7 Ways for You to Confidently Price Creative Work
May13

7 Ways for You to Confidently Price Creative Work

I feel some artists will vehemently disagree, and I’d love to hear your opinion on this, but I’m starting this post with a potentially controversial assertion: Success depends on sales. I’m happy to share my argument for why this is true: If there’s not enough revenue, then any project is unsustainable regardless of its artistic  purity. The best art is ingenious, honest… and profitable. The challenge is getting paid enough to make it worth the effort while not pricing yourself our of the market. If you can make money doing your art, your creative endeavours become more and more exciting. So this post is about pricing your art. Why talk about pricing on a productivity blog? If the price is wrong, the project won’t make money, and the art is financially unsustainable. The more income we receive from art, the more time and energy we can devote to it. We expect to make more money when we are more productive, but more revenue also opens new channels for productivity. More money means more resources to do the art you envision. Don’t give away your power with a premature price quote I’ll start by sharing my own failure in pricing my design work… I used to make up a price while talking to a potential client about a job.  Excited to get new business, I wanted to please the client and close the deal fast. I plucked a number out of the air trying to impress the prospect in front of me. A recipe for disaster. My new-found client quickly became a problem that cost me money. I would get angry and resent the client for taking advantage of me, but really I had no one to blame but myself. I was giving away all my power by committing to a price before I thoroughly understood the project. Taking time to think though pricing helped me develop my creative business into a career. It forced me to consider all the factors involved, how to earn profit, and what dangers to avoid. Price your work ahead of time so that you’re not on the spot trying to pull a dollar value out of the air. If it’s a custom project, give yourself enough time to prepare a formal quote for your client. Price clarity creates client confidence Knowing the price you charge for your work is critical to being paid fairly.  Being vague about pricing tells the prospect that you don’t consider your creative work a business, and you don’t believe in its worth. It invites haggling because a client can see that you’re struggling to find a price. Be able to state your base rate when asked. This might be an hourly rate or a minimum project rate. Your base rate allows the client to respond to your pricing before you do...

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2014 SongStudio Contest Winner
May03

2014 SongStudio Contest Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered this year’s SongStudio scholarship contest. The winner is Lyric Dubee with his music video for “Alive”. Here is Lyric’s winning entry: You can view the other entries on the Benes The Menace Facebook...

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The Daily Heartbreak of Failing My Calendar
Apr20

The Daily Heartbreak of Failing My Calendar

There is so much I want to do, and only so much time in the day. I’ve gotten really good at using my calendar for managing a lot of projects at once. However, I’m consistently falling short of getting everything I have scheduled done in a day. I might book 10 things to do, and only finish 7. That is still pretty good. I can just move the scheduled items to another day and time. The only problem is I can’t help but feel like I am failing each day. The weight of incompletion No matter what I accomplished, all I see at the end of the day are the things that are left over. Small failures that really don’t matter that much individually, but add up to a life of falling short a little every day. What I’m doing wrong All my reasons why I don’t get everything done boil down to these two things: the amount of time I scheduled is insufficient to complete the task; I ignored my calendar. Both of the items listed above have an easy solution: set aside a more time for things; don’t ignore my calendar. But it’s not that simple. It’s difficult to be honest with myself about my own limitations as I’m scheduling tasks. Two out of three ain’t bad A few years ago, I tracked everything I scheduled and kept a record for months of my progress. I was averaging 65-70% complete per day, regardless of how much I tried to pack in or how open I kept my calendar. If I booked in 14 things, I might finish 9. If I scheduled 3, I’d likely do 2. What I decided was that it’s best to schedule more, so that I’d complete more. But why can’t I just do everything that is on my list and enjoy the peace of mind that would come with that? Competing factors There are other factors competing for my time. Some of them really matter to me. If a family member calls me with a request, I’m likely to drop what I’m doing because family is more important to me. I also have housework, dinner to prepare, shopping to do, and fun distractions like unexpected conversation with friends. Even good weather is sometimes reason enough to set aside my calendar. The biggest competing factor is often invisible. It’s how I feel. I might have a lot done so far, and feel like I deserve a break. Or I might be tired and want to veg out on the sofa. Balancing competing factors while being honest with myself about what I will actually do is the hardest part of effectively managing my schedule. So what’s missing?...

