How Do You Value Creativity?
Expertise, experience, knowledge, ability, execution. They are all important factors in why a client chooses to hire you rather than another designer. But in large part, your reputation and your appeal derive from your creativity. As a designer, that’s a huge plus. As a business owner, though, it presents a conundrum. How do you value your creativity?
Placing a value on creativity is challenging for two reasons. First, creativity cannot be measured in any quantifiable way, such as hours worked or materials purchased. If that were the case, you could buy a Van Gogh for a couple hundred dollars. Creativity results from a variety of inputs and experiences, some of which may be innate and some of which may take years to emerge.
Secondly, from the standpoint of the client, the value of creativity is personal, subjective, and relative to their means to pay. But as a businessperson, you can’t adjust your fees differently for every client you work with. That puts the burden on you to come up with a value that will be acceptable to most, if not all, the clients you want to work with.
Creativity is a value-add. That is the place to start when determining how to charge for your creativity. While from the client’s perspective creativity is subjective and personal, it is not baseless. On the contrary, it is very real and has currency in the marketplace. Why does someone go to the local bakery for a birthday cake but a boutique bakery for a wedding cake? Because they are willing to pay more for creativity when the value matters to them.
Begin there. What will the client not get if the creativity is absent? How far off the mark of their ideal will the outcome be? How will that impact not just the project but their lives? How much extra are they willing to pay to get the result they want, specifically the result you can deliver that attracted them to you in the first place? Focus not on the cost or the hours or the purchases but on the deliverable, which is the complete experience of the environment you create.
There is no formula for valuing creativity. Because it is in part market-driven, it may take a bit of trial and error to find the optimum value your creativity can command. Be realistic but also be confident. You may be surprised at what your abilities are worth. Many of the designers I’ve worked with were hesitant to raise their fees, only to discover they had been under-valuing their services for some time.
Often it is the intangible things people are willing to pay more for than the practical ones. Don’t let them lead you to believe that is not so.