Creatives and Money Boundaries

creatives don't have to be poorMany creatives have a hard time putting a monetary value on their work. That difficulty is often compounded when family or friends or even friends of friends ask or expect work to be done for free. If you are a designer, photographer, writer or musician you probably know what I’m talking about.

First things first, if you haven’t already, put a monetary value on what you do. Whether an hourly or project rate, come up with a number. Then add 20% – just enough to make you uncomfortable. That’s your number.

Second, adhere to a script. Lots of folks are uncomfortable talking about money, having a script makes it easy to know how to respond. As silly as it sounds, practice saying the script out loud, it will help with recall in the moment. Examples include:

“I’d love to ______, what’s your budget?”

“I’d love to _______, my fee is ________.”

“I’d love to _______, my fee is ________ but I give friends and family a __% discount.”

“I’d love to _______ but I’m unable to take on anymore pro bono work at this time.”

Worst case scenario, if you are too uncomfortable to set a clear and direct boundary in the moment, buy yourself some time. Let the person know that you need to think about their proposal and that you will get back to them in a few days. That gives you time to really evaluate what they are asking for and how you want to respond. If you are really struggling write out your response/counter proposal in an email, that will help you keep a bit of emotional distance from the process.

If someone wants you to do work in exchange for exposure, ask them to define what the exposure will look like. You want to negotiate what they will do in a way that most benefits you. Don’t just settle for “people will see your name/work.” Ask them how many people will potentially see your name/work. Ask if they are able to promote you via their website or social media accounts. Be specific about the frequency and duration of exposure to make sure it will do what you want it to do.

Donating work for causes or people that you want to invest in is completely fine. I put some structure to that in my private practice by taking a reduced rate for 10% of my clients. That works out to about 10 appointments per month that are below my set fee. When I receive inquiries from potential clients about free or reduced rate services, I let them know my policy and ask if they would like to be on my waiting list if I can’t see them right away. I don’t apologize or make excuses. I empathize and offer referrals if they aren’t able to wait.

Most people understand and respect it when creators own their value. If you encounter a rare entitled response, run. They are going to be a huge pain in the ass to work with whether they end up paying something or not.

If you have difficulty setting money boundaries with friends or clients, let’s talk!


About Michael Hilgers, M.MFT

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor working remotely with clients around the world. I believe that everyone has the potential to change; to create new paths, to go in new directions. Life is hard. Counseling can help.

Recent Posts

Creatives and Their Struggle with Self-Care

May is Mental Health Awareness month and I had the privilege of joining Austin-based commercial food photographer Micah McCook on her podcast Savory Shot to discuss the importance of self care as it relates to creatives running their own businesses. I hope you enjoy...

How Entrepreneurs Overcome Anxiety in Business

Entrepreneurs are often portrayed as risk-takers, innovators, and trend-setters, embodying a resilient and unstoppable spirit. While this may be true, the constant pressure to innovate and succeed can lead to high levels of...

How Entrepreneurs can Overcome Decision Fatigue

As an entrepreneur, you juggle multiple roles, making decisions that can steer your business towards success or failure. You're constantly shaping ideas into a profitable enterprise and managing daily operations, which means you're making countless decisions every...

How to Overcome Procrastination

Have you ever put off a chore or task just because you weren’t in the mood for it? You’re definitely not alone, and this is normal for many people. However, procrastination causes problems when it becomes chronic....

Need Help?

Get In Touch

If you’re ready to get unstuck, let’s work together.