Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Freelancer’s Dilemma

Payscale still a mystery.

New freelancer’s have so many questions about the business of design and long for straight answers. Many join professional organizations for answers and guidance or shell out good bucks for seminars.

A few nights ago, here in Baltimore, I attended one such a seminar held by a prestigious graphic designer’s organization. The theme was centered on developing a client base and pricing appropriately. It should be pointed out that the event was free of charge.

A fellow (who I’ll keep anonymous) discussed his 13 year entrepreneurial stint as the sole proprietor of a design studio boasting phenomenal award winning success. After a slide show of his illustrations and other design work he discussed how he connected with some of those name-brand clients—Rolling Stone, Utne Reader, Playboy, Forbes, and Business Week among others.

While many of the younger members in the audience were obviously impressed and probably a bit jealous of his success they seemed less than satisfied with the answers to questions about pricing.

I think what many people wanted to hear was a simple formula to calculate a price. As if illustrations and graphic design were carpet or paint and could be cast in terms of square footage. As if!

In defense of the guy, he did mention The Graphic Artist’s Guild’s Handbook for Ethical Pricing Guidelines, although it was said quickly as though everyone were aware of the book. I wouldn’t know what to ask for at the bookstore from his reference. It is a great book for getting an idea of the going rate for all kinds of design services and can introduce a new designer to a wealth of resources for their business’ administration.

But many of the questions regarding pricing were side-stepped and assertions were made that you should really only charge a bundle if you have real talent. Huh? Who is deciding that—the Talent Regulatory Commission?

Finally, after listening to many questions about pricing that didn’t seem to satisfy audience members, I asked the question that opened up a can of worms for me.

Why haven’t costs for graphic design changed over the last 15 years?


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