For the past couple years I have been repeatedly told that I undercharge for my services. I even wrote a post about it 4 years ago, acknowledging and admitting such. Friends and colleagues have been showing me the actual figures, and the math is finally staring at me, and I am now glaringly obvious of how I have allowed my empathy to overrule my business.
This year marks 10 years since I graduated with honours from one of the top 10 design schools in the US. This year marks 10 years of working experience both at agencies and as a freelancer. This year marks 4 years of successfully running my own business. This year marks 3 years of teaching design to students. To say I am not qualified would be a gross inaccuracy.
I just read a post by Chris Do on why I might be unwilling to charge my worth and worth is such a funny word to me. He discusses how it’s a matter of confidence and most creatives lack the self confidence needed to charge more. And while I agree with this statement to an extent, I consider myself extremely confident in my abilities as a brand identity designer. The challenge is linking that confidence and ability to a price. I’ve taught people how to work out their fees, and I’ve done the work with them and then I return to charging what I have been since 2012. Empathy. I work with a lot of small business owners, as a branding designer, I am there at the beginning. I listen to all of their stories and pain points and internalize it in order to tap into their needs and pull out a design that would solve all of their problems (or at least this is what I tell myself). Through this process I begin to care… too much. This is where I should say, I charge customers based on what they say they can afford, rather than charging them for the service being provided. I get too personal.
I’ve been learning about boundaries this past year in particular, turns out, I’ve had none all my life! And in realising this, I need to put up some emotional boundaries with my clients. I have gotten really great at boundaries for how to communicate with me, to respect my time, but not so great at charging a fee that accurately reflects the value of the service provided. To paint a picture of how badly I undercharge, my fees are 1/4 and 1/5 the amount that my counterparts charge! I actually charge less than the junior designers I’ve hired to work on projects. I might be insane. And you might be wondering, why this oversharing, and why now? Well, I’ve learnt that there’s a freedom that comes with transparency that gives you the permission to do the thing you were supposed to do all along. I also believe in giving others the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and not have to make them too. And maybe most of all, the maths not mathsin’ anymore, which is a Trini way of saying that it’s not making any sense to continue doing what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years.
So, was this a random blog post about me still undercharging or was this an announcement that yesterday’s price is not today’s price? I’ve done the research, I’ve done the math, I’ve set the goals, and it is time for me to apply that same empathy I give my clients, to myself. Design is a billion dollar industry, for a really good reason, it is visual communication. It allows us as human beings to interact with all of the products and services we want and need on a daily basis.
Want to work with me on your next project? Let’s talk!
Are you undercharging for your services? Tell me in the comments because misery likes company.