. Your piece could be the defining factor of a well-executed campaign. Treat it like such.

Be bullish, your work demands it

Ever heard the saying: “One can only charge as much as your client is willing to pay?” No? Good. Me neither.

Cheap work is unappreciated work. Cheap work is destined to be battered, dragged, and thrown around like a ragdoll. In fact, charge your client cheap and be ready for what-ifs, let's do what my cat suggested, and who knows what sparkle of spontaneous capricious charm.

Note to starters: At the early stages of your freelancing career as an artist or creative, you shouldn't be bothering to appear on MTV's Cribs. You should instead have three goals in mind:

  • Build a portfolio
  • Become highly skilled in one (or more) areas
  • Network with other artists, designers, and agencies

Whether that entails doing free work, creating make-believe projects, or going on a 90-day artistic rampage. Your work has to do the talkin', don't fall into the ambition trap too early.

Remember price is an agent of quality. When a potential client winds up asking for a quote and your rates fly below their expectations, you signaled you're insecure about the value of your work. This unravels a plot in which they own the upper hand to toy around with requests, so you may as well buckle-up tight, Chewie.

Another win-win-situation about increasing your rates is you immediately put yourself in the spot of delivering higher quality work. Double the price, double the expectations, double the pressure, double the growth. Can I have that with fries on the side, please?

Sorry but we can't afford it

Lastly, this a scenario you're going to face give or take when the rubber meets the road. At this moment you have to ask yourself a handful of questions:

  • Will this project significantly improve my skills?
  • Could this relationship result in more work further on?
  • Is the client a fit for my values and objectives?
  • Am I in the right financial situation to cut-down prices?
  • Would I amount to a greater impact by investing the time into honing my portfolio and skills instead?

If the answer is yes, take it. If otherwise, know you should only take in commissions you feel good about—unless your finances state the opposite. Halving the price of your creative work doesn't render it less valuable, or you less competent, if you're harnessing a big chunk of professional experience in return. Hold onto that thought.

Put your priorities on a scale and make a cold call. Don't hesitate to say No to a client whose objectives are incompatible with yours, there's plenty of fish in the sea.

Which leads me to my last argument: clients, there are many; your time, on the other hand, is finite. Focus on doing the work you love and let that be the compass that leads you into a successful economic landscape. It works like clockwork. In the meantime get educated, read books, water your creativity, equip yourself with tools to face the journey, and don't forget: never be afraid to ask for more money.