Think you’re ready to charge more for creative work?
Let’s visualize your morning for a sec.
The sun’s peeking out and you wake up, stretch, and climb out of bed. You grab your beverage of choice and head to your desk.
Waiting in your inbox is an email from your favorite client. They loved what you just sent them. They want to hire you for a new project. Better yet, they’re asking if they can please put you on retainer.
You smile and keep scrolling.
In the next email, another ideal customer sends you a similar message:
- Your work is amazing.
- You’re expensive but you’re worth it.
- Your time is valuable and they want more of it.
They ask — politely — if you can fit them in for another big project next month.
But wait, there’s more.
You keep scrolling and find two more emails from clients who love what you do, respect your time, and want to pay you big bucks to get access to more of it.
How to charge more for creative work
What needs to happen to make this dream scenario your new reality?
It starts with you.
If you want to charge big bucks for the creative work you do, you have to start by believing you deserve to be well paid for your solutions.
Then, you need to act like you deserve to earn more. Everything you do — seen and unseen — needs to telegraph to the world that you’re worth it.
Let’s start by reviewing what to look for in an ideal customer. If you’re not attracting ideal customers now, this is where you need to start.
There are three must-have qualities that make customers ideal — and they all matter.
I’ll draw them and explain them below.
Quality #1: Your ideal customer has a problem
Your ideal customer has a problem, challenge, or need that’s impacting their life, their job, or their business.
An example problem:
Your ideal customer’s product sales are way down and their income is, too.
Quality #2: Your ideal customer is aware they have a problem
It’s not enough to have a problem — lots of people walk around with problems they’re not aware of.
We’re looking for people who are feeling the negative impact of their problem.
Important: It’s not your job to educate people about their problems.
If you want new customers faster, capture them after they’re aware of their problem and are ready to move toward solving it.
An example of problem awareness:
Your ideal customer sees that the weak link in their sales process is their sales email sequence. They identify the problem!
Quality #3: Your ideal customer has enough money to solve their problem
This last quality? It’s the one that matters most.
It’s also the one that many people forget to prioritize.
It’s crucial that your ideal customer has a problem and is aware of the problem.
If they don’t have a budget for solving that problem? They’re not your ideal customer.
No matter how much they love your work, need your work, and send you fan letters about your work.
Your ideal customer dips into their marketing budget to hire you to rewrite their sales email sequence. They love your work and they want to pay you well to get access to your skills!
Want to earn more for your creative work? Protect your golden eggs
This past week, I finished reading Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield-Thomas.
Denise shares an unforgettable analogy in her book. Once you understand it, you’ll automatically value your time and energy — and be willing to charge more for it.
Denise talks about Aesop’s fable, “The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs.”
A farmer has a goose that lays one perfect golden egg every day.
He takes the eggs to market and sells them. He slowly accumulates wealth.
One day, he begins to feel impatient. He doesn’t want to wait 24 hours for a new egg. So he cuts open the goose to extract all the gold at once.
Except there’s no mass of gold inside the goose — just goose guts.
The goose expires — and so does the farmer’s consistent source of wealth.
When Denise tells this story, she emphasizes that we’re not the farmer — we’re the golden goose!
It’s our time, energy, and creativity that produce the golden eggs.
If we don’t protect our time and energy, we can’t produce solutions that build our wealth.
Our golden eggs will dry up and completely end our source of revenue.
Start here: Value your own time
Ready to start treating yourself like the kickass golden goose you are? This is the first step toward earning more.
When you value your own time and take care of your own energy, it’ll be easier to charge for the value you deliver.
Start with the baby steps below.
Schedule your “stop” time
Ever find yourself staring into your screen, bleary-eyed, trying to squeeze out a few more drops of creativity before you end your day?
We’ve all been there.
Is that any way to treat a golden-egg-laying goose?
Think about what time you normally stop working — on average.
Dial that time back 15 minutes and make this your new “stop time.”
Set an alarm on your phone with a happy sound that’ll remind you that it’s time to take off, relax, and recharge.
Do this for a few days and then — if you dare — dial your time back 15 more minutes.
How early could you stop working and still lay a golden egg every day?
If you’re having a difficult time making this work, consider adding in a 30-minute reminder that pops up half an hour before your stop time.
This will help you remember to start your end-of-day routine, whatever that is.
Time block your breaks
Time blocking refers to the practice of looking at the hours you’ll work each day and planning out how you’ll use them.
Time blocking keeps your work on track and helps you make progress.
When you want to earn more money with your daily schedule, I recommend adding some breaks into your plan, too.
Decide what you need in order to keep your creative energy high. What works best for you?
- Frequent, short breaks throughout your workday
- One long mid-day break to get fresh air, eat a leisurely meal, connect with a friend, or fit in some exercise
- A combination of both of the above
What does your creative, emotional, and physical golden goose need to keep laying those beautiful, revenue-generating eggs?
Whatever it is, block it into your calendar. Your break times are every bit as important to your creativity routines as your work times.
Prioritize your day — sticky note style
Have you ever had a day where you worked all day long, you were exhausted by the end, and when you finally stopped, you couldn’t point to a single thing you accomplished?
Been there. Done that. I’ve got a solution!
To finish your most important tasks every day, start with a sticky note.
Pick three things you want to be absolutely sure you finish.
Write them on the sticky note. You may do more than what’s on the sticky note. But write down the three things you for sure want to complete.
