As creative people and owners of creative content, how do we value what we do? You know what I mean – how do we put a price on it? If you own a restaurant, the menu clearly shows the cost of each item. If you’re a doctor, your fees are probably set by insurance companies. If you own a gas station, the price is based on the oil market and various taxes.
If you’re a creative person – an artist, a writer, a composer, a director, and so on… your fees may be more subjective. Some organizations, guilds or unions may play a role in establishing rates, but many people make a living outside of those groups. Knowing the value of your marketplace and what you do, becomes very important.
I recently saw it phrased like this. A producer asked (literally) “Am I being an asshole if I ask a film festival to waive an application fee”. The answer, presumably from one who knows, was “yes”. She goes on to make the point – “You’re basically saying, can I get this for free? and… I don’t think you’re worth the fee you’re asking” – in fact, you’re not worth anything. I think you can quickly see where this thinking leads.
Aside from supply and demand, our fees are influenced by those who have come before us. Colleagues who have established rates, or unions and the like that have worked for years to ensure wages and fair treatment. Those in demand, with a proven track record will command higher fees than those without. It is important to consider the value of what you do and charge an appropriate fee.
There will always be those that will work for little or no money. Hey, we all have to start somewhere, right? But as your career moves along, you should be charging a fair fee for your work. Otherwise, how are you going to live? This has been the natural order of things for some time in the creative arts. You do some jobs for little or no money, develop a reputation, and gradually you start to make a living at it.
More often, lately, I have heard of large companies/corporations asking their suppliers to ‘give it away’ – in some cases, for free. Some major broadcasters asking well established publishers and composers to cut their fees by up to 90%. What would happen to that industry if suddenly everyone did that? You can imagine where the value of those copyrights would go.
There are always exceptions, good causes and family or friends to help out in need. And then there are the occasional ‘budget challenged’ projects we’ll all take – because we want to. But if an entire industry were to move in the direction of ‘free’, everything you worked for, and all the work of those who came before you, would be for naught. It is very important to understand the value of what you do. If you don’t know, you should ask a colleague. It’s important to educate others and receive a fair wage.
Are you willing to uphold the value of your work?
by Joel Goodman on Aug.01, 2010