Are We Racing to the Bottom?
Are we, as makers & creatives, racing to the bottom?
Charging less & less, letting clients treat emails like they’re text messages & expecting an immediate response, giving discounts for made-to-order “bulk orders”, all while customers expect Amazon delivery speed? You can see it in the “gig economy”. Consultants/contractors that once made $100,000 are now lucky to make $50,000 bc someone is always there to do it for less.
I’ve experienced all of the above first hand and I’ve seen it in the data. I’ve also seen the unsustainability of running a maker’s’ business like it’s sweatshop in pursuit of the almighty sale.
A local craftsman had success very early on in their business & saw “work-life balance” within arm’s reach. Grand plans were made, business partnerships were drawn up & within a year the business was closed. Selling cheap & fast is not for makers.
Running your own business will never be less than 40 hours a week. Plan on a successful business being 80+ hours if you don’t hire help. Are you willing to work 80 hours a week for minimum wage? Doesn’t sound so grand anymore, does it?
There are those who claim “the hustler gets the sale” but I firmly believe hustlers are undercutting themselves with short term gains & setting themselves up for long term failure. I’ve seen it too many times not to see it coming. Think of doing free work “for exposure” like it’s an unpaid internship. When we pull real world data, 44% of unpaid internships actually turn into paid jobs vs 72% of paid internships.
What does that mean for makers?
If you are working for free then it is very unlikely “exposure” or low paying customers are actually going to turn into something more. Instead, you are attracting customers and clients who expect high quality for low prices. When you work for someone else, do you expect to to make a salary? The same goes for the creative field. This is not a new concept but for some reason people expect this from creatives.
But I’m just starting out…
Hogwash. Your time is still valuable and you want to start attracting your target market immediately. If you charge for materials only and then raise your prices later, it is going turnoff your core clients. It’ll be like starting from square one all over again. You are starting a business, you already know a lot about the profession you are pursuing in the first place. You are not a true “beginner” so start acting like it, and charge what you’re worth.
So how do I calculate my prices?
Glad you asked. You can find my handy dandy formula here.
Are you a calligrapher? Check out this amazing post by Holly at Sablewood Paper Company to see how this plays out in her world. She has some really great points that apply to creatives across the board as well.