I haven’t posted in so long. Well, this usually means I’m swamped with clients, which is good in the long run. I thought I’d share some of my work I did for my brother, one of my paying clients 😛
10 hours budgeted for each illustration.
Now here’s some advice I’ve got based on my first-hand experiences as a freelance artist:
Why Your Rates Should Be Higher
If you were employed by a company, the usual standard is that they provide you with:
- A medical plan
- A work space
- Paid leave
- Paying for their side of the income tax as the employer
On top of your salary/wages. Usually if you work for a company, ideally you’d be working for them for more than a year at a time and there is a certainty to that lifestyle that freelancing doesn’t have.
To explain the last bullet point, freelancers pay twice as much income tax than those employed — if you are self-employed, you are both the employer and employee. You pay the income tax for both parties.
As a freelancer, your rates should be much higher because not only will most clients NOT provide the above, but also because:
- You need the money for your “dry seasons”
- Your services are highly specialized and unique
- You need to signal to others that you are the premium service provider
- Your pricing filters out clients
One interesting observation I’ve made though — I’ve found my best general clientele seem to be not only at least somewhat affluent (I think), but also often tend to be software engineers or something along those lines. This is probably the result of the kind of art and graphics I provide. I only realized what my client base is like after years of working on my business.
To explain the first bullet point here, the freelancing life isn’t a constant, guaranteed 9-5 kind of job. You don’t know for sure if you’re going to be able to work some 40 paid hours in a given week, some weeks you have more, others you may have less or close to none. Where the employed 9-5 life can be described as flat terrain to traverse, the freelancing life can be described as a rollercoaster. Thus, you need to charge more so that you can make up for the times when you have no customers. Think of it as putting out the rain barrel during the wet seasons.
The last bullet point is pretty much an explanation for the bullet point before it. A higher rate does help to filter out less ideal clients for you, but it should be a supplement to your screening them through e-mails or Skype interviews.
I have not really experienced any complaints about my pricing. For the most part, potential clients simply say “Your artwork looks great, but unfortunately this is out of my budget,” and they politely move on. If anyone says your price is outrageous, well then they should know that there are tons of other contractors out there who are much more affordable. No one is pointing a gun to anybody’s head.
I raise my rate in $5 to $10 increments, usually when my demand is getting higher. This is my way of controlling my work load and signaling that my services are very desirable. To be honest though, recently I’ve been raising my rate like crazy because the clients these days have been coming out of the woodwork. I suspect that having a decent reputation after a few years with some good testimonials, and a body of work that I’ve completed professionally helps a lot in attracting more clients. But every time I’ve raised my rate higher than I’d ever gone before, there’s always someone who comes along and doesn’t seem to bat an eye and hires me (I have anxiety issues…) The moment someone hires you at your new highest rate, you are definitely worth that much and no one can argue against you on this. You can experiment all you want with bumping up your rates. If you run low on clients, you can always lower your rate, or simply keep your displayed rate up, and try to close a deal by offering a discount. It could go something like this: “My rate is X dollars right now, but I can give you a 20% discount because your project looks like a lot of fun and I’d love to have it in my portfolio.”
Customers love deals.
Value yourself and your work. If you have doubts about the value of your own work, put some more value into it while keeping your rate. Learn some new skills, refine the ones you already have, do some research in your field. For example, what makes me stand out as an artist is that I have a lot of experience in making video games, from concept to marketing them. I can give very valuable advice in this field and other related fields.
I also picked up a bunch of skills by myself. Technically I can sell myself as a graphic designer, even though that’s not my main focus, and people would hire me for those gigs. A lot of the times I end up finding myself doing what I specialize in during those gigs anyway, as that skill of mine is just lying around for my client to utilize. I also picked up on font creation. People can hire you for a certain task that is usually high in demand (graphic design, for example) as a gateway to working on tasks you like doing anyway. On a bunch of game projects, I was originally just going to do the user interface, but then got asked to do quite a few character designs.
It’s definitely worth it to put in a few hours to pick up a new piece of software or skill, if it’ll help you cast a wider net for getting more clients and increase your value.