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Get It Out Of Your Head: Siri & Evernote
Apr19

Get It Out Of Your Head: Siri & Evernote

Stop trying to remember anything! If it needs to get done, get it out of your head. We’re not machines. Our ability to remember is hit and miss at best. Technology is making us more forgetful, not necessarily more effective. We’re buried in emails, texts, social media, invitations to events, marketing, and more. Too much information for anyone to remember. We need to forget most of that stuff. Let’s put the few things that are truly important somewhere we can count on. Not in our memory. In 2002, after doing a productivity seminar with Mission Control in New York City, I started to carry a mini-notepad with me to keep from forgetting anything important. I kept it in my back pocket. Whenever I told someone I would do something, I would immediately take out the notepad and write down the details of my promise. The next morning I’d transfer all yesterday’s notes to my calendar. This system worked really well for a decade. In 2012, I bought my first iPhone with Siri voice interaction. I specifically bought it because of Siri. By speaking my notes into the phone, I was able to retire my paper notepad. What’s really awesome is that the iPhone eliminated the time I took each morning moving my notes to my calendar. I would just tell it, “Create a calendar event for next Thursday at eight thirty a.m., speak to Joe’, and it put my note right in my calendar for me, with an alarm. Siri saves me 30-45 minutes a day that I used to spend reviewing and scheduling my notes from the day before. That’s how technology is meant to be: less work for me, same result or better. Capturing Creative Ideas The above equally applies to the creative process. I’m paraphrasing academic music educator and music journalist James Linderman… “The first difference between an amateur and a professional songwriter, is that the professional is diligent about capturing creative ideas. He or she doesn’t trust that they’ll remember the lyric, melody, chords or rhythm later.” Simple creative moments can seem insignificant, but what if the melody you just came up with has hit song potential? Or if an amazing plot twist for the book you are writing just comes to you in the middle of the day? Don’t just hope to remember it later. For my creative process, I found a simple way to capture ideas in multiple formats and file them together, so that they are easy to reference later. I use a free app called Evernote that lets me make notes, dictate voice to text, and record low quality audio. Evernote syncs up between my iPhone, my iPad, my desktop at home, and my computer at work. If I have a creative idea, it...

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The Creativity-Productivity Paradox
Apr13

The Creativity-Productivity Paradox

In last week’s post, “Are Creative People Mentally Ill?” I explored new brain science that indicates creative people have a few extra ways of looking at problems, which can make their personal perspectives interesting to others. The corollary of this special thinking is that they may also experience some limitations that others don’t. For example, it’s not uncommon for creatives to have serious challenges with time and scheduling. Task list thinking vs. open exploration With many productivity models and tools to choose from, you’d think getting stuff done would be as easy as: Make a goal schedule milestones create a task list do what you planned That would pretty well cover everything we need to know about becoming prolific if it weren’t for one small detail: we don’t usually think like that when we’re being creative. Creativity is more like an open exploration. Focused, but not task-related. Engaged, and at the same time, relaxed. Picture a toddler playing with blocks, deeply immersed in activity and oblivious of time or results. Instead of blocks, as adults we assemble thoughts and materials in different ways until something new exists that wasn’t there before. Here’s an excerpt from Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman that illustrates this kind of open exploration… “…Physics disgusts me a little bit now, but I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing – it didn’t have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with. … …I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air I saw it wobble, and I noticed the red medallion of Cornell on the plate going around. It was pretty obvious to me that the medallion went around faster than the wobbling. I had nothing to do, so I start to figure out the motion of the rotating plate. I discover that when the angle is very slight, the medallion rotates twice as fast as the wobble rate – two to one. It came out of a complicated equation! Then I thought, “Is there some way I can see in a more fundamental way, by looking at the forces or the dynamics, why it’s two to one?” I don’t remember how I did it, but I ultimately worked out what the motion of the mass particles is, and how all the accelerations balance to make it come out two to one. …I went on to work out equations of wobbles....

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