Get the Most from Creative Professionals, Part 3

This article is a continuation of the discussion from Get the Most from Creative Professionals, Part 2. The first post in the series is here.

How much to pay?
Pricing is based on the experience of the professional you are hiring, the deadline, and the location in which you are hiring. New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area are among the most expensive areas to live in the U.S., so expect to pay more for these services than you would in less expensive areas. Afterall, if you want to create a long-term relationship with your creative professionals, wouldn’t you want them to be able to earn a living just as you do?

When you think about pricing, realize there is only one thing that is truly important: knowing your budget! Who cares how much the hourly rate is if the project will cost more than you have budgeted?!? Don’t be caught in the penny-wise, pound-foolish trap of asking for the hourly rate. Hourly rates are deceiving and mean NOTHING when you don’t know exactly how long the project will take that person or organization to complete. You may think something would take 50 hours to complete because that’s how long you estimate it would take YOU. A seasoned creative is likely to complete your project correctly and effectively in much less time. It is far more important to know your bottom line (budget) and work within that.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I first started my business. I used to work in banking and feel very comfortable around numbers, so I decided to handle my own quarterly taxes. I was also focused on saving money. Problem was, I kept coming up with different figures and I didn’t know which one was right. Twenty wasted hours later, I called an accountant, and she did it correctly in 1 hour. My twenty hours versus her one hour, it was actually costing me MORE to do it myself versus hiring a professional. I’ve been using that same accountant every quarter ever since, and I also have the benefit of her tax experience and advice. Lesson learned: Save money by hiring a professional and let them do their job!

Say, for example, that you have $1,500 budgeted to have a professional person design and print a promotional postcard. If you hired a cheap, inexperienced person who charges $20 an hour, you could afford to pay for a total of 75 hours. If you hired a seasoned person who charges $100 an hour, you could afford to pay them for 15 hours. Is it really to your benefit to hire the cheaper person?

A less experienced person is more likely to make a lot of errors, be learning on your dime, wasting your time with unnecessary questions and endless phone calls, stalling the project with technical problems, or worse…being unable to solve your problem while they’ve eaten up your budget. It may seem a no-brainer to you that choosing the less expensive person is the right choice, but the experienced person brings far more to the table than just their cost and is more likely to save you money and time. How? By steering you toward the less expensive options, connecting you with other seasoned professionals who will also save your time and money, knowing what to avoid and when, and by being prudent with your budget. All this is because they are building a relationship with you, with the intention of doing business with you for many years.

When you first contact the creative professional, tell them what you were thinking of doing and state your budget. A knowledgeable person will happily tell you what they can do for you within your budget, and you can decide whether that solution will work for you. Proceed with signing the contract, if it feels right to you. It’s as simple and straight forward as that!

Get it in Writing!
Even if the creative professional is your sibling—or your twin, create a contract that contains all of the project specifics, including project milestones (deadlines) and the payment schedule. When in doubt, write it down. 99.9999% of the client/creative issues can be resolved at the very beginning when the contract is drafted and signed. Don’t start the project until you have signed (and agreed) to all the project specifics. You will sleep better at night knowing that you are both on the same page.

Most professionals will ask for a certain amount of money to start the project, usually 50% for smaller projects, and 15-25% for projects over $10,000. This ensures them that you are professional, serious about hiring them, have a legitimate budget, and intend to complete the project. Cancellation fees are standard, and usually include payment of work completed plus either a set amount or a percentage of the overall project. In some cases, it makes more sense to restructure the project and complete it than it does to cancel. Considering that creative people are professionals just like you, who also need to eat and pay their bills, then you can understand why this is now the industry practice and endorsed by the major creative trade organizations.

Managing the project
Once you have briefed the creative, signed the contract, and paid your up-front fee, it is time to step back and let the creative person do their job. They should keep the project on track and meet your deadline without your provocation. If you hired the right person, you should now be able to fully focus your energies on your other projects and leave the professional to do their job. If you have to hand-hold or constantly check on the progress, you are either micro-managing (who, you?) or you have not hired a professional.

At the same time, the professional creative will always keep you informed about project changes, and will not contact you unless additional information is required or they have hit a snag. Let them do their job. That’s why you hired a professional in the first place.

If you are feeling the urge to constantly check in, you are disturbing the process for a professional and frazzling the nerves of a newbie. Put your faith in the professional, and if the deadline slips, it’s time to hire someone else!

When you hire a seasoned person, they have been in business and stayed in business because they met deadlines and satisfied their customers on a regular basis. Leave it to the professional, and if they fail to meet a deadline or fail to keep you informed about the project, then they are in breach of the contract. You can deal with that bridge, should you ever come to it, and if so you will be very glad you put it all in writing. If you hire the more experienced, seasoned professional, however, you are less likely to ever see such a bridge!

Have some comments about hiring professional creatives? Put your comment below…

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