Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Freelancing Tips Part 1: How to Determine the Right Asking Price

I've been making graphics for a few years now, and I've been through the quoting process a few times. And, most importantly, I've been taken advantage of - business-wise - in more ways than I could have expected. So I thought I'd share my knowledge on how to approach a number of things in the business world for freelancers, in the interests of perhaps helping a few people avoid some of those particular traps along the way. First up is your asking price.

Now, when I first started, this was the greatest source of anxiety for me. I knew what professionals could ask for, but didn't think I could justify doing so. So I spoke to a friend who had some experience in these things, and he explained a process to me that made sense and also allowed me to focus on what needed to be addressed. I have taken this information to heart, so much so that it's more or less gospel to me.

I hate negotiating a price for quotes and jobs, etc. It's a thoroughly horrible process. But I've learned a hell of a lot from it. Here's the golden rule:
Always ask for more than you think (but only as much as you dare)
Okay, so let's break that down. You may know, for instance, that a professional might charge anywhere from $20 to $80 per hour. These are arbitrary figures, as I don't know what a typical rate in [your conuntry name here] is. Now, if you're starting out, you may feel that you should keep your price low, due to lack of experience. That's understandable. So let's say that you think $20/hr is a reasonable price, but you think you won't get it. The exercise I go through is to imagine 3 figures. These figures are:
  1. what I think I ought to get ($20/hr)
  2. my lowest possible price ($15/hr)
  3. what I really want ($30/hr)
So what you do here, when naming a price, is go for figure #3 as your starting figure. Don't expect them to go for it, but at the same time, don't be surprised if they accept it, because they just might! The point is, if you walk in and say "I'm worth $20/hr", most people will try to talk you down lower. But if you start at $30/hr, they'll try to talk you down to, say, $23, and feel a sense of accomplishment for having done so.

But I also want to talk about figure #2. That is the price beyond which you do not sink. In this case, it is $15/hr. This figure should be an amount that you can comfortably live with, but is lower than what you expect. Any lower than that, even by 1c, and you walk away. And when you walk away, be sure to mention that the job is worth more than what they're suggesting. Don't get angry or anything, it's just the reason that you're walking away.

Now, this lower threshold is also very important. If you price yourself too low, you do two things of equal horror. One, you undervalue your talent and services, meaning that your clients may think you a pushover. Two, you undermine the value of the industry. In the case of graphics, this is an industry in which quality is directly related to price. If someone wants excellent content, they have to pay for it. By asking for too little, you give clients the impression that the content they receive is in a certain price range. And they will talk to others about their low price. Sure, that means more people could come to you with work, but if you're working 50-60 hours a week and barely able to pay rent, then something's not right. Worse, this takes work away from those whose services are not only more costly, but much better.

To give an analogy, imagine a nugget of gold. It will be expensive, we all know that, as does the seller. Now, imagine someone walking in and saying "I'll buy it from you for what the same amount of lead is worth." Would you make that sale? $100 worth of gold for maybe ten bucks? I thought not.

Now imagine that you have a lump of gold. Maybe you're not worth gold yet, maybe it's a precious gem that's not as valuable as gold, so let's say that you have some opal. Still worth some money, though. Would you be so keen to offload that opal (nee gold) that you'd sell it at any price? Or would you be prudent and wait for a more reasonable offer?

But bear one other thing in mind: you may have to sell it for a little less than the going rate. How much less? Not too much! Remember what it is you're selling. If you have rubies, then you may sell them for a little lower than you might like, but, importantly, still a good price for rubies.

The lesson in all of this, is that many who start out think that because they are on the lowest rung of the ladder, that they are worthless. However, if you're good at what you do, then remember what kind of ladder it is that you're on. What is important is to know how good your work is. Get as many opinions as you can muster, to gauge how good you are, how much potential you have, etc. Be sure to get the opinions of professionals and people who can honestly tell you that something is shit, if it really is shit, as well as opinions from friends and loved ones and people who will automatically tell you that your work is good without honest feedback. If other peoples' criticisms lead you to believe that you deserve a place on that ladder, then honour that place on the ladder and remember that your work is worth something, not nothing.

Next time, we'll talk about the reasons you might walk away from a potential job.

Monday, July 26, 2010

... not quiet enough...

Okay, silly title. It just relates to my previous post.

Turns out that the video I previously referred to has just been posted online. The graphics looked better before being compressed, but they do look better than the Youtube embed.

Check it out:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's quiet....

... a little too quiet ...

Truth is, I've been working a lot, just not much to show for it. There are one or two projects that I'd like to link to, but for various reasons are either not online, or online in too low a quality...

The latter, in fact, relates to this example. This is work that I was proud of, in that my brief was to turn out some great design work for an intro, outro, lower 3rds, and a text splash screen, in a day. My design brief was whatever I could glean from their Facebook page.

(I will allow a small pause here, to let that sink in.)


I was proud of that work, that I turned out in half a day. I should add, at this point, that this job was specifically for web publication: it's a Digital yearbook. So it was disheartening to learn that the client posted up the low-res, low-quality preview file that the office sent them. You know, the preview file you send to clients for approval, but is of sufficient shittiness as to be unusable in any practical manner? Yes, they used that version for their Youtube upload, not the full-res, good quality version we happily provided.


So it's reasons like this, that I have not posted anything new here. However, I'm currently working on something that is promising to be very good. More soon.