Are you afraid to price your work?

I very distinctly remember it: the moment I was first asked to be the photographer at a wedding. I remember where I was (my very first apartment, packed boxes still stacked askew) and who I was with (my sister) and what we were doing (picking a DVD—yes, a DVDto watch for our evening movie night). When the email arrived, my brain pulsed with alternating currents of immense excitement and intense dread and gut-wrenching fear.

Are you afraid to price your work?

While the joy of turning my very casual hobby into a paid gig ultimately conquered the fear of failing that first client, the haphazard creation of that first quote ultimately defined the next few years of my attempts at being a photography business.

Why would someone pay me for this? I’ll charge a little less since I’m not professional yet.

What if I can’t deliver a product as good as the next artist? I guess I’ll take a little bit off the cost to hedge my bets?

How much time will this actually take me? I’ll charge a little more than minimum wage and hope the math works out?

I guess since I really love what I do, I might as well not charge very much. I would do it for free, wouldn’t I?

If you are afraid to price your work: you are not alone.  As I’ve chatted with fellow artists and like-minded creative entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that this fear of money often equals (or surpasses!) the stereotypical fears of failure and risks and mediocrity that we so often hear cited. (Entrepreneur Magazine, for example, lists the seven fears all entreprenreurs must conquer and those stereotypical entrepreneurs don’t always have the same emotional investment in their endeavors that an artist does!)

When I finished photographing and editing those first weddings, I didn’t even make minimum wage.  While the experience was valuable and my portfolio was happy, that was not a sustainable course. Maybe you relate?

In order to conquer the fear of money and to avoid being afraid to price your work, you need to stop thinking like an artist and start thinking like an entrepreneur. While your art is rooted in creativity your prices need to be rooted in science. 

Stop thinking like an artist and start thinking like an entrepreneur.

First, you need to remember that you are valuable. The time and energy and effort you will spend creating the art for your custom is worth something, yes, but – almost more than that – the time and energy you spent becoming the artist you are is to be similarly prized. A task might only take you thirty minutes to do now, but it took you thousands of hours to gain the skill and efficiency needed!  Don’t forget that you are valuable.

Second, you have to know your costs. As artists, we don’t like to learn acronyms like “CODB” that get bandied around by accountants and leave us wiping away a cold sweat. It’s much easier to just focus on choosing color schemes than factoring how much it costs us to be and stay in business (hint: that’s what CODB is!). But you can’t just know some of the costs, you need to factor all the costs. My first wedding gig, for example, ignored the time and gas I would spend travelling out of town for the wedding, the food I would need to eat along the way, and the extra gear I ended up purchasing to be able to serve my clients well.

Knowledge is power when conquering your fears. Maybe you remember the childhood fear of monsters under your bed at midnight? Once your parents turned on the light and handed you a flashlight and knelt next to you to look under the bed and see the absence of monsters, the fear went away. Staring fear in the face worked as a child overcoming the monsters just like staring fear in the face works as a creative entrepreneur trying to avoid the fear of pricing your work.

To confidently price your work, you need to know how to factor your costs and value your time. That’s where our course “How to Price Your Work” steps in. We will walk you through exactly what you need to include in your CODB and exactly how to turn that CODB into a unit price. When you’re done, you’ll have a spreadsheet doing the work for you and spitting out a price in black-and-white to ensure you can confidently and objectively quote your prospective customer a price.

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