I recently sat down with my friend and talented stationery artist Britt Rohr of Swell Press for a conversation about pricing and communicating your value as a creative entrepreneur.
When so much of our process is often in our head or on a computer screen, it can be hard for our potential clients to understand what really goes into the work we do. As a result of this, we often find ourselves in a position where we feel the need to justify our prices.
If a potential client can’t see or experience our process, how do they know how to value it, and attach a price to it?
Britt is someone I’ve long admired, not just for her creativity and wildly successful business, but for her openness, vulnerability, and honesty in acknowledging the realities of being an entrepreneur, knowing her worth, and always standing confidently behind her pricing.
Here’s my conversation with her.
Julia: I think as a creative it can be frustrating when we feel as though our audience or potential clients don’t understand the work that goes into the service we provide. I remember in my early years in business it made me doubt myself quite a bit. What has been your experience?
Britt: I guess I’m lucky in that I’ve always been really confident in my prices because I know what great quality we provide. But what I think I struggle with is when people don’t care. For example, they might see subpar commercial letterpress work and think “That’s fine. And it’s half the price of Britt. That will do!”. As a creative that really frustrates me. I care so much about what I do that if a client doesn’t care, how am I supposed to care about creating for them? But that’s when I need to stop and remind myself: those people are not my clients.
Julia: Yes! I know that feeling, and that’s a great point about stopping and reminding ourselves who our potential client really is. I love that you’ve always felt so confident in your pricing. Can you talk me through your thought process there?
Britt: I guess I’m conscious that when someone books me for a custom project they’re getting my cognitive real estate; they’re getting space in my brain.
If someone books me, it’s not like I can go ‘okay, I’ll work on that design 10am Monday’ and have a completed design by 5pm. It’s two weeks of looking at inspiration and mulling over concepts and always having my eyes open for ideas. On my morning runs I’ll be thinking about it. I’ll see a font on a wine label while I’m out at dinner and take a photo because it could suit the design…. I’m never not thinking about that client and their project.
And then it finally will get to a point where I’m like ‘Okay. I’m ready to put this on paper.’ And from then on it’s still another 20 or so hours of work.
This whole process—along with my years of experience to be able to do what I do—is what my clients are paying for when they invest in working with me. I guess that’s both my thinking, and also what I share with my clients about my process.
Julia: I guess I’ve never really thought of it in that way; how amazing that level of service is that your customer is getting! How then do you handle it when a client does value your work—they really care about what you do—but they don’t necessarily have the ideal budget to work with you.
Britt: I’ve always said “This is the price, and if this is too high for you here is what we can do instead”, which could be a semi-custom option so it doesn’t occupy as much of my brain space. I kind of look at it like cars. A lot of people want the Maserati, but they have the budget for a VW Jetta. In this instance, you have two options: You either need to manage your expectations and buy the Jetta, or you need to raise your budget to purchase the Maserati.
Julia: That’s such a great analogy. If all small business owners could value their time and their experience in this way, it would be such a wonderful thing for everyone! What advice would you give to a fellow entrepreneur who really wants to embrace this way of thinking but is struggling to charge what their service or product is truly worth?
Britt: I think the Picasso story is always a great reminder.
Your experience is a huge thing! Don’t undervalue that! Ever. For example, if someone asks if they can “pick my brain for 15 minutes”, my answer is always that I’m happy to set up a paid consultation with them where I can provide my insights. Although I do share free content to a certain extent with the online community, I believe we have to establish boundaries at some point — my knowledge and experience is not something I give away for free.
Julia: Knowing what you know now, what lessons have you learned around value and entrepreneurship that you wished you’d know at the beginning of your business journey?
Britt: I wish I’d invested in my business with the right people from the start, instead of waiting until I thought I’d made “enough” money to validate that purchase.
I remember that feeling of needing help, whether it was with branding, accounting, legal + contracts, website—whatever it was—but constantly trying to find the most cost-effective option instead of the right option. It’s exactly what our clients do… remember, we’ve all done it!
The truth is, when I did have that money in the bank I’d become too busy to focus on these things that are so important! And now I’m stuck scrambling to find the time to fix my website, and deal with legal stuff, and so on. There’s so often I think to myself “I wish I did that when I had the time to do it!”
Stay tuned for more from this interview with Britt!
I’m a brand and web designer, stylist and strategist. I work with talented and seasoned professionals to design strong brand identities that help improve their businesses. I’ve supported many entrepreneurs in further defining their brands through thoughtful design that not only appeals to their audience visually, but strategically.