When I started designing over 15 years ago, I charged $25/hour. I was inexperienced, and that’s what the market was willing to pay me, i.e. I was getting work at that price.
At its core, a business transaction is an exchange between two people where both parties are supposed to benefit somehow. When you provide a service but charge disproportionately, you’re egotistically dictating 100% of the relationship.
Charging thousands of dollars for bottled water would result in people drinking tap water again. You’d be alienating your entire customer base for personal gains.
Markets care about value; they don’t care about worth. And the same goes for designers.
Designers don’t make what they are ‘worth’; they make what the market dictates to pay at any given time based on experience.
Our work is worth what the other party is willing to pay. A designer charging $2,000/day is not a more valuable person than a designer making $500/day. That’s what the market is willing to pay them for the job.
The market also cares about experience and niche. Both of these play significant roles in pricing. When I charged $25/hour, clients were not prepared to pay me more because I needed a track record of past work and a personal brand to help me sell more expensive work.
I charged less at the beginning to gain experience, build my portfolio, and make valuable connections to become more valuable to future clients.
As my experience grew, I went from $25/hour to much higher. My rate increased alongside the value I could bring to projects. I charged more once I started understanding the value I was providing to my clients, and I knew my decisions could positively impact their revenue.
I never assumed a client wouldn’t value my work if they couldn’t afford my rates. I knew they were not a good fit for me. As much as I would like to buy a Ferrari SF90 Spider, I wouldn’t value the vehicle’s quality less when I couldn’t afford something at the top of the market. I know it’s not the best decision for my finances, so I look for a cheaper alternative.
Pricing must also reflect the market we are serving as designers. You could be the best designer in the world, but a bootstrapped startup wouldn’t think of spending $50k on a landing page. The upper limit of what we are trying to make has much to do with who we serve. A Fortune 500 company with millions of monthly views on its homepage wouldn’t have an issue spending that amount (and some more).
Design, like any other business, is a form of servitude. We exist for others (for a fee). To ignore the other side and pick numbers out of thin air is an easy way to serve no one.
Our “worth” is what someone else is willing to pay us for the work we provide. Charging more or less doesn’t make us more or less worthy as professionals than other designers.
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