Define Your Work Preference
First I want to clearly define two creative work preferences I’ve observed in the field.
Because of my love for carpentry and architecture, I’ll use those industries as a metaphor to describe the two:
The carpenter 🛠
Charging hourly for his / her craft
You love doing your craft and just want to spend most of your time perfecting it without worrying too much about the business side. You often work with clients like creative studios, creative agencies, and a team that is more or less familiar with the creative process—or in teams where other people focus on the business and client contact. Most times, you’re selling your service based on hours as a commodity. The industry has set default rates for your work based on the demand and value of the commodity itself. There is often a fixed range of rates for your work based on how good it is.
The architect 📐
Acts as a consultant, charging based on value added.
You are involved in the strategy behind the work you do and how that returns value to the client. It solves some kind of business problem the client has and you’re coming in more as a consultant to find the right creative solution to solve the problem. You’re hired for your thinking, working with clients outside or new to the creative process, and therefore have to focus on communicating with the client and managing the project and sometimes a team of creatives. The more value you’re able to provide for the client, the more you can charge.
Find a Balance
Not one position is better than the other; they are simply different. In general, you’ll be able to make more money as a “consultant” vs. selling your work as a “commodity”, but as a result, you’re also likely taking on more risk, more strategic planning, and more administrative work as a result of guiding the client.
Choosing whether you’re the “carpenter” or the “architect” all depends on what your preferences, strengths and goals are.
Most often we naturally start out as a carpenter and if we discover we like to take on different aspects of the project, we shift more to the architect side. You also may not be entirely one or the other. Ask yourself where you find your balance between these two.
For instance, I’d consider myself 60% architect and 40% carpenter.
I love speaking with a client and helping them find the right creative language for their idea, but also love to just put some music on and zone out to make great work without worrying about the business side.
How Do You Know What To Charge?
🎙 Second Perspectives
It’s now easier than ever to run your own creative business as a freelance artist.
I’d say more and more creative freelancers are moving towards becoming an architect and starting their own business, although it requires more business skills and time spent communicating vs. creating.
That being said, I also see new opportunities for creatives who just love focusing strictly on creative work. In addition to current creative studios and creative agencies, companies are opening their own in-house creative departments or fund a creative lab, for which creatives can work as well.
I wish I could tell you what you should precisely charge for your work, but many variables come into play that you’ll need to take into account. So instead of telling you what rate you should charge, I’m going to guide you in the next section on how you can build a rate that you feel confident about.