It can be awkward for people starting out in the field to price a project and coming up with a fair number. You know a number between “Yes I’m that good” and “yeah sure pay me whatever”. That’s the sweet spot.
Your skill currency is more than just what you can do. It’s a combination of your skills and your experience. The employer won’t immediately trust that you can do the work the burden of proof is on you. It’s isn’t on the employer. However, that doesn’t mean that you should just accept “exposure” as payment. Yes, even if it’s your first one. This kind of thinking further plays into the stereotype that artists and creatives live on fresh air and societal approval. Unless, the exposure is that good and you’ve never dabbled (as in if you’re getting to design and you’ve never done it before) in the field you are trying to get hired in. Otherwise it’s cheating.
In addition, it’s important to develop a real sense of what a project is costing you. Think of it like a video game level: How much time am I going to spend on this? What’s the difficult level? Are there any other rewards I could get? Will the client grant me the space I need? The answers are pretty self-explanatory.
However, you should avoid certain mistakes. The first obvious one is hourly rates (unless it’s a super simple task). Think of it this way, your time is valuable yes but the client pays you for the end product. Just because a shoemaker spent three hours making kickass leather shoes you wouldn’t pay them just for the hours he/she put in right? You’d pay them for their handy work, the material they put in and the aesthetic value. It’s the same here. It’s not about the time you spent agonizing over the details, it’s about the agony itself. Second case, just because other people are charging a certain amount for a similar project doesn’t mean you should. You’re at different levels of expertise and most projects are not similar.
So how should you price your project, the best we can think of is to think of these three criteria:
1) Do you like this client?
Yes, this matters. Clients can either give you the artistic freedom to develop your skills and test out new ideas and themes which in turns allow both of you to add more value to the project or… you’ll need to stock up on anti-acids. Sometimes, the mental stress you put in a project can hamper for bringing your best in your next project. Should you charge a client that doesn’t require a million edits and understands you the best, pays mind to your creative freedom and could potentially give you more work? Should you charge a client that would call you in the middle of the night to talk about additional flyers and different small mistakes you made on a document clearly marked Concept Draft … sigh… “Inhale…exhale”
2) What’s the client budget like?
This is tricky to find out. However, you should have a way to measure how much a client can pay. Most would give you a range to work with but when that doesn’t happen. On the other hand clients will ask you to give them a ballpark figure. When asked this question don’t give them a price right away, just say something like “this project would cost me from 1,000 birr to 10,000 birr. It really depends on the work. How much budget do you have for this project?” this will give you a hint at what to expect and not to overprice your work or underprice it. Underpricing might put in question the quality of your work.
3) How much value am I adding?
It’s pretty obvious. But we tend to miss this part. If you’re spending 30 minutes on a project but adding a huge value to the employer then price it accordingly. If it’s going to cost you a couple of days and you’re only adding minimal value to the client then maybe the project isn’t worth it. You should be able to differentiate between the two.