Too much or too little?
Reactions to my published fees vary from “Holy cow, you must be rich” to “You should be charging more, your rates are too low”. On average, as I don't particularly receive one reaction over the other, and usually receive no reaction at all, I believe my rates to be both fair and appropriate.
Agencies and companies never question what I charge. They understand the costs associated with running ones own business, and are accustomed to paying similar if not higher rates to their contractors.
Everybody wants their share of the pie!
Death and taxes, the two certainties of life as we know it. Every April, the tax people will be looking for their share of the pie. At present, rates in Canada are in the 30% range, so this means that my rate automatically is reduced by that amount. Poof, like magic, but it's also gone. So remember that this 30% portion that you pay me is actually not for me. And please don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Taxes help our society in so many tangible and intangible ways from new roads, transit and bridges to education, health care, art and culture. It's the price we pay to enjoy the privileges of living in this great country of ours.
Supplies and so much more.
Often referred to as overhead. Whatever you call it, everything that you can imagine from heat, light, internet access and toilet tissue. Then their is all of the other really important stuff that one needs to design and create great things—computers, printers, software (not cheap at all), paper, pens, post-its, tools, studio and shop supplies etc. Frankly, the list is endless and all must be factored into the equation.
The wearer of many hats!
I not only wear several hats when I'm designing the next great identity, website or table, I also do all of the nitty gritty aspects that come with running your own creative business. Invoicing, accounting, talking on the phone, honing my skills, learning new tricks, drawing up estimates, continued research, meet and greets, travel—all takes up time. This time is real working time and as such must be factored in my rates. On any given week I may devote 40-60 hours but bill only a fraction of this time. Such is the reality of having ones own business, but it all still constitutes working time and needs to be reflected in my fees.
Time, perks and dentists.
My time is valuable, just like yours, and as such I also deserve to take time off for a vacation, some R&R or for personal and professional development. Chances are that if you are working for a company that you probably enjoy some form of paid leave or vacation time. As with everything else, my ability to have some time off is directly influenced by the amount of paid work I do.
Call them benefits, from basic insurance to having my tooth cavity sorted, most employers spend thousands each year per employee whether they are used or not. In my case, I am both the employer and emplyee and my rates help contribute to these things.
The living wage thing.
So let's be frank. I'm not starving nor am I living in the lap of luxury. I live frugally out of choice, but it does not mean that I'm either cheap or that I don't enjoy the creature comforts of home and a reasonable sense of success and reward. I work hard for my clients, and that is rewarded through my fees and the enjoyment that I derive from successful jobs well done and the relationships forged. A win for everyone involved.
You get what you pay for!
This old adage rings true, time and time again. The other one to remember is “If it's too good to be true, it probably is”.
I get it. Everyone wishes to spend less if they can, that's only human, but if the end result is shoddy workmanship, poor execution, lack of originality and ingenuity, then we are all lesser for it. The “race to the bottom”, cheap mentality ultimately devalues everything in society. Where the majority of goods and services jostle to compete, with no room for original thought, we end up with “cookie cutter” applications and minimal expectations where “good enough” becomes the standard.
At the end of the day, I know that my design insight, creativity and practical knowledge is valuable, and I'm very good at what I do. I believe that if you are good at something, you should be proud of what you can do and be able to make a living at it.