Today I thought I’d share my thoughts and experiences on pricing your work. It’s safe to say that A LOT of young designers (myself included) have trouble valuing their work and pricing it accordingly. The majority of the time, we price our work too low because we're afraid that the client will back out of a project. We price our work too low because we think too optimistically about how long a project will actually take us, ignoring all the problems that could potentially arise throughout the project. Worse than that, we price ourselves too low because we purely don’t see the value in our work.
I will admit, I have struggled with this, and still struggle to figure out what my work is worth. Since I work full-time, I only occasionally do freelance projects, so I don’t have a lot of experience with pricing. Whereas, If I were a freelance designer, relying on that as my sole income, I would have a lot more experience and knowledge of how to estimate a project fairly for everybody involved.
But, since I know that I'm not alone, I will share my few experiences with pricing my work. It’s important for me to note that most of the “freelance” work I have done were while I was a student. At that point, I rarely turned down opportunities because I was desperate for portfolio pieces, so I did projects for dirt cheap. It wasn’t really because I wanted to give my friends “a good deal” - It was because I was uneducated on how much my time was worth.
Pricing projects far too low lead me to feeling dissatisfied and annoyed throughout the project. I would get frustrated because a project would take a lot longer than I expected and I wouldn't be compensated for the extra time I put into making revisions or creating more designs that weren't included in the original project scope. It took me a while to realize that I was doing EVERYTHING WRONG!
I definitely learned my lesson with one project in particular, where I charged far too little and didn’t use a contract. I knew this person very well and trusted them. I thought since I knew them personally, that there was no need to use a contract. I never thought that I wouldn't be paid for the work I would do. Unfortunately, I never got paid. It wasn’t just the design time I never got paid for, it was also the materials and printing that I never got compensated for. Not even money towards my gas for delivering the product to them. I felt taken advantage of and used.
I realize that this was completely my fault, and I would NEVER make the mistakes I made then, now. It is SO important to use a contract so that you are protected as well as the client. I respect my profession far more now to allow for something like that to happen again. But the truth is, there are a lot of people who do not respect design as a profession. You will come across many people throughout your career who will expect you to do work for them for free, or will walk away and use cheap design services. Don't get me wrong, If there's a project that you are extremely passionate about or know will lead you in a direction you want to go in, by all means GO FOR IT. But, you should never let anyone feel as though your work isn’t worth being paid for.
From my past experiences, I have since adjusted my pricing to better reflect my experience, abilities, and time, while also estimating a price that is reasonable for the client. When it comes to estimating a project, the best approach is to take into consideration the type of work you are creating and realistically how long you imagine it will take you. You also need to consider any revisions and anything else that may affect the timeline. Remember that this is your source of income, not just a hobby, so you have to earn enough to live off of. If you think you've priced fairly, and the client doesn’t agree, then they aren’t an ideal client.
Whether you’re a freelance designer, or looking to earn some extra money, I hope you found this post helpful. You are far too talented to sell yourself short!