Creating a price-list can feel unnerving when you are new to your business endeavor. The more research you do about how to price, the more back up you have when negotiating your prices, and the more confidence you will have during those discussions with potential clients. Making sure you are getting paid for your services is nothing to feel ashamed about and if a client undercuts your value too much, it is ok to politely decline the work. More often than not, if you let the client peek behind the curtain a little they will understand the cost a bit better.
Here are some scenarios that we have experienced in our journey so far:
I thought you could do this project for us for the exposure. After reviewing an order request and identifying the cost of materials and the labor involved, you provide a quote to a potential client. The response back is that they didn't actually expect to have to pay you because they felt they were helping you out by giving you a showcase opportunity. Although this can feel very insulting and your initial reaction may be emotional, keep in mind that they may not actually understand the amount of work they are asking for. The cost of your services may not align with the value they have assigned their network. For instance, if someone is asking for something to be done that will be inside their home the question becomes is their full network visiting their home or just a select few people who might notice your work? That may not be worth as much as if the client has a magazine that they want to showcase your work in. This is your opportunity to negotiate with your client and really evaluate if their audience would help to grow your business or if they are just inflating their own influence to get something on the cheap.
I like this product that you made. Can you make a specialty one for me and I'll pay you the same price as the original? It is really great when someone likes your work and wants custom work done, the only downside is when they want custom work but don't realize that the cost may be significantly more. The original product has all of it's "kinks" worked out, additionally it may be batched out to provide a discount on the materials, and the time it takes to produce would be significantly less. It may just be that the customer needs some education on the cost difference. Most of the time they are not trying to be insulting, they just don't understand the difference because from their perspective both items in the end are the same deliverable.
That's a bit much for me to pay you for something you can do so easily. This is the kick your in the teeth comment that so many creators receive when they provide their pricing. Someone comes along who has never done what you do and they see you creating something so seemingly effortlessly that they think the value is diminished. One of our friends recently posted a fantastic note about this same experience on social media: A street artist does a sketch for a man for $100. The man says, "Wow! $100 for 5 minutes of work. I'll pay you because it is a good sketch but I think it is overpriced" The artist responds simply, "30 Years and 5 minutes of work." The takeaway here is, you have investments in your business that help to set the stage for your pricing that are invisible to the consumer when they witness you doing something that seems so casual when you perform the task. A little bit of insight into what it took to learn what you are doing or the investment in the tools can really be eye opening for your client when they see the final total.
If I had all of that fancy equipment I could do that too. Why should I pay you this much for you to do it when I could do it myself. As technology gets better and more accessible there is a notion out there that the operator is no longer skilled or of value. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, technology has helped us do things faster and more efficiently but you still need to have the skills behind the tools to do the work. Whether you are editing photos on a computer or you are using a CNC machine to route a board to have custom engravings - there are still labor hours and cost associated as well as the knowledge of how these tools work and the talent to make the output look appealing. Regardless of talent, there was an initial investment on your part in that equipment that is part of the pricing consideration.
I saw someone do this cheaper, why don't you charge the same? There are hobbyists that undercut their pricing because they don't own a business and are just looking to pay for the supplies for their hobbies, photographers who are just starting out that don't have the notoriety or experience yet to charge more for their services, and woodworkers who don't buy exotic species of wood to build out their furniture - all three can seem to diminish the value of what service you are providing. Because you have done the due diligence to build out your price list and understand intimately why you charge what you do, you can justify your costs to your clients. The thing to remember is that your client didn't buy what they are looking for from that low price person for a reason and they have come to you. Feel confident that there is a reason they didn't jump on that low price when they saw it and use this as an opportunity to sell to them why you feel you are the right person for the job and that your work is worth the cost.
This is something that you enjoy doing, isn't that payment enough? A lot of creatives run into this issue when asked to perform their talents. The value our culture has on the arts is very minimal and some people think that you don't deserve to be compensated for doing something you enjoy, that you should only make money if you are in some state of discomfort. Unfortunately, this is probably the toughest scenario to cultivate a positive experience from. This idea can be so engrained that what you are doing should not be paid for. If that is the case and the resistance seems firm, the position can be as simple as; if you value what I am doing then you will pay me for it, if you do not then I will not be doing the work for you. It sounds harsh to turn down work but you have a business you are trying to keep going and that doesn't mean you take on work for the sake of work. You take on work to afford to keep going. There is a vast difference between being an entrepreneur and being a hobbyist in regard to what you can do and what you should do.
To be successful as an entrepreneur you have to have confidence in your abilities and in your value. Without that, it can be very disheartening when you experience the above scenarios. There is always opportunity for negotiation if there is room in your pricing to do so, but don't be so desperate that you are essentially paying the client to do work for them. If in the past you took on work and were not fairly compensated, don't beat yourself up about it. There are always learnings to take away from every opportunity that comes your way. Always keep in mind, it is not your client's responsibility to be an expert at your profession - that's why they have come to you instead of doing it themselves.
Heidi Jacobs is the Co-Founder of Slap Stuff Together, a maker's studio. She is also a Project Manager by day and part time professional photographer. If you would like to learn more about SST's adventures as a new start up you can follow them on Instagram or on Facebook. If you would like to learn more about their startup you can drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Business owner and Artist, committed to growing as a maker as well as sharing her and her husband's experience with owning a small maker studio.
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