Finding Your Worth: The Work-Value Equation
As creatives, we are faced with the challenge of putting monetary value and numbers on the work we create. While some have it down to a notch, most of us are sitting ducks, confused as to how we can exactly convey our art's worth to clients.
Knowing Your Work Value & Setting Your Price
So comes the question... How do you set your price?
It's no Science how much love, effort, and labor we put into every single piece of work we create and sometimes it's even more difficult to fathom how we can let it go. (Confession: I have separation anxiety with my artwork sometimes.) But as human beings, and artists, we learn early on that everything in this planet is a give and take relationship: we deliver our end of the deal and in turn get compensated for the right value.
And then another nagging question pops up... How exactly do we know our work's value?
There's no one equation to pricing an artwork and oftentimes it can be personal. I understand the struggle that comes along with this scenario, and so do hundred other artists, painters, writers and creatives out there because it feels like you are connecting it to your personal worth and value.
Wait. Stop right there. Let's get one thing straight:
Your value cannot be measured in numbers because you are infinitely more precious than anything in this Universe.
I'm saying it again, never ever compare your work's face value to your self-worth. Capiche? Now that we got that out of the way, feel free to breathe a sigh of relief and let go of your worries. Once you begin to accept that, it's much easier to determine how you'll go about the process and mull over the fact that money is not the equivalent of who you are and what you stand for.
Before I dive ahead and talk about my personal experience and method, I want to share with you an e-book which was Godsent via the horde of newsletters I subscribe to, in specificity from Be Free, Lance: Breaking The Time Barrier by Mike McDerment & Donald Cowper
My Journey As A Working Creative & On Pricing My Work
One of the questions I'm often asked is: How did you price your work when you were starting out?
When I dove into my freelance career, I absolutely had no idea whatsoever about any of these things. I simply wanted to put my other foot forward and risk myself for exposure, in hopes that other human beings will take notice of my works.
I wasn't born an artist nor do I have any formal schooling in the arts. Now, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to figure out the knots. But the best part was that I was not alone. I was part of an open, diverse community that was more than willing to lend a hand and ear when things got tough and confusing. So I used that to my advantage. I went around asking fellow creatives about anything and everything I wanted to learn — from pricing my work, to freelancing and all the business technicalities that encompasses being a working creative — and through them, I got a gist of how it all worked out. Needless to say, I forged a path with my persistence, determination, and experience with my constant curiosity and relentless creating.
During that period, I decidedly set my price according to value, based on how much each work meant to me and my place in the industry (which, of course, was pretty much non-existent at the time). It was competitive out there, and so I had to set the terms from where I was currently standing then. Since I was just starting out, I didn't have much to go on, nothing to back me up so setting a reasonable price for my work was how I did it. Zooming to the present where my knowledge, background, and skills are built on a more stable ground, I now set my price based on the type of work the client expects from me, which is dependent on a lot of factors like the size of the artwork, the complexity of the illustration, and the cost of the materials.
Overtime as I grew as an artist, I realized that the more skills I gathered, the more space I consumed for growth and the more I put myself out there, that the value of my work continues to increase.
Some artists' rate their work based on a timeframe. It works for them, but not for me. I guess you could say that it would be easier to do it that way since it's just a computation of your hourly labor. But here's a thought, where does your real value fit into that picture? That's just my standpoint, and if you read the e-book I shared, you'd understand why too.
It's common knowledge to start at a (small) reasonable price — but not too low in a way that you undervalue yourself. If you do, it will always result in a queasy feeling that'll make you toss and turn over in your sleep, no matter how guilty you might think for trying to put a fair price on your work.
The key is to know your worth and back that up with the skills and things you’ve learned over time.
Your value is measured by the tools you use, the labor or effort you put into the work, the work itself and lastly, your artistic growth. To break this down into detail, it simply denotes to: Materials + Working Hours (Effort & Love) + Value Of Work (To You & The Client) + Skill Set & Experience
THERE’S A COLD TURKEY THOUGH
So here's the cold turkey: figuring this out is the most difficult part for me too. At one point, I managed to test both methods and found that a time-based pricing didn't work out so well for me as I was never certain how one project would take me to finish. Some are more attuned to their process, so it's easier for them to gauge a timeframe and it is what they're naturally accustomed to.
Test things out. Try various methods. Experiment. That's the only way you'll figure out which works for you and which doesn't. Yes, it's a scary notion, but you won't get anywhere if you don't take risks. Here's the thing:
Compelling artworks attract human beings.
Those who care enough, see potential and are compelled by your works will ultimately look past its monetary value and be willing to pay for whatever you have to offer because in their hearts and in their minds they know how priceless your creation is. If you make works that resonate, then people will naturally be drawn to you and the fortune will follow through.
As the brave and notable artist, Margaret Keane, once said: "People buy art because it touches them." And love, that's a simple truth. So go out there, churn out compelling works and worry less about numbers. Because that's what truly matters.
Illustrations by Yours Truly: Overflowing Heart, Divorce Is A Dirty Word, and Coffee Cups (as published on In Case You Come Back)
All of the things mentioned above is from my personal set of views and experiences. You might have a different opinion from mine, and if by chance you happen to disagree then I totally respect that. In fact, I would love to hear what your thoughts are on the matter! x