Monday, November 25, 2013

Pricing your work, an afterword

Last week we looked of categories of freelance work and how to price them.  Now we're ready to add a grab bag of some other guidelines.
  • Discuss the work first, the price second.
  • Too low is worse than too high.  Human nature and Murphy's Law suggest that if your work is substandard people will forget that it was a bargain and just remember that it wasn't done right; if the quality is high, they may still remember the low price and under value the work.  And in the long run, by undercharging you just make it harder for you and your fellow scribes to make a living.  
  • If you ever do work for free, make sure the recipient knows they got something valuable from a professional.  Spell out clearly what kind of barter payment they may have promised to you: publicity, membership, services, free copies.  I once did free work for a group promoting professional women; they promised me "exposure" and then left my name off the program.
  • Cover your hidden costs such as special materials and paying the printer.  Ask for a reasonable advance to cover out-of-pocket expenses.  
  • Do not take jobs where you know, in your gut, that the client is going to be unreasonable--by undervaluing your time, waiting until the last minute, constantly changing the job, or just asking for bad design.  
  • Ask for a contract on a large job; one third up front, one third half way through, and one third on delivery.  Include a "kill fee" in case you get partway through and they cancel it.  
  • Sometimes it's not a good idea to work for friends.  You may all be happier if you can refer them to a colleague.... [Has anyone else found this to be true?]
  • This all gets easier as you get more experience.  Emerson says "There is no courage like the courage of having done the thing before," and there is nothing like believing firmly that you are charging what your work is worth.

If you are just starting out, ask other calligraphers what they charge.  Find out the "going price" is for such standard jobs as designing an invitations, lettering a quotation, engrossing a diploma, addressing an envelope.  They'll thank you for the courtesy.  

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