Value-Based Pricing: Why I don't have "rates" as a freelance artist.

General / 19 March 2019

Set rates our hourly rates don’t make sense in many cases.

Ah, rates. The classic tyrant to many-an-artist.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a screenshot from the “Services” subforum on

The sad thing is, is that many of these poor artists will never be able to make it out of this very forum with that mentality, and a vast majority can barely get ONE commission.

It’s a bummer, and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve secured my fair share of commissions from this job board.

In my lowest of lows, I was selling commissions for a mere $50 a pop. Art-slaving away for hours just to eat. It was the worst - even if the clients came back with no revisions…I spent the better part of the process mentally flagellating myself for stooping so low.

That’s no way to live, and whether you’re an artist or you’re interested in making a career out of your creativity. I’ll explain how I ascended beyond this dead-end, pale-green scene, and instead began to prosper from my hard-earned skills.

In short, I had to earnestly seek answers to these dollar-based dilemmas.

For me it was all about education and implementation. Following the advice and practices of high-earners in other industries, and translating them to what it is I do (more on that later.)

I studied business acumen, marketing prowess, principled actions.

Let’s go into more detail.

The turning point - when I began pricing based on value

I had finally reached my breaking point after barely being able to save money month and month. I was working full-time, but my income did not reflect that.

The breaking point hurt, but it was also a seemingly magical event, a sudden willingness to challenge old beliefs. I did so until my efforts became the sword of sovereignty, deftly slicing that old mentality to ribbons.

here’s how I shifted my approach:

  • I went from charging for time, to charging for the event, to charging for the process and it’s effects.

  • Instead of hungrily taking every job where the client seemed halfway sane, I started being far more selective.

  • I began to look at myself as a peer, rather than a for-hire commodity.

  • The focus shifted from “make them the art they want” to “get them the objective results they’re after.”

  • I raised my prices. A lot.

  • I became less of a pair of hands, and more of a brain.

  • New thoughts about business practices and paradigms had to be programmed into my operations.

  • Specialization became the focus, rather than generalizing.

And those are just a few ways I had to pivot from my once poor mindset. You see, life is too full of riches to stay under the providence of our limited scope. You have to be willing to reinvent yourself and your work for the results you’re after.

The world will try to melt you down. It will want to standardize, unify, and program you. It’s your job to reject what everyone else in your field or your community is doing, and do the opposite.

Let’s talk Clients - an integral key to value-based pricing

The client is best served by having their issues resolved quickly and effectively.

And here’s the thing - hourly billing isn’t moral in that regard. This is something I learned from Alan Weiss and Nathan Stark.

The longer you stay, the more your client pays - that’s not quite right, is it? After a project drags on and on, and your clients are over-budget, you get the “client from hell” scenario - even if circumstances were beyond your control.

No - it’s better to go in lean and mean, and price yourself based on the big difference you can make for your client’s business. Then deliver as quickly and effectively as possible.

For example - if you pay me $100,000.00 up front to knock out a project and it makes you 1,000,000.00 over the next 12 months, you’re happy.

Whereas if things aren’t coming together right, and the scope keeps changing, and over the course of a year you’ve spent $1,200,000.00 trying to get the thing to fly, no one’s happy.

That’s why having a bid where you don’t pay a dime more than the agreed upon price is ideal for the client.

Again, it took a while to pivot into these new paradigms, but now that I have a more solid foundation, years of experience, and the income to triple down on my skills and ongoing education, the effects are multiplicative.

I strongly urge artists who are freelance to consider value-based pricing, and to reap healthier profits, and happier clients.

For the clients out there, make sure that going to a particular freelancer is what you’re in definite need for at whatever project stage you’re in.

I can’t tell you the number of gigs wherein I took the job to fast, only to find out that my clients weren’t every 100% WHY they needed the artwork created. Some had asset lists wherein 80% of the items were superfluous to their project goal.

If you’re gathering another round of funding, that needs specific strategy - if you’re trying to engage your player base more, that needs a specific type of work as well.

And if you’re unsure about what will move the needle, then don’t be afraid to ask. Part of having integrity on my part is to let you know if what I can do for you is something that you actually need.

It requires a good deal of forethought and transparency to conduct business at this level, but ultimately it yields more desirable results for all parties involved.

Value is the key to creative collaboration, and when both sides can mutually prosper as a result of a near-alchemical value fusion, the resultant projects are more readily bound for success.