By Praise Philemon, Partner, Neptunn
From a freelancer to an intern to a junior designer and even from the senior designer to creative director to becoming a partner at a growing design agency, the one thing asides skills that have always kept me awake—sometimes, leaving me depressed—was the concept of pricing design. For the last 4 years, I have always had several theories about how design is priced, some were right, some were wrong, some are now outdated and until recently, I still didn’t have a clear direction on how I should charge for design.
So here are my top three theories over the last 4 years and my thoughts on them.
In pricing, there is no right or wrong. There is only fair.
On the surface, it may seem like everyone is bothered about how well they’ve charged but in reality, we are all bothered about how well we’ve kept our interests. We feel bad when we see “them” charge so high, yet when a client knocks on our door, the question we always ask ourselves, in several forms, is “hope I haven’t cheated myself?”
Yet, when Designer X writes out his rate card, he is busy thinking about Designer Y and how much he currently charges as the right price and the benchmark to aim for while beating himself down on how wrong his prices are.
However, contrary to some popular opinion, your prices are only a reflection of your clients’ capacity—not your skill, or experience, or ‘brand’. So, the aim should be to charge a number that accurately represents your value and the client’s investment relative to a particular outcome.
Perception is reality.
While this is heavily opinionated in the design space, perception is perception and reality is reality. If you are do not think you are worth so much and you act like you are worth so much, what you create is a sub-standard product.
Looking the part without being the part is not being fair to yourself, and your clients. This is where we flip the script and ask ourselves, “hope I haven’t cheated Miss Client?”
“I’m doing so little, why should I charge more?”
While this is the mainstream pricing model for a lot of design service businesses in Nigeria, it is also the mainstream cause of complaints from the same set. Someone, somewhere, right now, maybe you, is dreading a call/email of a client asking for one more deliverable not previously stated in the initial agreement.
The amount of time and effort you put in, and the number of deliverables you submit doesn’t always accurately represent both interests—you and the client. This is why you get brain freeze when an unusual client (someone far above your design income range) asks you for an invoice or a rate card.
You blow everything out of proportion and when the client casually asks why you charged so much, you stutter.
So, what now?
Set a minimum level of engagement, a price that you wouldn’t go below with your client, and this is entirely based on you. Remember, there is no right or wrong price. Then, as Coker Oluwafemi told me and I paraphrase, “audit the value—the amount your work will make for their business—and charge relative to it to ensure you are not undervalued and your clients are not cheated”.
In certain cases where the final price is below your minimum level of engagement, after negotiations and discussions, it would mean that your client cannot afford you and your price is ‘unfair’ to that client.
Part ways on the transaction and move on!