Putting a value on creative work!

I know that I often talk about the value of creativity but it is something that is worth repeating. Intellectual property is something non-creatives, and even other creatives, take for granted! “Why should I pay X  dollars for a company logo when it only took you a couple hours to design?”  “All you are doing is talking, why do I have to pay you so much to narrate my commercial?” “Can I put your song in my film for free?”  “Why can’t I download (aka steal) this photo off the internet?” Not only do we all have to deal with questions like these, but we sometimes even struggle when assigning a value to our own creative work.

What are your clients paying for?


Sure your clients are paying for the project they hired you to do.  The photograph. The song. The commercial. The painting. The logo. But there are other factors that are often overlooked when determining the value of the project, I will discuss two common ones.

ID-100247367 value of creativityExperience. They are not paying for the three hours it took to design their logo.  They are paying for the years of education in graphic design (perhaps years of college and/or private study).  They are paying for the thousands of hours you have spent cultivating your skills in a variety of professional positions.  They are paying for the hundreds of logos you designed for other clients that made it possible for you to give them exactly what they were looking for in just a few hours.  They are paying for your blood, sweat, and tears!  They are not just paying for the project, they are paying for your experience! Very important to remember this when placing a value on your work.

Overhead. Naturally all business incurs the day-to day expenses called overhead.  Your work space.  Your hardware. Your software. Your utilities. Your advertising. Your taxes.  People don’t hesitate to pay their contractor or mechanic for their experience and expenses.  The average person acknowledges that doctors are expensive because they have years of college and medical practice.  Retail stores have to pay for space, vendors insurance and advertising. But if you are a freelance musician, actor, editor, photographer, designer, illustrator, etc., you are treated more like a hobbyist that a business.  You are a business and you incur the same type of expenses as any other business!  This also needs to play a factor when determining the value of your creative work.

Ok, your creative work has value! But what does ‘value’ mean to you?


ID-100197153 value of creativityYes,  your creative work has value! However, that doesn’t alway mean money.  Let me share an example.   I was engineering a recording project with an A-list Oscar winning actor who was working for scale, not millions or even hundreds of thousands of dollars that he could have asked for.  To him there was a unique value in being part of a project helmed by the director involved.

  • Value can be working on a project that means something to you.
  • Value can be the credit and notoriety a project earns.
  • Value can be developing your personal network.
  • Value can be cultivating a team of professional partners and collaboraters.
  • Value can be doing something that diversifies you skill set.
  • Value can be working on something you believe in.
  • Value can be working with people you enjoy working with.
  • Value can be helping others.
  • Value can be just having fun.

Value can be a lot of things. It is up to you decide whether the value equals immediate monetary composition, something that pays off over time, or something that just gives you joy.  Great credits, for example, can equal higher perceived value being put on your work meaning higher compensation on future projects.  Even when your skill set is clearly established having your work hanging in a particular gallery, your music placed on a popular show, or your name associated with an award winning film can work to convince your next client that your work has a higher monetary value. Earning you more money over time. It may seem a bit materialistic and sometimes quite random – but it is true.  Starbucks can charge six bucks for a cup of coffee because it has built a perceived value, but is it really worth six buck?!  Yeah, some mornings it is.

A common hurdle in creative work can be what a client thinks your skill set is. For example, a producer might think you can’t score a romantic comedy because all your credits are action films.  Add one well-done romantic comedy to your resume and suddenly the same producer will consider you a viable option as a composer. I would bet most successful creative people have a story about a project they did as a favor that ended up pushing their career in a more financial and emotionally profitable direction.  This kind of value can be worth its weight in gold.

The value of creativity.


ID-10047097 value of creativitySo yes your work has value!  Never forget it.  The only thing that you need to decide is what value means to you.  Weigh each project carefully.  Not every free gig works out, in fact some can turn into big headaches – but those are the chances we take. Consider what things matter to you when deciding what to charge a client.  Maybe increasing your skill set is important.  Maybe increasing your profile is important. Maybe just working with people you like is important.  Maybe you just want a big whopping pile of cash. (I do enjoy a good pile of cash!) Value is a lot of things. Believe in yourself.  Believe in your work.  Believe in the value of creativity!


Do you have an experience? Share it below.


(Photos courtesy of Stuart Miles, cooldesign & Digital Art/ freedigitalphotos.net)

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