The price of creative collaboration

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Thanks to Olga Taylor for today's guest post. Olga is a freelance copywriter from Jamaica Plain, MA who enjoys sharing insights about her work. To reach her send mail to [email protected].

Her post:

I am a people pleaser. This means that not only do I want  clients to be happy with work process & outcome, I also want them to feel good about my price. I've learned that it is often a challenge even with old clients who like and trust what I do. But more so with the segment of new clients who need original & creative work on a shoe string.

The problem, if it's there, is always the same. The client thinks it will take two revisions, when, in fact it takes seven. The reason for the problem is also pretty much the same from one client to the next. As the creative process gets under way, ideas flow and questions arise that could not have been anticipated. As questions come up, more people get drawn into the review cycle; and what had been agreed to at a previous stage has to come apart and be rebuilt.

I respect & admire creative collaborations. I will go as far as to say that nothing truly worthwhile can come out of a single source. A great new concept or product requires a "cross-breeding" of existing perspectives and ideas. Sometimes this occurs inside one person's head. More often, it is a result of collaboration: client-supplier, technical-creative, user-designer... or all of the above & more.

For that reason, I believe that the smartest thing a project leader can do is to remove all blocks to effective collaboration. Watch out that pricing structure does not become one of these blocks.

Let's say the vendor charges by the hour and the client is worried about running up a huge bill. The client might feel pressured to limit communication, creative options or review process. As a result, the project might suffer or end up costing even more, because changes aren't made early enough in the process.

A variation on the theme is a fixed budget with a limited number of reviews. What's one review? And what if the client thinks the vendor didn't get all the specs quite right?

Most clients today don't want to be billed by the hour. Being a pleaser, I give them what they want -- a fixed budget, but also what I believe they need -- unlimited revisions until the bitter end! Which means that the price that I quote "seems high". When all is said and done, I know it will end up being fair. However, being a people pleaser, I hope every time that the client will prove correct, the project "quick" -- and having finished way ahead of time, I will tell my client: "we came under the budget, so I am not going to charge you the full price."

The "Price of creative collaboration" originally appeared on the BB Marketing Plus blog.

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