On Pricing Mindset: How Much Do You Value Your Own Creative Work?

One of the greatest challenges we face as creative entrepreneurs, especially in the early phase of our business journey, is finding clients and customers who value what we do and who will pay us a fair sum for our work.

The thing that’s so insidious when you’re first starting out – whether that’s in the beginning of your creative career altogether or in the beginning of taking your thing online – is that the offer of online or other “exposure” in exchange for illustration, graphic design, photography services, interior design advice, or in my case, copywriting, almost seems like the smart thing to do. (And let’s be honest, in some cases, it is.)

We’ve all had people try to finagle us into providing our creative work for next to nothing, or even worse, for free.

This blog post is not about how to price your creative services – you can get plenty of great advice on that topic by Googling “how to price creative services” (which will return in the neighborhood of 136,000,000 results). I suggest you read through some of those articles if you’re struggling with pricing.

No, today’s post is about your mindset around the value of the creative services you provide.

I have two things to share on that topic that can help you think of the value you offer through your creative talents in a bigger and bolder way – something much more expansive than some arbitrary hourly rate multiplied by the time it took you to create your work.

Take a quick peek at the two short articles below – they helped me crystallize my value in a way that makes it much easier to both turn down low-ball offers for my services, and to say “no” to providing my hard-earned skills and experience for free or next-to-nothing in exchange for so-called “exposure.”

This first short piece comes from a custom furniture maker named C. H. Becksvoort who often gets asked why his prices are “high.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Visitors to my shop & showroom sometimes ask why my prices are so “dear.” There are several responses, and the list keeps growing: 1) When you invest in my furniture, you are buying 2-6 weeks of my life. 2) You are availing yourself of five decades of experience in joinery, wood technology, restoration, and design. 3) You are investing in a green product, made of sustainably harvested wood from Kane Hardwoods (in operation since 1858); a product that will outlast the next generation. 4) Buying quality once is always cheaper than buying cheap, and having to replace it 4 or 5 times. Most of what you see at big box stores will be in the land-fill within 5 years. You are supporting the local economy, handmade in the U.S. A. 5) Each of my works are built by me, from raw stock, one at a time, to suit your specific requirements. No two pieces I have ever made are exactly the same. The hand of the maker is always in evidence. Most folks think that “custom” means getting the body color, engine size and audio system you desire, not realizing that your “custom” vehicle is one of at least 3,000 just like it on the road.

From years of restoring furniture for the last Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, ME, my motto has always been, “Not how cheap can I make it, rather, how good can I make it.” C. H. Becksvoort © 2012

How brilliant is that?

This second piece is from a published author who often gets asked to provide writing at no cost. If you’ve ever been asked to provide your creative talents for free in exchange for “exposure,” this will resonate deeply with you. Really funny stuff too, by the way.

Check it out here:

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

Next time you’re having doubts about the value of your creative products or services, I hope you’ll remember these two pieces of wisdom.

Have thoughts on the topic of pricing and the often thorny issue of exchanging your creative talents for dollars? Leave them in the comments section below and let’s compare notes. : )



  1. Kimberly, this is solid advice. I agree that doing creative work for mere exposure is often a dead end. How do you feel about doing creative work in exchange for some other non-monetary resource – access to contacts, consulting in a useful field like fundraising, etc?

    • Hi Bjorn,

      Thanks so much for stopping by to comment.

      To your question, I think doing creative work in exchange for a non-monetary resource can work well, as long as everyone is on the same page and all parties benefit. I’ve taken on clients in the past who couldn’t pay my standard rate when I was excited about their project and wanted a sample of that kind of writing for my portfolio, and in that case, everybody wins. I’ve also done consulting for friends who were starting businesses and wanted web marketing advice that I didn’t charge a fee for. I take it on a case by case basis. What I’m wary of is people who offer to “let” you use your finely honed creative talents & skills to benefit them in some way, when all you get in return is some dubious exposure that doesn’t actually benefit you as the creative at all.

      It really depends on the kind of exposure, though. If the editor of the New York Times Magazine asked me to write a piece free in exchange for exposure, I’m probably going to say yes. ; )

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