Here’s mine for today:
If they don’t fit, you’re probably trying to do too much.
Your time and energy are scarce — that’s why they’re valuable
Once you’ve fully embraced the idea that your time and energy are finite resources, it’s easier to recognize that they’re valuable.
To increase your revenue, you have to earn the most you can with the limited time and energy you have.
Read on to learn how to translate your high-value time into high-value invoices.
Do this to charge more for your creative work
Do you charge for creative work by the hour or the project?
(It’s a trick question.)
Please don’t charge by the hour. And don’t charge by the project, either.
Charge by the transformation you deliver.
You’ve probably heard this before. “Charge for the value you deliver — not the time.”
But if you have a service-based offer, you’re probably taking your limited time and energy into account when you estimate your projects.
You may be thinking, “This project will take me 10 hours to complete, so:
My hourly rate x 10 = More or less what I’ll charge for the project.”
But there’s a problem — this mode of calculating your fee doesn’t scale over time and allow you to charge more for creative work.
The better you become, the more you should earn
The problem with estimating your fee based on the time you spend doing the work?
As you get better at what you do, you’ll get faster.
If it takes you 10 hours to write a sequence of 5 emails now, in a few years you’ll get them written in just 4 hours.
That doesn’t mean you’re going to charge less later on — it means you’re going to earn more! And that’s how it should be — as you get better at your craft, your earnings should increase.
Here’s a trick you can use to adjust for your growing mastery of your craft.
Increase the hourly rate you multiply by as you get better and faster.
In my former design and marketing agency, I used to ask myself the opposite of “How low can you go?”
I’d wonder, “How high can I go?”
As my skills increased, I got faster.
When I started my business in 1992, I was multiplying the hours I thought a project would take by $75 to calculate my value-based project fee.
Before long, I bumped it up to $90/hour. $150/hour. $300/hour. $500/hour.
My skills grew, my prices went up, and my revenue kept growing.
Even better, as my prices increased, the quality of the clients I attracted went up. (Strange how that happens, isn’t it?)
My high-level clients respected my skills and my time. That’s because I first respected my skills and my time enough to charge for the value I was delivering.
Want to quickly get used to charging more?
- Figure out how long a project will take you to complete.
- Add 25% to cover any unexpected developments (this is my diplomatic way of saying “sh*t happens, so let’s calculate it into the equation”).
- Double your current hourly rate and multiply the hours you need for the project by your new, doubled hourly rate.
Write the total number on a piece of paper and look at it for a bit. Step up to that new, larger number and own that value.
Then hold your head high and look your prospect straight in the eye (or straight in the inbox, as the case may be) and tell ‘em what you’re worth.
Ready to increase your rates? Don’t miss this simple way to earn more as you make the change
Feeling like you want to charge more for creative work after reading this article? Great.
Keep in mind that rate increases can quickly increase your cash flow if you turn them into a promotion. Here’s how to do that:
- Let current clients know you’re raising your rates and when that’s going to happen.
- Invite them to reserve your future time at your current rate if they pay you in advance.
- Give them a deadline for making the payment.
- Send them several reminders before the deadline expires.
When you do this, you’ll have a nice influx of cash from clients who pre-pay for your work in order to lock in your “old” (current) rate.
That’s a quick way to move from your current revenue level to the next one!
The dos and don’ts of raising your rates
As you gain skill, you should proudly charge more for your valuable work.
- Sheepishly share your plan to increase rates.
- Apologize for your prices going up.
- Be embarrassed you may become unaffordable for some.
- Set a date for the rate increase and commit to it.
- Announce the rate change privately to current clients.
- Estimate all new projects using the new rate after it changes — do not go back to the old rate ever again, no exceptions.
Earning more means embodying a new, higher-earning you.
Own it and you’ll get it.
How to say “yes” to earning more with your creative work
Let’s review everything that needs to happen so that you can charge more for creative work.
Pinpoint your ideal customer
Remember, your perfect customer:
- Has a problem that’s impacting their life, their job, their business.
- Is aware that they have a problem and is ready to move toward solving it.
- Has enough money to solve their problem. They must be ready to invest in your solution.
Value your own time
You are the goose who lays the golden eggs. Earning more starts with you valuing your own time when you:
- Schedule your “stop” time. Decide when you’ll stop working and stick to it. Give yourself a 30-minute warning before it’s time to push away from your desk.
- Time block your breaks. As you plan your day, put breaks on your schedule. Take care of the goose — you — so you can keep those golden eggs coming.
- Prioritize your day — sticky note style. Want to be 100% sure you’ll get your most important tasks done? Write three — just three — on a sticky note and keep it nearby.
Charge more for the value you bring to the table
As your skills increase, you should earn more for the transformation you deliver.
If you use an hourly rate to help you calculate what to charge for your projects, try:
- Adding about 25% to the estimated time in case unexpected developments happen
- Doubling the hourly rate you multiply by as you get better and faster
Revisit this calculation every so often. Regularly raising your rates is a key to steadily increasing your revenue.
Run a “price raise promotion”
Don’t miss the chance to charge more for creative work, and remember the nice influx of cash you’ll get when you follow through and promote your raise in rates.
Allow current clients to reserve future time at your current rate. Share this information like you would any other promotion — it’s an opportunity for clients to get something special at a promotional price.
Are you worth the big bucks? “Yes” starts with you
Take a deep breath and step into your new, higher value, my friend.
Embrace it and embody it first, then share it with pride — you’re worth it!