It has taken me – a self-employed interior stylist and creative director – 25-odd years to really hone my quoting technique and for me to feel confident quoting as a freelance creative.
It’s never easy navigating quoting as a freelance creative, so I compiled a list of 5 things I wish I knew when I started out to help you along.
5 Things you Need to Know About Quoting as a Freelance Creative
1. Don’t just quote for the deliverables
You know as well as I do that so much time, so much effort, and so many resources go into creating for clients – regardless of the specific service you offer. If you only quote for the end product or the deliverables, then you’re willingly doing the rest of the work for free.
Next time you quote for a commission or project, take production time into consideration (so, time spent researching, preparing, liaising with the client) as well as the deliverables, plus expenses (if the client will not cover these for you in addition to your fee) and one or two rounds of amends too, to cover all bases.
2. Underpricing your services won’t make you more employable
It’s really common for freelance creatives to undersell themselves for fear of appearing too expensive and losing clients as a result. However, what happens when you set your pricing too low is you tend to attract clients that value saving money over their freelancers. This means that, over time, you may begin to feel undervalued and unsatisfied with the partnership.
Instead, set your pricing in relation to your expertise and experience – the right clients will be willing to pay for quality work. And, if the right client comes along but just doesn’t have enough budget, try negotiating on the deliverables before lowering your fee.
3. It’s OK to ask if there’s more budget than the fee the client proposed
If a client approaches you with a fee in mind, it’s always a good idea to ask if there’s flexibility in the budget for your fee to be increased. Best case scenario: the client increases your fee. Worst case scenario: the client has maxed out their budget and you have to decide between accepting a lower fee than you’d like or declining the work.
Bear in mind that the fee you accept is the fee the client will expect you to work to if they commission you for further work in the future. It isn’t always easy increasing your fee as a freelancer, so always try to negotiate the highest rate for yourself from the get-go, and make sure it’s one you’re happy working to for the foreseeable future too.
4. It’s OK (encouraged, even) to increase your fee
The thought of increasing fees for clients often fills freelancers with dread. What if the client declines the rise and you end up losing them as a result?
Let me first say that it’s very rare this happens. Most clients are welcoming of incremental fee increases and should expect them as your partnership matures. If, however, a client does push back then you have to decide whether they’re the kind of person or team that you want to continue working with.
My best advice for increasing your fee is to raise it in line with your skills and experience. This means a standard increase of 5-10% year-on-year as you, naturally, gain more experience, and additional increases when you gain new skills and offer more services. Give your clients plenty of notice when you plan on increasing your fee, and perhaps consider giving long-standing clients a slightly smaller increase than new clients.
5. It’s OK to turn down below-rate work
I’ve touched on this a little already but, as a reminder, accepting below-rate work will often times leave you feeling undervalued, unfulfilled, and frustrated. So, if you aren’t happy with the fee a client offers, it’s 100% OK to politely decline, and welcome them to enquire about your services again when they have more budget to play with. Although turning down work might feel like a loss in the short term, it allows you the time and mental space to seek out clients who can afford your fee and are willing to pay it.
Need more help with quoting as a freelance creative? Check out my blog post all about the 7 things you’re actually allowed to charge for as a freelancer, then sign up for my newsletter to receive 5 weeks of FREE advice on quoting for your time as a freelancer.