Pricing 2015

by seanlow on January 7, 2015

Tis the season.  The question I get over and over is, how do I price my work?  Here is the real answer, more than any number, concept (i.e., percentage, hourly, flat fee, etc.) or market convention (i.e., here is what we get for being florists in Chicago): value and process define price, not the other way around.

Think about that for a second.  When you get asked your price and you give one number, you are defining your entire worth to your client.  What you are not doing when you give the number is telling your client what each component of the price is worth.  How much for your reputation, your design, your production?  Nope, it is just one number.  So you leave it to your client to define the components, a job for which they are uniquely unqualified.

Instead, what if you came at it the other way and answered the price question with:  “Well, here is how we are going to get from here to there.  First we are going to understand what we are to create, then we will show you the art we would like to create, then we will tell you what it will cost to create the art, and then we will go ahead and create it.”  Each stage has a price and that price is relative to what you believe is most valuable about you, your art and your creative business.  Some prices you can give right away, others not until you know what you will be creating.  Value and process drive price, not the other way around.

Why is this so important?  A fool’s paradise makes it all about price.  Any client that tells you are too expensive does not value what you are going to create for them enough to hire you.  Ironically, getting cheaper just reinforces the idea and does not solve the problem.  What if you tried to hear the statement as a compliment instead of a criticism?  You might focus on what it is that you do that is so valuable to those that will pay you appropriately.  Yes, we all have to eat, but compromise is its own rabbit hole.  Knowing you are too expensive is a definition of what a client really values and does not.  That is priceless information.  Then again if you are unwilling to define value, you do not really know why you are too expensive.  $500,000 for a sofa is absurd. $490,000 for the idea of the sofa as it will exist in a client’s space and $10,000 for the sofa, not as crazy.

It all goes back to the very notion underlying ALL creative businesses.  NOBODY needs what you do.  NOBODY.  In a world defined by subjective wants, yours is to create the need simply by being the only one that can provide the subjective want.  For that you have to be willing to define yourself, not only by what you, your art and your creative business do, more importantly by how and primarily by why.  Your clients have to believe in you before they will pay you.  Hiding behind a single number or a pretty portfolio will never make that happen, not really. You might get business, sure, but the ever-elusive right clients will be few and far between.

Go the other way.  Lay out your value for all to see.  Put your money where your mouth is — say what each part of your creative business is worth and live in that truth.  Give your clients a chance to find their own faith in you without being a chameleon.  From there you will get what you need.  Promise.  Value and process define price.

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It Has Been A Year

by seanlow on December 19, 2014

2014 has been a year of, let’s say, transition for me.  Heard this quote from Hazrat Inayat Khan recently, “God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open.”  I have so much to be grateful for and the end of the year is ending as sweetly as the beginning (and middle) was sour.  The lesson I have learned is to find wisdom in the experience, sweet or sour.  As much as I would like to believe otherwise, people reveal themselves to be as they are.  And I have learned that inhumanity comes mostly when there is no interior voice, just a desire to see the world as we see it.  If we can glimpse another’s pain, empathize with their experience, touch their joy, then we have the hope of community.

Creative business is the vehicle to community.  You can believe that your picture, your event, your interior, your music, your clothing is ephemeral, nice but not seriously transforming.  Not like heart surgery.  You would be wrong.  Not only wrong, but dismissive of the very patrons who believe otherwise.  You and your creative business are paid to create feelings, to move people.  The simplest moment can be done well.  Opulence requires money, sure, but art requires genius, the willingness to make a statement.  There is no budget for that.

2015 will be remarkable.  My prayer for everyone is for 2015 to be much more sweet than sour.  I wish for creative businesses to continue to honor the role they are meant to play: to allow everyone to share in the tapestry of the other; to see beauty from another’s eyes and be richer for it.  Start there and I will be here to help you build the rest.

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The Right Kind Of Business

October 31, 2014

Ideally, every creative business should only take on projects that befit the stage the art is meant to be seen on.  Translation: only do good business.  Juxtapose this idea with the very notion that mouths need to be fed, bills paid and lights kept on.  Throw in the mix seasonality which almost every creative business [...]

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Breathe Deep and Say Yes

October 21, 2014

Art transcends its medium.  No creative business sells a product or service.  Not really.  They sell meaning, emotion, desire, fulfillment.  If your creative business understands the depth of connection formed, you will inevitably be asked to move beyond yourself and the current state of your art and creative business. Breathe deep and say yes. Of [...]

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Finding Yourself

October 6, 2014

The best part of any business, creative business in particular, is that it is a journey of self-discovery.  Yes, you get to have your artistry and art front and center.  You share your vision of what is beautiful in the hope (knowledge?) that your vision will resonate with your clients.  Making your art and your [...]

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What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

September 16, 2014

Beyond the platitudes, projected ideas of who you were to them, what will people say about you when you are gone?  Do you know?  Do you care?  For each of us who have lost significant people in our lives, the idea is a profound one.  If only we can shape ourselves  by how we would [...]

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What Matters

September 3, 2014

Life is a choice.  We decide it all.  Yes, things happen to us, horrible, wonderful and everything in between.  Our reaction, our pro-action, however, is all ours.  Integrity is staying true to the choice and respecting the choice of another.  We take people as they are, not as we wish them to be.  Light on [...]

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Trying To Find Your Feet

July 22, 2014

I am fascinated by the parallel of my and my family’s move from New York City to Northern California and the feelings so many creative business owners deal with every day.  A story my friend and amazing interior designer Danielle Colding told me recently comes to mind. Danielle and a friend were vacationing in the [...]

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Stress and The High Season

June 16, 2014

This is the time when most creative businesses are right in the middle of it or coming to the end of the peak season.  Late Spring/Early Summer is just that time of year when creative things happen.  Homes get designed and completed.  Weddings happen.  Photographs are in peak demand.   Regardless of whether it is going [...]

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Expansion and Innovation

June 1, 2014

I am in Bachelor’s Gulch Colorado awaiting the start of Engage! 14 Bachelor’s Gulch.  Engage! is the brilliant brainchild of Rebecca Grinnals and you need know that it is the only conference for luxury wedding professionals that matters.  While the information and speakers are terrific, the point is community.  A time to come together without [...]

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