Lately, we've been encountering a strangely large number of designers, editors, and even marketers who don't seem to know how to put a value on their contributions. I remember starting out in the design industry – it was a game of trial and error to figure out how to price our services correctly; so I'm not really surprised when novices ask for help in determining a starting point. But what I find really surprising is the large number of seasoned professionals that seem equally as confused.
Maybe having more access to a broad range of individuals and companies from all around the world adds an extra layer of confusion for everybody. It doesn't need to be complicated though. Some of the same rules I followed over a decade ago still work today. Let me share with you my four points for figuring out what you're worth.
In just about every career, experience and pay are directly proportional: the more experience you have, the more pay you can command. If you are just starting out in a particular industry, you're going to have to trade in higher fees in favor of gaining more experience… that additional experience will, after all, eventually turn into higher fees! Newbies can't expect to be commanding the same rates as someone who has 20 years of experience in the industry.
I don't know why so many people overlook this one, but you should also take your professional background into consideration. Your previous education or already-honed skills could give you a leg-up on current endeavors. For example: a former-banker-turned-marketer friend of mine has special insight into how her clients might market their services to those in the financial industry. She knows she possesses this extra knowledge, and prices accordingly.
This one comes with practice, unfortunately. It takes a little finesse, too – you shouldn't be charging your clients to make up for your learning curve, but if you are superspeedyawesome compared to your peers, you might want to figure out how long the project should take on average. Don't forget that there's a ton of factors involved in estimating time, such as research and information gathering, interview time, and allowing sufficient gaps in-between for the client to review your work and respond with edits or changes (if that's part of your agreement).
I'm only going to say this once: all those guys out there who charge a pack of gum for a website hurt EVERYBODY in the web development industry. Don't low-ball a price because you really need the job – you set the bar extremely low and make it difficult to ever achieve normal rates. A little legwork never hurt anybody: check out your local industry association for a range of average rates charged by other professionals in your field.
At the end of the day, you are still going to be asked "How much does X cost?" It's OK to hedge a bit – you don't often hear people going about asking things like "How much does a suit cost?" or "How much does a house cost?" do you? It depends on several factors! Because of those many factors, your worth is always going to be changing – depending on the project requirements, your years in business, your skills, etc. Figuring out how much you are worth can take some time and experimentation, but don't be afraid to make mistakes on the path to finding you number. After all, you're worth it.
I'm a graphic + web designer/developer and closet airbrush artist (the 80s called and I answered). I'm passionate about sustainability and community, and I'm a big fan of my hometown, Pasadena, California.Follow @bethkuchar