Designers are only in it for the creativity, right? Sure, and the money.

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Talk to designers about where they get their inspiration, and you’d better be prepared to be bombarded with images and quirky observations. 
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Get a designer to talk about anything to do with creativity – from the nominations for Designer Of The Year (many of you think this year’s entrants are poor) to which is the best retro cartoon (which is Hong Kong, for the record) – and you could be there for hours. Mention money, though, and everything goes tumbleweed silent.<BR>
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Sure, designers will talk about money: clients who have screwed them on rates, lack of a decent wage increase, the cost of beer, the congestion charge, and so on. 
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All money, but all skirting around the real question: how much do you charge, how much should I charge, and how can I get the most for my media.
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The ‘how much should I charge?’ question isn’t one just limited to new freelance designers, who’ve been asked to knock out a Web site for their local caravan park and have a client who will baulk at anything more than £10 per hour. 
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In fact, freelancers have it easier. With only Yourself, Inc to worry about, a simple matter of either keeping your lifestyle in tune with the going rates for designers and animators should suffice, or if you’re really good, then you can start tracking your fees upwards on a commission basis. 
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But what about studios – ones with accounts, debts, taxes, staff, overheads, sick cover, and pitching costs to worry about? On one hand, the process is simple: never do work for less than you need to keep the doors open, always pay late, and demand payment from clients as early as possible in order to keep cash flow healthy. 
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On the other hand, pricing design is a bit of a minefield. Ideally, you should get paid for what your design is worth to your client. If it’s part of a multi-million pound rebrand that will deliver a real return on investment, you should be demanding big bucks. 
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Yet, like any other market, design is competitive – and potential clients are proving increasingly price sensitive. They want maximum returns with minimal outlay – and design and creativity are usually the first casualties. 
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A designer’s worst enemy, though, isn’t the client. It’s other designers. In a mad dash to be competitive, the price of design is constantly being pushed down as we cut each other’s throats and play into the hands of stingy clients. And, with bills to pay and staff to retain, it’s not easy walking away from a pitch because of price. 
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Many of us are guilty of it – we’ll squeeze our staff a little more in order to win a lower-paying pitch. The trouble is, lower prices equals fewer resources spent on a project, which equates to (unfairly) disappointed clients and a lowering in the quality of your portfolio. 
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It’s a vicious circle, and one that shows that sometimes design doesn’t pay. The solution could be one that we find within the creative industry. If designers can be open with each other, and form an agreed base-level of pricing work for different types of work, then maybe the price can be right for all of us, too. 
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Image by Levi_SZ, <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.sxc.hu" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">www.sxc.hu</a>
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