Nothing’s better than working for yourself, but if you’re a creative that can be a tall order. Striking a balance between being creative for a living and actually earning a living is hard enough, but figuring out how to get paid fairly, accurately, and in a timely manner is a whole different issue.
Here are 6 tips for entrepreneurial creatives who just want to be paid for their work:
1. Always Set Expectations Upfront
First and foremost, have a contract! A real contract that’s been assessed by a small business lawyer and that protects your intellectual property from theft. What’s tricky about selling your creativity is that creativity isn’t really tangible in the way, say, a haircut is. It’s tough to articulate what you offer and how you want to be paid but that’s your job, not the client’s.
2. Research Your Market
It’s also important to find out what you should be getting paid relative to other people in your field. If you’re a writer, for example, should you charge by the hour, the page, or the project? Ask around and spend some time digging to learn what the going rate for your services is. That way when you inevitably run up against someone who doesn’t understand why your “rates are so high” you have solid numbers to back yourself up.
3. Figure Out Additional Ways to Monetize
It can be complicated trying to monetize a creative skill. Maybe you’re really great at one-liners on Twitter…why not parlay that into a career as a freelance social media consultant? Thanks to the internet it’s possible to turn just about any creative avenue into a money-making venture but thinking outside the box is a requirement. And when business gets slow in one arena you’ll have other tangentially-related avenues to pursue.
4. Teach Other Creatives
One of the best things you can do for your brand and for your bottom line is to expand your repertoire of services to include teaching, consulting, and “editing” within your field. You’ll be exposed to new and unusual projects and build up your network all while bringing in money for clients who find you, not the other way around.
5. Be as Firm as a Corporation
It’s unfortunate that many businesses and business people take advantage of independent creatives but it does happen. From the very first client you have to be prepared to talk logistics and be aggressive, from getting paid on time to upping your rate when the project exceeds its scope. People will only value your services as a creative as much as you value them yourself so you’ve got to set the bar high.
6. Always Pay for Financial Services
When you’re first starting out and don’t have too many clients it’s easy to assume you can handle the financial stuff yourself. But what about when you get busier and your taxes get more complicated and you’re not sure whether or not you need an LLC? Pay for financial advisers, tax accountants, and business lawyers upfront so you don’t have to wonder if you’re doing things right down the road. You’ll save yourself headaches and likely thousands of dollars.
Being an entrepreneur means having the tough conversations with people you don’t want to have, but it’s worth it in the end! It’s entirely possible to make a living as a creative but you always have to have your own back.