Are you charging enough?

by Justine Clay


I’ve noticed that creative freelancers and entrepreneurs have a tendency, at least in the beginning, to target other small creative businesses as clients. Their reasons are usually that (a) they relate to them (b) they get excited about the launch of a new business (c) there is more perceived freedom in these projects.  I say ‘perceived’ because the opposite is often true.  While wonderful people, small business owners tend to be emotionally attached to their business and somewhat unwilling to relinquish control.  They also tend to have small budgets.  

On the other hand, larger clients have marketing budgets, know how things work and appreciate what they cost.

Now I know you went into business to create work that mattered, but you also want to make money, right?  The good news is that the two are not mutually exclusive.  It is entirely possible to up your game and position yourself to clients that have the great projects AND budgets.

Here are a few strategies: 

Know what you have to offer and what results you deliver
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a freelancer what they do and they say “oh, I do everything”.  I totally understand the impulse – by casting our net wide we think we’ll get more clinets.  Wrong.  Clients don’t want a jack-of-all-trades, they want someone who specializes in solving the exact issue that they have.  By defining your niche you can target a much smaller slice of potential clients (which is actually a relief), you get really good at doing what you do (building your reputation within your field) and ultimately, you can charge more for your services.

Know who your ideal client is
When I first started Pitch Perfect, one of my target client groups was design school graduates.  While I still love to participate in college workshops and panels (that youthful energy is hard to resist!), there are a couple of reasons why students are not my ideal clients:

1) As a creative agent, I’ve always worked with established, high-level creative talent. I know what they want and need to get out of their career.  I also know what their ideal clients need to see, hear and experience.  It didn’t make sense to target an entirely different group of people whose needs I didn’t know as well.

2) Students don’t have any money.  I soon realized that the people I’d need to market to were the parents, which would require me to develop a whole new list of contacts. 

Create an impression of increase
I just heard this term and I love it.  In order to buy, we want to feel an impression of increase. That’s why aspiration, not practicality sell.  Take a look at the way you’re presenting yourself and ask, “Am I creating an impression of increase”?  Here are a few things that will help:

  • a nicely designed business card
  • a well-designed, easy to navigate website
  • glowing testimonials and LinkedIn recommendations
  • looking your best
  • thinking about how you speak to your clients.  If they feel understood and you convey confidence, you’re well on your way.

Determine your rate and package your services
There are several variables to consider when defining your rate and packages. While no size fits all, there’s a lot you can do to influence how people engage with you and how much you get paid.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • Your experience, skill level and results you get for your clients
  • How many hours you can actually devote to creative projects.  Remember that your business also requires time for administrative work, meetings, marketing etc., so you won’t actually be ‘creating’ 8 hours a day/5 days a week.
  • How many clients you can serve at once?  If your rate means that you need to have 6 clients going at any one time, and you know you can’t keep up that pace, go back to the drawing board and increase your rate.
  • Package your services where possible. You can also negotiate project rates or, in a pinch, day rates.  Never, ever, ever offer an hourly rate….it will guarantee that you get paid peanuts.

I have a nifty little system that I use with my clients to help them figure the rate they should charge. If you think I might be able to help you, give me a call.

Some things on this list are pretty easy and fast to implement, while others (such as a website) might be a bigger undertaking.  The important thing is that we recognize that the value that we place on ourselves directly influences the value others assign to our work.  Up your game and they’ll up their budgets.

I’d love to hear from you.  Do you feel you’re getting paid enough for the value that you offer? Please share any thoughts or stragtegies that work for you.