As creatives, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, money is a hit or miss conversation isn’t it? We tend to dread the moment when our two invoices and Paypal requests go ignored for another week, or when we leave the speaking engagement after quite a few moments of awkward lingering only to find out our check hasn’t been “cut yet.” And when it comes to getting mail, it can quickly turn really exciting or extremely depressing, because if it doesn’t come - it looks like you’ll be eating cereal for dinner again.
What we do is work. What we create are products of numerical value which can be difficult to navigate through, because who decides what they’re worth? YOU do.
It is necessary to apply a monetary value on what we create; what our hands, minds, or voices contribute to the greater good of the world.
If you don’t find the value in what you do, then how in the world is anyone else going to take you seriously? This was a very difficult lesson for me to grasp. In my wide range of freelance activities, rates were always (and still are) difficult to put down on paper.
I remember after pitching my rates in a client meeting for social media, I immediately got the response, “You know, if you charged more then I would take you seriously. Whether you know it or not, the price you’re giving me is also telling me the quality of work you’ll deliver as well, and that’s a huge turn off.” Yikes. I didn’t realize that by throwing out whatever low number I felt would make me more appealing actually ended up doing the very opposite. I had given a number that reflected how I ultimately viewed the value of my work - and it wasn’t very high.
I didn’t come from a family of numbers, nor did we engage in very many monetary or economic-focused conversations, except for about what we didn’t have. If I were to dive into my “psychology of money”, I know that it would stem from a place always being a topic that brought tension, arguments, and stress. I’ve only recently realized how this has now affected my mindset on rates as a freelance, contracted professional.
I would say yes to every event and side gig, only to receive checks that made me feel disheartened and exhausted.
Why? Because I did not communicate the value of my work and thus did not receive a pay that reflected it. This resulted in having to do some research, and have eye opening conversations with mentors and peers. I started to Google the approximate rates of professionals who were also in my field of speaking and poetry, comparing their rates and packages, then tweaking them as a model for how it connected to my own personal brand.
What you offer not only has monetary values - it offers a wide range of other benefits. I know I provide an emotional value with my work; the ability to allow people to walk away with a sense of restored identity, purpose, and encouragement. That can be exhausting emotionally, spiritually, and mentally; therefore, I have full freedom to charge accordingly.
One of my mentors also explained to me that I am not only the brand, but the business and the product as well. When people book me for events, they aren’t just requesting what I offer: witty humor and poems that elicit the freedom to feel. They are ultimately requesting me as an individual to contribute to their event. When I come up with my rates, I break down the experience and the entirety of what I’ve seen happen as a result of working with my specific expertise.
If you are negotiating rates and you walk away from that meeting not feeling seen nor heard, then your answer to that client should be no. Your time is too precious and your work has too much value for it not to be appreciated by the person who is entrusting you to make a project, product, or event come to life.
Be bold in your asks, dream big, and don’t set your standards low. Learn the art of negotiating and also how to stand your ground. Do your research and most importantly, find the values in why you create. You will ultimately come to the reminder that no, we don’t necessarily do this for the money, but what an amazing life to be able to get paid to do what we love.
Now let’s get practical shall we?
Track your hours.
So how do you actually go about setting rates for your work? Look at the breakdown of how your projects have been in the past. Are they short term? Long term? Do they involve a set amount of hours per day? Tracking your work is important so that there is integrity not only in the work you’re doing, but also when it comes down to having a timesheet to backup the invoices you send out. Top Tracker, Toggl, and Due Time are all great, free resources for logging your hours.
Consider all the variables.
As someone who travels to events that I’m hired for, gas and mileage are something I have to add into my rates. If you’re traveling to meet with clients for any reason, this is something you can add to your total rate, or can even choose to set a hourly meeting rate that includes this cost. Are you rehearsing? That is typically a separate, hourly rate from your flat performance rate. Do you have multiple drafts or edits? Include it in your contract that the client is allowed no more than two rounds of editing, and any after that would be an additional amount.
Do your research.
There are so many articles and references out there for freelancers in every industry on determining how to charge the right rates. Pinterest is even an amazing resource! Many resources are catalogued there and can be found by simply searching “freelance rates”.
Remember, this is your job and time is money, literally. You, your time, and your craft are all worthy of the value they deserve.
Photos by Amy Hulst