As an artist, one of the many struggles to making money is negotiating how much you deserve to get paid. It's a pretty common stereotype that artists' work is taken advantage of by clients who don't understand the amount of time, hard work, and experience that goes into charging for a project.
I'M HERE TO HELP BREAK THAT STEREOTYPE AND PROVIDE YOU WITH SOME WAYS THAT YOU CAN NEGOTIATE FREELANCE RATES THAT YOU WANT INSTEAD OF RATES THAT THE CLIENT DICTATES.
*Disclaimer: These factors are based off of my own experience and are NOT the ONLY ways to negotiate higher rates, but should help to push you on a path toward more financial and creative success.
1. LEAD WITH YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION
Differentiating yourself from the countless other freelancers out there is KEY to being hired for jobs. And not just for any job; but for the jobs that you WANT not just the ones you NEED.
What makes you stand out? And why are you a better candidate for the job than the next artist? Can you work quicker and more efficiently than the next person? Do you have a specific skill in your field? For example, if you are a video editor can you learn a new software on top of Adobe Premiere or Final Cut. Maybe you can add value by becoming proficient in Adobe After Effects as well and include animation and title treatments as added value to a proposal. As a photographer, are you proficient in Lightroom AND Photoshop? These types of skills can be beneficial in providing added value to your client, allowing you to charge higher rates for your work.
2. RESEARCH COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY RATES
DO I CHARGE A FLAT RATE OR AN HOURLY RATE? AND HOW DO I KNOW WHICH TO CHARGE?
This is a critical factor in rate negotiations. Every industry is different, so before doing anything, do your research to compare rates of other freelancers. What are the lower hourly rates of those just breaking into the industry and what are the freelancers charging that have been in the business for 10+ years? Do you feel comfortable falling somewhere in the middle and why? In a lot of cases charging a flat rate may be more appealing to the client. As a video editor, I often charge flat rates for my services as opposed to hourly to provide a discount and save the client sticker shock on the final invoice. You can typically charge a bit more for your hourly rates if a client is willing to pay for it, however it is smart to be transparent with your client throughout the process of work. I often implement milestones when charging hourly so I can give my client a benchmark of how many hours I’ve already spent on the project and how many more I predict I still have to go. By doing this they can estimate the final invoice cost along the way, instead of being shocked and blindsided by how much the project costs as an hourly rate. Regardless of which method you choose, it really is all dependent on the industry you are in, so make sure you do your research ahead of time.
3. BUILD A DIGITAL PORTFOLIO OF YOUR WORK
It's 2019 people! If you are looking to get hired as a freelancer, it's not a recommendation anymore, but an absolute NECESSITY to promote your work online. Gone are the days of paper portfolios and just word of mouth. IF you expect to charge a premium price, a client will expect to see premium content and this is where you can take advantage of something called…THE INTERNET.
Use the tools at your disposal and promote your work on as many digital platforms as makes sense for your business. As a photographer, you have most of your landscape portfolio work on your website, but your vertical work is showcased on your Instagram. As a designer, take advantage of sites like Pinterest, Behance and Dribbble to post your work. I’ve recently begun posting my video and photography work to stock sites like Adobe Stock and Getty Images in order to broaden the scope of where my work is being seen. As a fellow freelancer, my career is based on a substantial online presence. And just because you have a presence online, does not mean you should be posting every element of every project you've been hired for. PUT YOUR BEST WORK OUT THERE! This should be the work you feel most proud of and should pitch to a client to make the best first impression. First impressions are everything in this business and a beautiful online portfolio is the first step in the process.
4. KNOW YOUR WORTH!
For all you artists out there, you may be familiar with the infamous Napkin Story from Picasso…
Picasso is sitting in a cafe when a fan approaches him and asks to make a quick sketch on a napkin. Picasso quickly draws this sketch, hands it back to the patron and asks for a large sum of money in return. Stunned the fan asks why he's asking for so much money, for work that only took a minute to draw on a napkin. Picasso promptly responds that it didn't just take a minute, that drawing took 40 years of experience, education, hard work, and knowledge. THAT is the value that you are paying for.
It is crucial to know what your work is worth. Even with comparisons to other industry rates, only YOU can decide how valuable your time is and the reasons behind your rates. There are many factors that play into this. If you went to art school, paid tuition, spent years in a work-study program - that is the value that should be factored into your rates. If you did not pay for any formal education but you saved up money, purchased camera equipment and have spent the last 5 years shooting every single day - that is value as well. If you've spent years working as a full-time graphic designer or illustrator and you've recently made the move to full-time freelancer - that is value!
Time…money…education…EXPERIENCE! This all makes you more valuable and thus capable of charging higher rates for your professional work.
5. NURTURE EVERY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
ONCE THE DOOR HAS BEEN OPENED, IT IS UP TO YOU TO MAKE SURE IT STAYS OPEN.
Okay, so you’ve been hired for the job that you bid on. You complete the work that was asked of you and you are ready to move onto the next project. The client is happy and the project has now been closed out. Now what?
This may seem obvious but this is your opportunity to nurture your relationship with a client who has already paid you for your work. Can you foresee another need for your services in the future? Let’s say you are taking lifestyle photos for a clothing brand. They hire you to photograph models for a new fall line of clothing coming out. Based on your experience and knowledge of basic marketing, they will most likely need other seasonal photos throughout the year as marketing for their online stores, mailers and catalogs. And if you knock it out the park on the fall shoot (which you will), who do you think they will want to hire for the next shoot? Make sure they are fully satisfied with the first shoot and everything is finalized before you start pitching yourself for work in the future. Always make the client happy and put your best work forward so you maintain a healthy relationship and continue to keep that door open. Many of my work throughout the year is repeat business from previous years and clients I have continued to stay in touch with. Keeping that door open = keeping the lights on!