Printers aren’t the only ones who deal with pricing creative work. As printers start adding managed marketing services to support their core printing business, they will be competing more with advertising agencies, freelance writers and designers, Web designers, public relations firms, and even the local newspaper, radio, and television stations. What kind of playing field for pricing are printers going to find?
If we don’t just compete with printers any more, how should we price the creative work we do? Quick and small commercial printers are notorious for selling design work at low prices when compared to non-printing creative services. With the new services, printers don’t want to leave money on the table or lose work because the customer thinks the cheaper prices mean sloppy quality and bad service. What are our new competitors charging?
An online search found pricing for other communication and creative companies bounced around almost as much as pricing in the printing industry. The most obvious difference is that non-printers put a higher value on creative work. Even as prices bounced around, the base prices were usually several times that of the normal printing company for the same type of creative work. It was also interesting to see common pricing practices discussed and how different they were from what is found in the printing industry.
Setting a Price
Many non-printer creatives set a minimum of four hours for any job or project. Minor changes are figured into a project price. The non-printers are selling their expertise, not their time, so they attempt to get a project price. With a project price, the non-print creative estimates the amount of time it will take to complete the job and the value to the customer in order to get a selling price. One big difference I saw was non-printers don’t seem to be doing the quick, one- or two-line edit changes. They turn business cards, envelopes, and letterhead into projects by classifying them as corporate identify projects, which command a high price. Nothing had a price of less than an hour’s time.
Once quoted, the project price is not changed unless the client significantly alters the project. The work is priced to cover most contingencies. Many experts in non-printing creative fields point out that customers appreciate predictability when it comes to pricing. Most suggest that the non-printing creatives never have a price that is less than $50 an hour.
Non-printers spend a great deal of their time defining the project with the customer before they give a price. This is where the non-printer sells his expertise. Once the project is defined, a timeline is established, and a price is set, the non-printer creative person keeps a detailed time record about the project. It includes production time as well as research, meetings, telephone calls, etc. Anything that has to do with the project is recorded to support the project pricing. This helps show the clients the value they receive for their money by specifying all the individual tasks that are performed.
Mark It Up!
Experts among the non-printing competitors also recommended that a person always keep testing their fee structures on new clients. If the last customer was happy with a $500 bill, then try a $750 project price for a new customer with a similar project. The experts suggested that service providers should keep adjusting and experimenting with new prices for new clients so their income is always growing.
Another pricing practice said to be successful for non-printer creatives is to use a fee range. The creative person should set minimum and maximum fees for various projects. The creative can then easily and fairly vary their pricing per client.
There are still times when the non-printing creative person will have to charge hourly. This is because the customer cannot define what he wants. If there is a reasonable amount of uncertainty about the time it will take to complete a project, non-print creative companies use an hourly charge, with a four hour minimum. If you don’t know how long the job will take, the objectives are unclear, or you expect the client to make significant changes during the project, use the hourly rate method.