How much are you worth? More than you realize…

Whether you are voiceover talent, a children’s writer, photographer – or do any type of freelance work at all – you have, at one time or another, probably had to explain your rates to someone.

ID-10084724 (Mic)You’ve had to explain why you charge what you charge.

Or explain why you can’t do something for free.

At my monthly SCBWI critique group meeting, one of our members, an illustrator, was telling us how frustrating it can be when she tells prospective clients her rates, then has to explain why she charges those rates and why she can’t accept low or no-budget projects.

“We can’t pay much, but it’ll be great for your portfolio!”

That’s one of the lines she’s hears all too often. She also gets this:

“We expect this will lead to more work!”

Or this one:

“You charge how much? But it’s just drawing.”

(Voiceover friends, do these ring any bells??)

shutterstock_55511725 (woman-camera)
“You charge HOW much? C’mon, you’re just taking pictures…”

I told her I get that all the time – and nearly every voice artist has. It can be frustrating, indeed. (I even wrote what became a popular blog post about rates and the value of one’s work last year, detailing why some rates are high and others are low.)

We talked about attitudes and expectations of clients and how to find a balance between keeping clients happy, attracting new ones, and maintaining rate integrity.

Then, following our meeting, one of our other group members shared a video that helped really put things in perspective.

Knitting: it’s a lot like voiceover

And a lot like writing. And illustrating. And photography. And teaching music. And any other kind of skilled work.

The video our fellow member shared was recorded by a woman named Jess who does “knit-for-hire.” That is, people pay her to knit sweaters, afghans, and other items – and Jess states in the video that she loses a lot of people when she tells them the cost of a custom-made, hand-knitted sweater.

Just like voiceovers and children’s publishing, there is more to the craft than simply “reading” or “writing.” As Jess explains, there are a number of factors which can determine the price of a knitted sweater: type of yarn, type of stitch, patterns, sizes, swatches, etc.

I encourage you to watch this video and, if you are a skilled worker, see if you immediately feel a kinship with her, as I did! And if you are in the business of hiring skilled workers, perhaps this will provide you with some insight as to how much is involved in something that might seem simple:

Surprised, aren’t you? I have to admit, even though I didn’t know a thing about knitting, I knew exactly what Jess was saying and why she felt the need to post the video.

So be proud of your craft! Be proud of your rates! And if you’re looking for someone to voice or produce a project for you, or write something, illustrate something, or knit something…please understand, we’re not trying to make more money than we need.

We’re just trying to earn what we’re worth.


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18 thoughts on “How much are you worth? More than you realize…

  1. Great post, Matt. Just because we artists love what we do, does not mean that we don’t deserve fair payment for our work. The knitting video is an excellent example of what is involved in crafting something and it doesn’t even include all those years spent studying and perfecting the craft. Compounding the problem is that there is no real pricing standard. We know what to expect to pay a car mechanic- who undoubtedly makes more an hour than most artists. And yet, a pricing standard could undermine the price of a really great artist (because, let’s face it, some people actually make better work than others.)


  2. edecaria

    Great post, Matt.

    In the software world, I find this happens with skilled design contractors. I come at the same problem from a different POV, where I am the one who recognizes the need/talent but have to constantly sell and resell the budgetholder in my company on the value provided vs. the rate charged.

    The challenge, as you hinted at, is that everyone thinks the job should be quick and easy. Everyone fancies themselves a designer, but they rarely make the connection back to their ignorance/hubris when a product built without professional experience/interaction/visual design fails to meet user needs or flops on the market.

    Trying to justify cost per hour will always be hard for talent workers, but at some level people do understand the value of a satisfied vs. an unsatisfied customer/user/reader/whatever, so that’s how I approach the subject when it inevitably arises.



    1. You make some good points, Ed. One of the ways to address this issue is by educating potential clients, which I hope I’ve been doing with this post and the other one I referenced. The thing is, a business that is more concerned with cost than results is a totally different client than the one who is willing to invest in professional work and get a professional result.

      When I was in radio, I would meet business owners who had never advertised on radio before, but demanded to write and voice their own commercials because suddenly they were experts…and when the commercials failed to attract customers, they’d cancel their contract and say radio doesn’t work!


      1. edecaria

        The battle I face is related to both cost and speed. Why spend money and take longer to research and think and design we can just code it and release it tomorrow?


      2. Exactly. In my case, why spend time talking to a client about their business, learning what they want to accomplish via their commercial, and then taking a day or two to write an effective script…when all we have to do is throw some bullet points together, slap some music under it, and get it on the air before the end of the day?

        Things are tough all over!


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  4. Hi Matt,

    GREAT post and it is right in sync with a blog post I just posted today. I really enjoyed seeing the video about knitting, because I know a couple people who knit and have made scarves and other creations for me. So interesting to see just how much time goes into that!

    In my post I mention the story (fact or fiction, not quite sure) of Nikola Tesla meeting Henry Ford to help with a problem at the factor. It’s a great illustration of what we all have to keep in mind when pricing our services. In many situations, knowing WHERE to put the X is worth way more than the actual “putting of the X!”

    Yet the person buying the services is often only focused on what you’re DOING for them, rather than everything that informs HOW you do what you do.

    Educating clients is so important!


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