After my previous career-related post, various people have reached out to me with further questions about how this all works. In a bit of an experiment in transparency, I thought I’d write a bit about how I price projects when someone comes to me for a quote.
A couple of disclaimers: I also sometimes do work on retainer or do on-going research consulting. Those raise other considerations and are not what I’m describing here. This post is about work on finite client projects, typically including some creative input. Second, I can only describe how things work for me, not how they’ll work for everyone.
With that in mind, here’s Rule 1: Quote a number where I will be equally happy if the client agrees to hire me at that price or if they say no.
This is just another way of saying “ask for what the project is worth to you,” but I think it’s useful to spell out the “to you” part. A lot of people get hung up on trying to determine the value of a project on supposedly objective terms, which is hard to do, especially with creative projects for which there’s not an obvious market set point. Or people try to price based on how they relate their ego to the market, which is prone to lots of problems as well (impostor syndrome, delusions of grandeur).
The other thing about this approach is that it increases overall peace of mind. I’ve had some jobs where in retrospect I probably could have gotten more if I’d asked, and other pitches that got turned down because I was asking more than the client had in their budget. But the knowledge that I set those prices according to my own needs means I can live with those outcomes without too much second-guessing. (I do also negotiate and re-scope projects with clients who have small budgets, but that’s a matter of redefining the project until it becomes worth it to me at the price they have to spend.)
That still leaves a lot of questions about how to figure out what something is worth to me.