How to Charge for Your Work as a Creative

Pricing your product or service as a creative is difficult and will take a lot of fine-tuning over your career, so the best idea is to start where you’re at and adjust over time as needed! I recommend keeping track of your pricing in a spreadsheet that you can change as you gain new insight and can look back on when you’re trying to price something new so you don’t have to start from scratch each time. Below are some of the examples of things you'll want to include in your final price that you give to clients - remember this is an incomplete list! Every business is different and the items you'll want to include in what you charge for your work varies based on what you do, so think of this list as a starting point and run with it!

 
 How to charge for your work as a creative entrepreneur, a guide by photographer Katharine Hannah
 

Time to Create

Include all the time it took to create this work from start to finish. How long did it take you to research ideas, create your concept, create the work itself, pack up your materials, prep the work for shipping, go to the post office...etc. You can use a time tracking app to record how much time is spent on each task (a bunch of examples here). The reason it's so important to record literally every minute you spend working on this piece/with this client is because your time is your most valuable asset and you want to keep track of where it's going at all times.

Keeping a record of where your time is going also helps you in the future when you find you need more time in the day, which will absolutely happen to you as an entrepreneur. Knowing places where you spend a lot of time that you don't necessarily need to (ahem, your inbox) will help you streamline your systems and work smarter in your business, not harder.

Your Hourly Wage

A lot of young entrepreneurs/artists don't know what to do with this because when you're a creative who's choosing how much you make, your self worth comes into play. Cloudy thoughts of "my time isn't worth this" or "no one will pay me this much for what I do" are rampant and it's hard to shake those feelings. A helpful way to feel validated in what you're charging is to think about what your price is communicating to your potential clients, because if you don't respect the value of your time, your clients will follow suit. If you're selling your work or services for ridiculously cheap, your clients will think you're cheap and you'll be attracting the type of clients who believe they deserve it all and don't have to pay. It starts with you.

Also take into account that if you’re doing this in your business you have to pay self employment taxes, processing charges and other fees, so keep in mind the final price you show clients is not the number you will receive.

Cost of Materials

Let's use a painting for this example because tangible objects are an easy way to start!

Things to include in your cost of materials could be;

  • To make the painting
    • Varnish
    • Canvas
    • Brushes
  • To deliver the painting to the client
    • Shipping and handling
    • Branded packaging
    • Small gift to include
    • Thank you card

Cost to Redo

This is where you think of everything that can (and someday will) go wrong. 

Artwork gets lost in the mail, your photograph is ripped to shreds by the family dog, your portrait session gets rained out - all the fun things that we as creative business owners have to face. Great customer service in the case of an error either on your part or an error out of your hands is to cover the cost of a replacement - imagine getting damaged goods in the mail from Target and them making you pay for them to redo your order. Not a great experience, right?

On average, it’s a good idea to keep the price you’re giving your client 25-30% (or less) of the cost of materials in case of error so that you can remedy the situation without asking for help from the client. So if it cost you $75 to create your painting (including materials, shipping, etc.), you would want to charge your client about $300 to cover any unexpected expenses in the producing of the project.

Resources

If you want to dig deeper and really get down to the core of what you need to charge, I recommend looking into your Cost of Doing Business (CODB) - it’s the most in depth and necessary document for your business to ensure you are charging sustainable prices. Figuring out your CODB will tell you how much you need to make a year to reach your goals, then you can break it down into monthly goals, hourly wage, and how to price your projects.

Have questions? Drop 'em below!

Katharine Hannah

Chicago, IL

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.