6 Things to Know About Getting Paid for Your Creative Work

Published by
Ikenna Odinaka

More and more professionals are describing themselves as “creatives” in today’s job market, particularly among the self-employed. Whether you work for a big brand or are the freelance type there are a few things you should know about how to make a living off of creative work. Whether you’re a graphic designer, an artist, or even a writer you’ve to keep a keen eye on the business side of things to make it long-term.

Here are six things to know about getting paid for your creative work:

1.It’s essential you have a contract.

Many creative hate the idea of a contract or any type of document that may put their work “in a box.” Contracts are meant to protect both parties in a business transaction, however, and it’s imperative as a creative to get one signed before doing any work at all. It may be a good idea to meet with an attorney to help draft a business contract for your work that’s specific and covers all the unusual bases creatives deal with on a day to day basis. If a client won’t sign a contract, don’t work with them.

2. It’s your job to be specific with your pricing every step of the way.

The pricing structure is where many creative get tripped up because it’s difficult to quantify certain types of work. For example, maybe you’re a logo designer and the client wants you to tweak the color scheme previously agreed on…do you charge extra for that? Set the expectations up front for what every price includes and give your client a total before work begins. Yes, some projects may take more time and work than you imagine and you’ll “lose” money, but some will take less and will help even the scales. Such is the nature of creative work.

3. You must get everything in writing.

In today’s digital age there’s really no excuse for saying “I didn’t know.” Every part of a transaction from the contract to the meetings to the email exchanges is part of a digital record that ensures you get paid for the work you’ve done. If you charge by the hour you should consider using an online hour-tracking service so you have an iron-clad record of how much you’ve worked.

4. It’s up to you to be firm.

Getting people to pay you is hard, and often awkward. Creatives, more than other business professionals, often have difficulty broaching the topic of payment because it’s a tough subject! But whether you own your own business or are dealing with big clients it’s your job to ask them to stick to deadlines. If you don’t set forth the expectation that you get paid in a timely manner upfront you may find yourself chasing someone down for payment later on.

5. Your taxes are probably a mess.

One area many creative workers neglect is tax preparation and for a few hundred dollars or thousands of naira you can likely save yourself a lot of headache later on. A tax accountant specializing in your type of work can find you deductions and write offs you didn’t know existed and may be able to set you up with a great organizational system for invoicing and payments, too.

6. People will only pay you as much as you ask for.

Some people in the creative industry have a hard time believing their work is valuable. Likewise, sometimes it’s tough to convince prospective clients that creative work is well-worth its service, and some clients simply won’t ever change their minds. Try not to work with these people. If you find yourself working too hard for not enough money, raise your rates! You may lose some clients who can’t afford you that just makes room for new clients!

Being in business as a creative is tough work, to be certain, but it’s a calling worth sacrificing for. If you believe in what you do and conduct yourself in a professional manner, the clients will come! Stick to your ethics and treat your clients the way you’d want to be treated and the best ones will return the favor.


Ryan Currie is a product manager at BizShark.com, with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development.  In addition to web related businesses, he also enjoys the latest news and information on emerging technologies and open source projects.

This post was last modified on May 15, 2016 9:30 pm