At this point (at 19 years old), I hadn’t reflected on how I invested my time, nor did I consider it an important matter to digest. I thought my hours were best spent earning a paycheck. But over the next few years, especially as a budding graphic artist, 2 Chainz’ remarks have increasingly resonated with me.

Photo: William Goff

Earlier on, I devoted too much time on projects that bore little fruit (e.g., I’d work 60 hours for a $180 design). I’d spend weeks crafting illustrious pieces of art. Clients were happy and that gave me satisfaction. Even when I started requesting more compensation, I was still not confident in my abilities (although others were), and I still charged next-to-nothing. Naturally, it didn’t take long before I was exhausted and dissatisfied. I felt used because I was being used. Albeit, I must give (one of my mentors) Mrs. Pinaglia credit for correcting me on this: I felt used because I allowed myself to be used. It became clear to me that people can be avaricious if you let them.

So, to my fellow creators and artists, please be wary of the cost-conscious tycoon: He or she will actively attempt to devalue your service. They’ll claim that they’ve received a competitive price from somewhere else (which might be true). They’ll convince you that you’re charging too much and suggest a price that they think is reasonable. This does not mean that context is not important when charging a client. Some jobs are worth the upfront loss because less tangible things are gained, such as relationships, future opportunities, and plain ole’ personal fulfillment. But avoid those pitfalls when you can and stand your ground. It will save you lots of money on Advil. Had I stuck to my price points, the amount of hours I dedicated to projects would have been worthwhile. Most freelance designers charge between $35 and $75 per hour if they’re good  and there are those who opt for flat fees. Either way, when I divided my price by the hours I spent on certain projects, I made less than my state’s minimum wage.

It took some trial-and-error, but I discovered that (1) designers must recognize their value and (2) price their services fairly, out of respect for themselves and their industry. Too often, creative people will work endlessly, finish a project feeling proud about the result, and receive little compensation aside from praise and accomplishment. Avoid my foolish mistake and value your time! You are worth what you think you are (plus more). Don’t be threatened by the illusion of services like Fiverr and 99Designs. You don’t have to charge pennies because another person does. If someone wants a relevant and novel solution, they’ll find someone like you to help. $3 burgers might taste great when someone is starving or needs something that’s convenient, but people will still pay for a $25 gourmet, angus-beef patty on a homemade, brioche bun when they want quality.

Photo: William Goff

When a situation arises that causes you to question how much you should charge, remember 2 Chainz’s statement. Time is precious and everyone does not deserve it (unless they can afford it). Samuel Smiles said, “Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.” Get paid for your talent, and get paid well.