How To Charge Clients Any Amount You Want

By . Filed in Web 2.0

Did you know that the current "market prices" for design are totally irrelevant? It’s true, and what’s more is that you absolutely don’t have to follow them. You can, in fact, charge whatever you want for your designs, provided you make a few important changes to your design process.

You might ask, "Isn’t that unethical?" Not at all. I’m going to show you exactly how you can, ethically and fairly, charge any amount you want for your design work. Interested? Good. Let’s continue on.

Whatever You Want? Like, whatever whatever?

First, let’s be clear on what I mean when I say you can charge whatever you want. Designers have been trained to believe that they have to adhere to a standard price range, because it’s what they believe "the market" will bear. But I have news for you: "the market" doesn’t exist.

It’s all made up of individual people with individual needs. What one client would only pay $100 for, another might pay $10,000, or even $100,000. It all depends on how you position yourself and what value you provide to which people.

So yes. I really do mean whatever you want. However, there are some important stipulations to keep in mind. First thing on this list, is that you absolutely, positively have to…

Ditch The Generic

Visualize with me for a minute. We’re going to a trendy new restaurant in town. Which town? Doesn’t matter – make one up. Anyway, you and your friends are starving, and you walk into the restaurant with excitement. The waiter seats you and hands you your menus.

You see something called Poule et l’Orange Supreme de Chef de Cuisine. You’re not exactly sure what that is, but it sounds delicious. Your eyes stray briefly to the price listed on the right, but you’re so hungry and it sounds so good (it says supreme!) that you barely even register how exorbitant the price tag is.

… And Offer A Unique Experience

Or how about a more down to earth example? If you’ve ever visited Disneyland or Disney World, you know how ridiculously overpriced everything is there. How is Disney able to get away with those prices for such mundane items? Well, part of the secret is the established Disney brand.

But the other part is that, at Disney World, you expect a certain type of experience. You are literally immersed in another world of Disney’s creation, and in this world, it’s perfectly acceptable to pay $12 for a bottle of water that’s $1.50 anywhere else.

Elevate The Experience

As a designer, you can charge whatever you want if you craft your service offerings to fit your own terms. If you take basic concepts and make them your own, then people won’t bring any preconceived notions to the table, including how much they expect to pay.

Everything about the experience should feel different than the usual. If you can make your customers feel different while doing business with you, you’ll be able to charge much more than your competition. Offer a luxury experience, invite your clients to play in your world, and stay away from the generic.

Set It And Forget It

High-end business coach Jay Abraham continually stresses the importance of referring to people who buy your products and services as "clients" rather than "customers" or "users," even if that’s technically what they are. Why? Well, think about it.

When you take a client as a freelance designer, you’re not just handing them a product and collecting their money. You’re creating a relationship with them and seeing that they receive the best possible service while they’re in your care.

The same should apply whether they are physically in front of you, or whether they are mere "users" clicking around on a website you designed. It’s still your responsibility to make sure they have everything they need to be a successful user of your site. Even if they never meet you face to face, they should still feel the impact of your care and attention.

They should know that someone was on the other end of the design in front of them — someone who has their best interests at heart.

Know Your Stuff And Show Off Your Knowledge

Obviously, you have to know what you’re doing in order to command the best prices. But don’t be afraid to show your expertise and provide your clients with any information they may ask for — even if it’s not strictly related to the project at hand.

If whatever you know will help them make more money, that is information that your clients want to hear, even more so when few other designers know to give the same sort of info.

Make strategic recommendations that you believe are better than what your client asks for. You’re the expert here, not them. That means, as we learned earlier, it’s your responsibility to care for them and make sure they know enough about your service to use it independently, without you having to be there.

Go After The Big Fish

At the very highest levels, clients are willing to pay a lot of money for the very best products and services. Perhaps even more than you might think. After years of fighting stingy clients for a measly check for $500 or $1000, your eyes may bulge out of your head the first time you get handed a 5- or even 6-figure sum without even so much as a pause.

These clients are not like the ones you’ve had in the past. They’re successful, they have huge budgets, and they don’t care to quibble with a designer about their fees. And why should they? You get what you pay for, after all — even with a highly subjective service like design.

There are simply some basic assumptions that large clients make as to your skills and your ability to give them the solution they need. They also tend to leave you alone to work your craft a lot more often than lower-paying clients do. The axiom is that the less a client is willing to pay, the more of a pest they will be.

What Do You Think?

By the way, if you don’t speak French, Poule et l’Orange Supreme de Chef de Cuisine was basically "chicken with orange slices, prepared by the chef". See how powerful this stuff is?

Have any other ideas on how to raise your prices for design? What are your thoughts on arriving at the ideal price range for you and your clients?

Author:

Addison is the author of Food Identities, a blog that explores the crossroads of food, design, and culture. She's written some things, designed other things, and eaten a whole lot of food.

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