Urgh, ‘pricing’ – a word that sends a shudder down many creatives’ spines. It’s hard enough making sure you’re covering all your costs, let alone knowing and charging your worth! Now, before we get into this topic, I just want to say, I’m not about to share THE answers. I don’t have any magical formula and I’m in no way a ‘pricing for creatives’ or marketing specialist. It is, however, a topic at the forefront of my mind right now, and I think talking about it amongst friends and like-minded creatives can only be a good thing in helping us feel more comfortable with charging our worth.
With my business birthday coming up (6th April), I’ve been reflecting on my first year in this business – looking at what I’ve enjoyed, what clients have found helpful, and my pricing. Knowing that I want this to be my forever business, it’s so important the business is fulfilling in every sense of the word (take a look at my post: Is My Business Fulfilling Me? to find out what it means to me). This includes being financially sustainable.
Reviewing what I offer, the time I invest in projects, and the end results my clients receive, made me see a few areas needing improvement in my pricing. It also gave me ideas for some clarification on the services I offer, and some new attainable products that might really help you. Watch this space!
A Cost/Time Model
I’m in a couple of business Facebook groups and I asked other women what they felt about pricing for creatives and charging their worth.
Pamela Rae-Welsh (an online visibility specialist) said: “I’ve been on a full journey with regards to pricing for full brand edits and website design. I’m now much more confident with charging my worth as people get so much value from me when I work with them. I make sure I don’t get involved in the race to the bottom quote requests and focus on my ideal client who I know will appreciate my efforts.”
It makes me happy to see Pamela mentioning ‘value’. I used to price on a cost/time model, only thinking about the material and overhead costs of my services and products, and then adding on a bit for my time. In my first business (making wedding cakes) I soon realised it wasn’t a fulfilling model. Well, not for me anyway.
To make enough money I would either have to reduce my quality to save time, and make more cakes per month, or put my prices up considerably. It made me see that the ‘worth’ of each cake was so much greater than just the ingredients and my direct time. The client was buying the peace of mind that a talented designer and artist would be creating their cake, the knowledge I would give their cake so much of my care and attention, and the end result of a design they simply couldn’t buy anywhere else because there is only one me. Even writing that now, I have to take a deep breath. Singing your own praises doesn’t come naturally to an introverted creative!
The thing is, until we start appreciating our own worth – how can we expect clients to do so?
A Competitor-based Model
Nonie Leonard (a wedding planner) said: “It took a while for me to be comfortable and confident with my pricing for my wedding planning business, as I felt I gave more value and often found myself negotiating with myself. Now I have nailed my ideal client and my offering, I feel more confident in my pricing and my clients appreciate the work and heart I put in.”
I asked Nonie, ‘what used to make you feel less confident with pricing?’ and ‘what held you back from charging your worth in the past?’. She replied: “Even though I have 9 years’ worth of events planning experience, I felt the wedding industry was a different ballgame. You had to have done a certain number of weddings and know certain people. Somehow I felt I was not adequate to charge higher.”
This is something I know a lot of creatives struggle with. We don’t always look at our skills, talent, and knowledge as things of worth. We’re so used to having them as assets, we forget how valuable they are to our clients.
We can fall into the trap of using a competitor-based pricing model. This is where we look to our competitors, see what they are offering and charging, and base our pricing accordingly. I’m not going to say this is completely wrong, there are some advantages. It helps you gauge where you are in the market and whether you are currently offering a ‘cheap’ or ‘high-end’ price point. However, the biggest issue with this model is: imposter syndrome!
A value-based model
Looking at competitors for your own pricing is a sure-fire way to make you start doubting yourself. You won’t price based on the value you are bringing to the table; you’ll price based on where you pitch yourself against your competitor’s service/product. You’ll potentially undercut your own worth in the fear people won’t pay you more than your competitor or, as harsh as it sounds, you might out-price yourself by jumping to a level you’re not quite ready for.
Instead, using a value-based model can be a really positive step when pricing for creatives. Sure you still need to cover your costs, and you need to get enough return for your time but, instead of just adding a nominal fee for your time (or trying to compare yourself to competitors), you add a figure that reflects the real value and worth of your product or service.
Finding a balance
Don’t worry, I’m not about to put my prices up unrealistically. One of my core brand values is about being ‘attainable’. That’s why I’m carefully looking at ways I can offer my services and products at different levels, to best help you, whilst making sure my business stays fulfilling and sustainable long-term.
I am, however, going to try to pull up my big girl pants, be brave, and start charging my worth. It’s time to fully embrace a value-based pricing model for creatives and stop shying away from my full potential. I really hope you can find the inspiration to do so as well (if you’re not already)!