SOS! Posts: Quick tips for getting through creative crisis.
You’re courting a new client, and it seems like they’re interested. Awesome! You talk about some job details, maybe some scheduling/deadline points, and then…they ask you the dreaded question: “How much?” No question inspires more panic in freelance artists. What do you do? If you quote too low, you’re not making enough money, and you’ll end up resenting working on the job. (Never mind never start making a living wage.) But if you quote the real worth of the job, will you lose the client? Let us walk you through some negotiation scenarios.
- Poll Your Peers. As soon as you start to get real inquiry questions from a new client, you should be asking around to see if any of your professional friends have worked with them before. Don’t have a network of peers? Then either make one or find one! There are many many Facebook groups full of professional artists in every subdivision of genre and industry, who discuss clients and professional practices — safely in private, where clients can’t see them. Or, make some artist friends online and start your own group and pool your knowledge!
- Check Pro Rates. There are a myriad of professional groups that keep an eye on standard rates, and books that are reprinted frequently that publish standard rates and salaries. Do some Google research for the industry you’re in and find them. These rates tend to be a little inflated, so you might have to bring them down to match your experience level, but at least you’ll know what the proper ballpark is.
- Turn the Tables. If you really have no clue where the industry standard is, or where the client’s thinking might be, then you can flip the question back on them. You can always be a bit cagey and say something like: “I work with all kinds of budgets and job sizes, why don’t you tell me what your budget is, and we can see what we can work out.” Some clients want to be careful not to insult an artist by immediately offering a job that might be below their usual rate, so they’ll just ask you what your rate is. By responding in a flexible way, it shows them that they can tell you the budget without offending you. And surprise, it might end up being higher than you were expecting.
- Know Your Hourly Rate. You should always have a number in your head that you need to make, per hour, to make a project worthwhile. Quickly guess-timate how many hours this project looks like it will take, add 25% more time than you think to be safe, and then figure out what the project rate should be from that calculation. Remember, you can always offer the client an hourly rate – it’s a little more work to keep track of your hours and keep a running tally with the client, but protects both sides a bit, especially if you’ve never worked together before.
- Offer Solutions. Remember a low budget doesn’t automatically mean you shouldn’t work on a job. Sometimes low-paying jobs offer important experience and connections (although you should never work for a client who offers only experience and promotion unless they put exactly what promotion is included in writing). Sometimes a small budget gig is a great opportunity to get a personal piece done if the client is willing to trade creative control for you doing the job. Or you can negotiate the deadline – lax deadlines are easier to fit into the lulls between other jobs. Get creative and offer options.
The most important thing to remember is that you are trying to keep the conversation going to get as much info as possible out of the client, until the point that you accept, or bail. If you bail due to price or deadline, it’s a polite (and savvy) move to recommend another artist who might want the job. It strengthens community, it leaves a good impression with the client, and the other artist will appreciate the compliment.