Right brains, as awesome as they are for creativity; sometimes don’t quite get the business part of putting your work out there for the approval of others. Capitalism is a tricky thing, those of us who are getting paid for our creations can get nervous, cranky or just plain defensive when it comes down to naming our price. I posted a video last week about negotiating your price and it was a huge hit, it got a lot of laughs and got re-tweeted all over the place. However, I think it gave the impression that anyone who won’t meet your price is trying to screw you and, unfortunately, it is a whole lot more complicated than that in the real world.
Negotiation in any business, is adversarial, try not to take it personally. Business projects are expected to make a profit; not support artists. Nightclubs hire entertainers to sell more drinks, radio plays songs to sell more ads, writers get advances to sell books.
Ultimately, you get to decide the worth of your talent and what you will work for, if you believe you are good enough to charge a whole lot more than other people in your field, for the same work, that’s ok, but realize you’ll get less work. This is not a bad strategy if you have more work than you can handle and want make the same money doing less work. We’d all like that option, but the fact is, very few creatives are in the position to name their own price, most people have to be somewhere around the competition.
The other extreme is to work as cheaply as possible and get as much work to pound out as possible, even if quality suffers. Elance and street corner theater are your venues and it is probably hard to feel good about yourself if you are always the low bidder. If you are a commodity, someone who only wins on price, it’s good to understand that and know that you have made that choice.
SO is there a middle ground? Of course there is. Obviously, people don’t always buy the cheapest option, heck did you see the lines at Apple this week for the new I Phone? There are some basics of capitalism and markets that you need to know and love.
1. Know your market. Price out a job like the one you are offering and see if you are in the ballpark. If jobs are going for $200 to $600, you’d better offer quite an apparent improvement to the buyer if you want to charge $2,500. Keep in mind, what you think is an advantage to the buyer may not be something he feels the need to pay extra for. You might be surprised that there are good people out there with a whole different price structure (higher or lower) than yours.
2. Understand your client. Ask a LOT of questions, most jobs don’t even go out to bid if the buyer has found someone who can give him exactly what he wants. Some jobs don’t need a whole lot of customization and talent, some do, you should find out why the customer is doing a certain job and adjust your bid accordingly. A client may have a low budget on project because he anticipates the project is not going to be all that profitable, it’s a good idea to understand his goals. It’s not the buyers problem if your costs are higher or if you have to do all the work yourself because you don’t have a staff. The buyers obligation is to get the work done for the best value.
3. Be able to add value. If your job is seen as a commodity, say you transcribe, then most people will go with the low bid because they are going to get the same results. Buyers understand it’s good business to save money where you can. BUT: If you tell me you’ll not only transcribe my work, you’ll correct the grammar and clean up my syntax, I’m going with you, even if you aren’t the low bid.
4. Be gracious. People would like to think that you want to do their work, that you care about them and that they are more than a wallet to you. Even if you don’t get a job you’d like, it is good business to be so gracious that next time, the customer remembers you and feels like he owes you one (Or maybe tell his friends and readers about you). In general, people do business with people they like and know. Price is not the only determination but yes, you might decide that you’ll lose money on a job or it’s not worth the price to you. That is YOUR choice, be gracious.
So, that’s enough for today, running a business is not antithetical to creative minds. Right brainers who plug into a customer’s need using empathy and paint pictures with stories can get paid a lot more than the low bidder. Use your creativity to not only do great work but to GET great work!
Here’s how negotiating with a dentist might go: