Freelance Success for 3D Artists - Article 01 - Price Yourself Right
Price Yourself Right
Our True ValueOver the years, I have seen MANY people post on the forums "How much should I charge?". Truthfully, it's not the easiest question to answer. But, more often than not, 3D artists are charging less than they should. Not only that, but they are also setting a poor precedent in how they communicate their fee to their client, setting themselves up to be walked on by their clients on future projects.
As 3D artists, we provide a service to our clients that has enormous value. And the bigger the client's project is, the more value we provide. Our job is to help sell their project. It doesn't matter if you are hired to do one rendering or twenty five, or five minutes of animation. The true value in our work is in THEIR TIME. Our renderings are a key tool that help keep our clients' projects moving along- getting from point A, drawings, to point B, a physical structure or product that humans are actively using. At point B, the project is finally bringing money to the owners, and the sooner they get to point B, the better.
Don't Race to the BottomThis is not to say that clients don't have budgets or don't care what they spend. The point here is this- don't sell yourself as a lower price solution. If you present yourself as the artist who can always beat everyone else's prices, your clients will always be pushing your price down. These are not the types of clients you want, and you certainly don't want to take a higher paying client and train them to pay you less! Not only that, but psychologically, the less we pay for something, the less we value it. At some point, most of us have felt walked on or taken advantage of by a client. The old "give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile." This is not what we want, so let's not train our clients to treat us this way by devaluing our service.
I will talk more later about good clients versus bad clients, but it is worth mentioning here, that if a particular client repeatedly asks for a low price, this is probably a client you should get rid of. The strange thing about this is that these are also the clients who often ask for the most changes, and as a result, are your least profitable clients. Is this client going to help you succeed? And is working for this client stopping you from working for a better client? (Read this last sentence again and think about it.)
Focus on clients, not priceIn order to maximize your success, you want to seek out and focus on those clients who won't haggle with you over dollars and cents. It may take a few projects before a client will trust that your pricing is fair, but after that, they don't even ask what your price will be, nor will they question it after they get your bill. These clients understand the true value of your work. Take GREAT care of these clients, and do your best to handle all of their requests.
The ultimate take-away from this section is to realize the true value of your work, as seen from your client's point of view. When you're selling your services to your client, make sure they know that YOU understand that time and forward progress are what you're here to help with. Don't sell yourself on a low price just to get the job. You DO need to make sure your price is in line with your level of experience and quality of your work. But even if you are just starting out.... you should let your client know that you are not the cheapest guy in town. You will never find financial success working for a bunch of people who don't like to spend money.
So what next?OK, a bit of practical and actionable guidance, as I think many of you wonder about this. Should you bill hourly or by the project? The answer is... both. This is only to be fair to yourself. If you have enough information to reasonably estimate the number of hours to complete a job, price by the project. This will motivate you to work fast, thus increasing your hourly rate. It will also get you thinking of ways to automate various processes, which we'll talk about more later. Don't forget to mention that significant changes outside of the discussed scope will be cause for additional billing. Conversely, if you don't have enough information to estimate the number of hours required, bill hourly, but if possible, DO give your client a range, or some idea of where you'd like the price to be, a soft estimate. As you progress through the project, keep your client in the loop as to how many hours you've worked. If you surprise them at the end with a massive fee that's well above your soft estimate, not only will you have a difficult time collecting the full amount, but you probably won't work for them again.
One final thought. Many years ago I held a garage sale, and a friend of mine offered to help out. He noticed that when people asked me for a price on something that I'd often reply with a price range, like "...$15...$20?" . He pulled me aside and said "Man, are you stupid? Who's gonna pay the higher price??" So, don't be wishy-washy. Be confident when you state your prices. (This speaks volumes about you and your business.) Never lower your price at the simple request to do so. You should only lower your price while reducing the scope of work in some way. Be prepared for the client to walk away. Knowing that you have offered them a reasonable and competitive price should put your mind at ease. Additionally, you have set a respectable precedent with this client. Maybe you won't land that particular project, but you may have just saved yourself lots of money in the long run.
I'd love to hear your thoughts or answer additional questions. Let me know what you think in the comments below!