[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n this week’s epic interview, I talked to burlesque beauty Leda Petit about the dance business. Leda says one of the best business decisions she ever made was to ask for more money.
Wow, now that’s a scary thought.
As creatives, the thought of asking for more money can be terrifying. You’ve only just got your little business going, and now you want to turn away all your clients / customers by putting prices up? It seems ridiculous. Bear with me, and I’ll explain why asking for more money or raising your prices won’t drive your customers away, but may set you up for real success.
Are you paying yourself a fair wage?
You have as much right to earn a decent wage as anyone, and there is absolutely no point being in business if you’re going to run yourself ragged for pennies – you’d be better off working part time and doing you art for fun.
It’s time you sat down and worked out exactly how much you’re earning per hour. If it takes you three hours to paint a picture, and you sell that picture for $100, and you minus off $10 for materials, you’re earning $30 an hour, which sounds pretty decent, actually … but is it?
Have you included ALL your time? That is, the time you took scouring the paint shop for the right colour green, or the time you spent talking to galleries about hanging your work, and sending out flyers, and promoting your show to everyone who’ll listen? Did you include ALL your materials? The fancy brush that gives the best finish that you’ve now made a little bit more worn? The gas you spent transporting your artwork? The wrapping? The plate on the back with your name on it?
Once you start adding up everything … your $30 an hour works out more like $4 an hour.
When you work for someone else, you don’t think about these things. The tools you need magically appear in the stationary cupboard. But when you’re paying the bill, suddenly, every thing you need to buy eats into your profit. And you need profit to live.
Add up how much you’re earning per hour, and adjust it to reflect a real, livable hourly wage. You deserve it. You’re worth it. As soon as you start believing it, others will, too.
You Don’t Have To Charge Everyone The Same Price
This is a bit of a freelancer secret – not all of your clients will pay the same. I’ve got some people I write for who pay me half as much as others. It depends on what you get out of a job. I have clients who give me regular work each month who I keep on a lower rate, because I can count on that work to pay my bills. I write 500 word articles for $50 and $500, depending on the publication and amount of research involved. I give discounts and swap services and even write for free sometimes.
Sometimes, it’s in your interests to keep everything a little uneven. You’re the best judge of what works in your situation. But if you’re working 60 hour weeks and still struggling to pay the bills, or you’re feeling stressed about having too much to do and not enough money, then something is definitely NOT working, and you need to think about raising your rates.
Focus on Quality, not Quantity
One of the things I’ve found every time I’ve raised my rates is that it allows me to focus on quality over quantity. I have clients who are happy to pay more for high quality writing, so they tend to purchase more, and give me a lot more creative freedom to do my thing, and do it well. I found with tons of smaller clients I was pulled in too many directions and I was spending too much time stressing about $5 jobs. Having less clients with larger, more interesting projects has helped me grow as a writer, and earn more while writing less.
Are Your Targeting the Wrong People?
Some people are bargain hunters – they want a certain thing at a certain time for the cheapest possible price. They might need a website graphic, or a wedding portrait as a gift, or they might be looking for entertainment for a party they’re throwing, but if they’ve got it in their heads that they need the cheapest thing, and they go for you … well, you’ve got the gig, right? So why do you care?
Because you won’t get the next gig. Or the gig after that. And small business owners – especially creative folk – need the word of mouth referrals that come from satisfied customers. And a bargain-hunting customer will only be looking at the price tag. They don’t cultivate loyalty to their designers or performers or artists or writers – they just want the job done for the cheapest price.
Now, you might win them over with your awesome personality … but chances are, come the next time they need a performer, they’re going to choose the dude who undercuts you by a tenner.
If these are your current audience, then you need to find a new audience.
You need clients who want you because you’re awesome, not because you save them the most pennies. And, despite the shitty economy, there ARE people out there who have money to spend on art, and dancing, and writing, and web design, and music. Not a lot of money, but enough that we want to pay an artist a fair wage to produce something unique and high-quality.
Find people like us. Start by emailing me. Seriously – I need some more paintings. Show me what you’ve got
You Shouldn’t Be Competing on Price
One of the best pieces of business advice I ever heard was from the owner of an independent bookstore in New Zealand. He said, “you can’t compete on price, because someone, somewhere, is always going to be able to beat you, and when they do, all your customers, who you’ve attracted because they like your prices, will go to that person. To build a successful business and get people to come back again and again, you have to give them something other than price … something that keeps them coming back.
This ties in to what I said in my last point – if your customers are shopping with you simply because you’re the cheapest on the market … you’re not going to keep those customers. They’re bargain hunters, which isn’t necesaarily a bad thing, but they’re a bad market to target because they’ll move to the cheapest deal, regardless of quality or service or whatever.
After a certain point in your artistic career, you’re no longer an amateur. Don’t price yourself as such. You’ve paid your due, so let people pay you what you’re worth. You deserve it.
Readers, have you raised your prices or asked clients for more money? How did it work for you? Do you have any success stories to share, or any tips to make it less terrifying? Answer below!
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