Creative Professionals Need Not Charge by the Hour

One of the biggest challenges creative businesses have had to contend with in the past, and still exist to a great extent, is getting paid what they are worth. The root of the problem was not the client’s inability to pay the money requested; and it isn’t that the client is unwilling to pay what the service is worth. The root of the problem is in how you, the professional, is charging and how you are creating value in the mind of the client.

In order to buck the trend – so to speak – and start getting paid for the value you provide, instead of the time you spent on a particular project, you must do a couple of things. First, you must create a business based on value pricing and not hourly pricing. The number one worst way to charge (and most creative businesses have been charging this way) is by the hour.

Frankly, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes you to solve the client’s problems or provide your service, it should matter that the client is getting what s/he needs and what he wants. If you’re creating value and you’re giving them value, they’ll pay you for that value. They should not be paying you for your time.

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Second, you must determine what value you are providing. If you’re being paid for your time you’re essentially setting a ceiling on how much money you can make because you can only work so many hours. Therefore, you must determine, specifically what your value is to the customer/client, not how many hours you will work for that customer/client.

Here are a few questions to consider in that regard:

  • How do you impact that customer or potential client?
  • What do you provide to them that will help them and help to solve their problems?
  • How will solving these problems impact the customer?
  • Is it a problem with high impact or low impact?
  • What is important to the customer?
  • Why is it important to the customer?
  • How important is it?
  • Have they had experiences working with someone in your type of business before?
  • If so, was it a good or bad experience? Why? Exactly what happened?
  • Why is the client coming to you for this issue?
  • What is the client’s definition of success with this project?
  • Ask him to describe specific ways he will know he made the right choice in hiring you.

By getting the answers to these questions – not guessing what the client will say, but actually getting the client to answer these questions – you will have the information you need to create VALUE in the mind of the client. If they perceive your work to be valuable, they will be thrilled to pay you. If they do not perceive your work to be of value, they won’t pay you no matter how low you go on the pricing scale.

It’s all in the mind of the client. Get in their head and understand specifically what they want and, even more specifically, why they want it. Once you do that, getting paid what you are worth becomes a matter of how-much-is-your-bill-I’ll-get-the-checkbook, instead of “I don’t know-I want to think about it a little more, let-me-get-back-to-you.

For the purpose of pricing, think of your business as if were a real estate agency where commissions are negotiated between the principal (the seller of property) and the agent (the real estate broker), without the imposition of any “set” fees or hourly payments for the agent’s time.

The broker may negotiate a higher fee if s/he believes the job may require more resources, advertising and risk, or s/he may negotiate lesser of a commission if the sale is considered a “slam dunk”. The point is – based on my frame of reference – there is no preset fees, hourly prices or time-based payments for the agent’s compensation.