Quoting has always been a sensitive issue for many creative individuals. Whether you're a student that's just starting out or a seasoned pro, you still have to deal with issues and ballpark figures to adhere to your client's expectations versus your experience. To blatantly state that you quote lower when the project is challenging with a large learning curve isn't always the case. Each and every project that comes your way demands a detailed look where you have to deal with the spec sheet as well as "what if" questions.
Low-balling a quote can lead to you enduring long hours working away on tedious production, nearing an early death and you might hate the project at the end, or sometimes you might find it really paid off toward all the effort you've put in. This chart looks at different project scenarios in detail and is intended to guide you on your way to providing a quote for your next project.
When you first step out into the field as a recent graduate, it's a tough nut to crack: How do you quote? What rate should I use and what am I worth? Why can't they just provide me with their budget and I'll work within that? What’s all this lingo they’re throwing at me?
Not knowing active industry professionals as a recent graduate is a severe handicap when you’re starting out to pick up jobs. You have no idea about wages since schools don’t release those kinds of figures mainly because they fluctuate so much and you don’t have a connection in the industry who might be able to guide you. Following industry professionals is crucial to see what they’re doing, keeping tabs on how long it takes them to update their portfolios or how often new work is posted to their blog - this gives you an indication of how much time goes by before a project as such is completed and also gives you your first hint. When you first get out of school you should spend a little time to improve your own work even though you are eager to get your hands dirty on some real work because you have plenty of brilliant ideas... right?
Studios & Agencies
If you're getting in touch with studios or agencies, you can't very well ask any agency you're dealing with to tell you how much they think you're worth (unless of course you have a close friend nestled within), and you certainly don't want to undercharge because the agency won't call you back in fear of you having very little actual experience (go figure right?) and not having the skills to get it done properly, or even worse, they might just not even call you on it and make you work for peanuts on a bunch of their projects for the next while. Then they might offer you a full-time position and you don't know any better until a year into the job and all the while you are still struggling to make ends meet.
Direct to Client
If you're approaching clients directly, you need to hit their sweet spot. Often a small client will let you know straight up what they're looking to pay for your services, and realistically, you'll likely accept whatever they have in order to get your hands on another portfolio piece. Because let's face it, those school works you've done… really isn't that impressive anymore is it? If you still think it's the bomb, wait a year and look back at how much you've grown professionally. Most creatives will find that the work they did way back when is poor and therefore won't show it (though there are a few exceptions).
So how do you approach putting together a quote or an estimate for your family? Well, a general guideline to follow in my experience is not to work for your family. For the most part, because you work with computers, they’ll likely ask you to build them new computers, troubleshoot email, why the internet isn’t working etc. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, put in that uncomfortable situation where you don’t want to rip off your family because they’ve done so much for you and you feel like you owe them something. Whether it’s translating documents, building an online presence, or designing their company’s branding, it’s a difficult scenario to approach. The only real advice that anyone can give you in relation to your relatives is to tread carefully.
Friends, boy oh boy do we ever have a lot of them now with Facebook and other social networks knocking down barriers. If you just graduated you still have the contacts of your fellow grads and have likely discussed doing some projects together, maybe even starting your own company. Friends are certainly an important aspect in the industry as more than likely, when you know the right people and you’re acquainted with them, they’ll send you the work even if your skills aren’t as super as that professional over there who has countless job offers and in turn has a high hourly rate. Friends help friends, but friends can also abuse other friends - in that case, lend that kind of a friend $20 and if you never see that person again, it was probably worth it. Grow together, learn from one another and be accepting of newcomers when you have the time.
Agents & Representation
Agents and representation have a catch 22 stamped all over them. You see, everyone of them is doing their work to create the largest profit margin possible, even if they say they’re helping you out, in reality they’re just helping themselves out a tad more. We are in this profession because we enjoy creating, if you enjoy it enough and have enough passion to keep you motivated, and then the financial picture will come.
Nobody can tell you exactly what to charge or what their rates are because they want to stay competitive. If multiple studios bid on the same project with similar ideas but one has a much higher estimate than the other (most likely because the other studio wants it more and is low-balling to get the project in their portfolio together with the client), the client will, 9 times out of 10, pick the cheaper studio. This is similar to how an agency takes in freelancers, contract part-timers, you name it.
There are tools online that help you estimate what your hourly rate should be based on experience, bills, what you’d like to make, if you have any debt, and all that. But realistically, those don’t mean anything especially if you’re accustomed to a certain standard of living, or a very low standard of living.
The chart takes a generous approach and sometimes adds a bit of humor to quoting. It is only a general guideline to follow created from my own creative experiences and providing all kinds of quotes to all kinds of people. In reality, that experience has given me the insight to know what works and what people find absurd. Way back when, nobody helped me on this topic so I hope you find it a bit useful and a little entertaining.
All the best to you and your future projects.