The Uncomfortable Truth

by Dec 19, 2014

I want to chat about something that is still something of a hands-off topic and causes a little bit of discomfort. The issue of money. The thing we work years of our lives for in order to get by in the world. I don’t want to delve into the social complexities of what money means to individuals or what it represents, let’s just keep this to the very basics in regards to freelancers.

While most clients have their own office jobs with steady income, freelancers do not have this luxury. In fact, there is so little security in working for yourself in any field that it can be quite stressful. Speaking only from the viewpoint of a graphic designer, I have to remember that most of the people I work for aren’t creative in the same way as I am. Hence the reason they approach me and/or hire me in the first place. But in our modern world of bargain shopping and price matching, clients might forget that when working with a freelancer they are only working with one person (for the most part). There is little overhead and the rate a freelancer sets is based on several important factors: education, experience, and expertise.

  • Education is straight forward. It’s the time, effort, and money a designer puts into their scholastic training, whether it was at a college or self-taught. The years of work and refining their skills, the tens of thousands of dollars put into attaining a degree (or not) increases their value as a freelancer.
  • Experience is the amount of time they have been working out in the real world. Their portfolio has been completely updated with projects done for real paying clients and not just student projects. They have pounded the pavement, gone to networking events and conventions, they did the leg work to get themselves out in front of potential clients. They want to succeed and know the best practices to maintain their creative reputation among their peers.
  • Expertise is their specific area they excel in and focus the most amount of energy to. For some, it’s interactive forms or emails, for others it’s web icons and logos. They found something they are phenomenal at and decided to devote more time to perfecting that craft. This also goes along with years of experience of what does and doesn’t work in the real world.

When a freelancer gives you a quote for a job, there are so many hidden factors involved beyond the three big E’s. You only see the sticker price and wince at how many zeros are on that number. But the end result is aimed to bring you and/or your company more money after its implementation. While that’s another discussion altogether, freelancers that know their stuff don’t price things lightly (at least I don’t). Websites that offer cheap and quick logos are often created by a team of designers that get paid only if their design is chosen. Or they receive a bonus and are still paid a phenomenally low rate. And offering “free exposure” in exchange for work is a down right insult to established designers. Please don’t do that. No really, don’t do that.

I hate to have to say this, but I don’t haggle my prices very often. I don’t have a featured item menu for people to look over and pick the package they want for the job they need. That, in a word, is asinine. Would you consider your project to fit into a nice and neat little category where it’s easily defined and sorted? No, of course not. Your needs are very specific and you want (and deserve) is to be treated as an individual. While your project might be similar to others, your end results will be worlds apart from any other client’s. I prefer to work one-on-one with new clients, get a deeper understanding of their company, their current issues, their current and future needs. That way everything I create will benefit only you and your project.

Don’t expect people to work for free or for favors. Freelancers work for themselves for many reasons, but like everyone else, they have bills to pay. It is 100% certain that the people they owe money to won’t be so understanding when the freelancer tells them they worked for exposure or for favors. While I personally would love to help out people by doing work for free, I cannot. Period. I might take on a job at a negotiated rate to fit a budget, but not always. If the current work is paying well (and on time) I might do someone a quick job for free. But that is a rare occurrence.

To wrap this little tangent up, please don’t expect people to work for free. Especially if you want an amazing product as the end result. If you spend a little bit more to do it right the first time, you won’t spend a ton more to fix it later.
Trust me. I’m an expert.