I want to share a little bit about my purpose and my mission and my mindset that relates to creativity. It relates to freelancing and relates to the value and worth of freelance creatives to the world.
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So if you’ve been following this podcast for any length of time, you know that I’m a practicing creative — designer and illustrator. My business, Alvalyn Creative, which I established in 1994, focuses on brand strategy, brand design and helping authors, businesses, and organizations build their platforms.
I’ve always wanted to be on my own. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and never enjoyed being employed because it never felt right. It never felt like it was a good fit. I was always good at my jobs when I was employed, but I was always dissatisfied, no matter how much I enjoyed them, no matter what I was paid. It just never was the right thing for me. And it wasn’t until I got laid off in 1997 that I decided to make the freelancing a full time thing. And I haven’t looked back.
It’s now these many years later, and that many clients under my belt, and a lot of learning, and a lot of experience both bad and good. And a lot of shifting gears. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am today.
And I created a Freelance Road Trip — it’s an educational enterprise — to help freelance creatives do business well so that they can actually make a living from their creative work as independents rather than carrying somebody else’s banner as an employee.
One of the things that is very important to me is understanding the value of creativity in the world. I think a lot of times we have the mindset and we encounter clients who have the mindset that, well, “You’re doing what you love to do. It’s creative, it’s fun. You shouldn’t expect to be paid a lot for it because your payment is in the enjoyment of what you do.”
And that’s true to some extent — we should enjoy what we do. The thing is, though, that we need to look at what we do as having value beyond just the enjoyment.
If you think about it, whether you’re an illustrator, photographer, writer, graphic designer, videographer, interior designer, you build websites, you build user experiences, you create things to sell… there is value in what you do to the world.
People need what you create. Because if they didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. And I think that is very important to understand: Each of us who is creative or considers ourselves creative and wants to make a living doing what we love, does what we love uniquely. In other words, I am the sum total of all my life experience my knowledge, it’s the way I’m wired plus everything else that’s been brought to me in my life or that I’ve gone in search of.
The same thing is true with you. Your experiences are not mine. You can’t really step into my shoes, nor can I really step into yours. So we each have unique, creative passions, we have unique resources which makes each of us in and of ourselves valuable.
I believe there’s a Creator, and I believe that he created human beings in his image. The first thing he ever did that’s recorded in history is he created, and he created human beings to be creative. So there is value in what we do. And that’s acknowledged from outside ourselves.
The world needs the design that we create, it needs the illustration. It needs the visual storytelling, it needs the image making, it needs the order and the systems and the structure and the balance and the texture and the color that we bring to the world through our work.
No matter what the channel, no matter what the sector, no matter what the platform, everything is visual. Ninety-nine percent of the information that any human being takes in in any given day is visual. It comes via what we see. And we have to make sense of what we see in front of us in order to know how to respond, classify and categorize in order to make sense of it, form an opinion, make a decision and take action.
My clients need what I create for them. Your clients need what you create for them. They can’t market, they can’t function or build their brands and they can’t grow their businesses without the stuff we create. Even if it’s an audio book, there’s cover art.
We need that visual branding. We need to communicate visually. That’s my main focus with Freelance Road Trip It’s on the visual creatives and also the people who create with words.
If we understand our value as enabling businesses and organizations and agencies and governments and brands to connect with their audiences and grow their businesses, we understand our value.
A lot of freelancers have trouble with clients’ expectations, things like not getting paid and getting paid late. Things like having a client overrun the creative process, or the freelancer is treated like an employee when they’re not.
We have to, if we want to make a living from our work independently, learn business. We have to learn business. We have to do business as well as we create. And part of doing business well is understanding the value exchange.
I’ve talked in previous episodes of the fFreelance Road Trip Podcast, that value is in the eyes of the client. We set the price but the value is in the eyes of the client. If a client understands that they’re getting more, they’re getting something that’s worth more than what they’re paying for, or at least equal to what they’re paying for, they’re going to pay for it. If it’s not valuable enough, they’re not going to pay for it.
A lot of times we end up working with clients who don’t understand our value. Whose fault is that? Is that the clients? Well, maybe partially, but I think a lot of it is on the freelancer, a lot of the onus — that responsibility — is on the freelancer themself because we don’t communicate the value of what we do.
Although we’re visual communicators or we communicate with the written word, we really don’t communicate very well a lot of the time and therefore we run into problems and we’re not valued by our clients.
One of the questions that I get asked asked is, “Should I raise my hourly rate?” So you’re charging by the hour. Well, employees get paid by the hour, right? So are you an employee or do you own your own business? As the owner of your own freelance business are you on an hourly rate? Or are you looking at the value of what you bring to the table — the value of how your work can actually transform your clients situation?
When you charge hourly — and a lot of people will say well that’s what is expected — you posiiton on the low end and are seen as tech oriented rather than value-oriented. You’re there to execute. You’re not there to create solutions to business problems.
Employees get paid hourly. They’re paid for your time. If you are the owner of your freelance business, getting paid for your time is self defeating. Think about that. Is the value of your work based on how much time you spend on is it? Is it better to communicate your value by talking about the results, the benefits of the work that you create? What is the client actually expecting to get what is the end result? And certainly, if they’re not expecting to increase their bottom line because of the work that you’re doing for them, then maybe they don’t value the work.
But if they are execting that, and say you’re designing a logo or a identity system for them, and they’re going to use that to differentiate and build their brand, because they expect to make their own living they expect to increase their bottom line, what is the value? Is that measured in our time or in return on their investment?
We freelancers cannot approach our business as anything other than a business. We don’t solve creative problems. We solve business problems with creative work. We design packaging for the purposes of standing out from the crowd. We shoot product for the purposes of enticing customers to buy, we shoot lifestyle, or we build visual stories, to engage people and be somehow transformative in their lives, so that our clients and their enterprises can be transformative in the lives of their clients and customers.
What is it that we really do?
If we don’t value our work, if we don’t understand what we bring to the table and how to communicate that we are never going to be able to level up. We’re never going to be able to attract the higher quality, higher value clients. We’ll find ourselves competing on a plaform like Fivrr where we’re unable to really talk about value because everything is a bidding war. But if we shift gears and take a different road basically take a side road from the crowd, we’ll find ourselves moving along at a faster pace.
If we approach our marketing in terms of value, benefit, and results as opposed to how much time is it going to take we’re going to attract a different sort of client.
High value clients are out there. I started out at $35 an hour and with fear and trepidation raised that to $45 an hour the very first time I increased my hourly rate. And then I got hold of the idea of package pricing. And from there I learned about value pricing, and I haven’t looked back.
Why don’t more freelances use value pricing? You’re forced to establish the value of your work because now you’re looking at results and you’re looking at risk. And risk is a whole other discussion. But if you’re not willing to risk you’re not going to be able to engage in the value proposition or in value pricing. You’re not going to be able to clearly communicate the value the worth of what you do as a creative.
One of the things that made the biggest difference for me were value pricing and positioning on the value of my work.
My hope and my purpose with Freelance Road Trip are that you also will find the ability to thrive and prosper by communicating your value as a creative by assuming the ownership role and understanding how to do business as a creative — setting in place the mindset, marketing, and the mechanics that you need in order to accomplish your mission as a professional creative.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai