How Much Should I Charge?

You’re a creative, a freelancer, a small one person business and you don’t earn enough from your creative work to make this self employment…

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

You’re a creative, a freelancer, a small one person business and you don’t earn enough from your creative work to make this self employment thing worthwhile. Perhaps this may help.

My name is Larry. I’m a writer and artist. I’m also a business person for the last 20 years. I want to share with you my thoughts on how much we should charge for our services and creative work and how we might successfully increase our rates such that we make a living befitting our creative abilities and experience.

How much should I charge?

Well now, we’ve really come to the nub of it all, haven’t we…

This is a real world, physical reality, live or die, get with the program kind of question that pretty much everyone asks at various points in their creative career.

Even established small business owners ask this question of themselves pretty much on a daily basis so you’re not unique.

I ask it of myself too. Although I ponder it way less these days than I used to thankfully. I’ve had the benefit of both working solo and managing a staff of 20+ over the years, been badly burnt, worked for fuck all, postponed profit for prestige and failed so many times it’s not funny.

So I hope what I have to offer here helps someone out there…

Weighing up the pros and cons of the of work, the people we’re working with, the likely terms of payment (because it always varies), accessibility and so on, is vital in coming to a decision on whether to work with someone and how much to charge them.

The type of work you do and industry standards may come into play also.

Most importantly though, there must be a bottom level Dollar/Pound/Euro value below which we will not go.

I try to listen to the feeling I get for the job and the people involved. I then go away and digest it all for a bit— sleep on it you might say.

Then I make a decision, or rather the decision is made for me. If for some reason I ignore the inner feeling, like when the number on the bottom of the page has hypnotised me, then I end up regretting it.

We say to ourselves;

I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, I am skilled and I am talented and I want to get the best compensation I can for this.

In this we feel deserving.

But almost all the time there is something else going on in our minds. A deeper level belief of what we deserve to earn and how hard we must work to earn it.

The thought behind the thought often says something different and it is that which dictates how much we’ll earn.

Sharing Our Best Work With The World

Yesterday I wrote about exchanging art for cash.

Daily Writings: Exchanging Art For Cash | Larry G. Maguire
If you've already read The Artist's Manifesto you'll know that exchanging art for cash, or anything for that matter, is…

That piece spoke of The Artist’s Manifesto and the section towards the end of the document that deals with creative people like you and me bringing our art to the world. It says how we should do whatever it takes to share our work with others.

That part is vital I’m sure you’ll agree, but if we carry a lesser idea of what we are worth around with us we’ll only ever get what we ask for in that mode.

The Mental Work

Nature abhors a vacuum and a vacuum will always be filled to its extents, no more.

We are in negotiation and this is a mental game between me and you. You will always respond to me in a way that I appear in thought, word and action. Therefore the mental work is the real work.

There’s no pretending it. We can’t fake it because this worthiness thing is a deep feeling tone within us. It needs to develop and grow of its own accord, it can’t be forced.

We can’t decide today that we are worth €150/hr or €10,000/ creation when we were charging a fraction of that yesterday.

Something needs to shift internally.

So often the best approach is to increase our rates gradually. Not as a gentle way to convince others, but a gentle way to convince ourselves.

How About This

If you are currently struggling on low rates, try increasing your rate for the next piece of work or next client by 5%. Then the next by another 5%, and keep going until you’ve doubled your rates.

Eventually those who don’t wish to work with you at your new rates will disappear and the new ones will replace them. Eventually, a new found confidence will take over.

It should be said however, you must bring a slightly higher value every time you raise prices and keep that standard up.


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Walking The Walk

Over the years I’ve met many poor executors of their work.

To be truthful, I’ve employed people who were poor craftsmen. Their poor workmanship was a direct reflection of my state of mind.

So I can’t be too critical here.

But what I will say is that on balance my overriding work ethic has been to always do the best job possible within the financial constraints of the job.

That bit is important too because some people just don’t want top quality.

In fact, many people just want average. So within the scope of your agreement, I suggest that you always bring your best standard.

If someone wants something below what you’re prepared to give, walk away.

If you are desperate for the work you might well take it on. Whatever it takes to pay the bills, right?

Well, if that’s you just don’t be surprised if those jobs don’t work out very well for you.

Many times I’ve compromised my standards for the sake of a few quid and lived to deeply regret it. State of mind here is everything.

If we decide to charge more than our counterparts then we need to deliver on that. Coming up short on quality and/or commitment just doesn’t cut it.

We’ve got to walk the walk.

I Can’t Tell You The Solution

If you are currently agonising over how much to charge for your work, I’m not sure I can offer you a solution.

My perspective tells me that mindset changes by itself. We can’t force it, so perhaps it is best to leave it alone for a while.

The tendency seems to be that we continue to do those things that don’t serve us until we can’t take it anymore.

This is why new years resolutions don’t work.

They don’t come from a place of frustration and inner motivation to change our current circumstances. They tend to be frivolous.

Frustration seems to be a great motivator, although I don’t think it’s good to stay there.

Getting pissed off with being screwed by buyers and clients can certainly make us change our minds, there’s no doubt about it. The time may come when you are not content to accept it any longer.

That’s a good day.

So, in summary, I don’t believe there is one solution to getting paid more for our work. The truth is we get paid what we ask for even if we verbally say we want more.

More often what we think deeply about with respect to our worth is what we actually get.

This article was originally published on 13th Feb 2018 on my site and has been edited and updated for Medium publication.

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