The story is told all the time and always with a special spin on it. The essential plot goes like this:
Pablo Picasso is painting in the park when a woman approaches him and asks for her portrait. He obliges and hands her some artwork a few minutes later. She loves it, recognizes the beauty and professionalism displayed in it, and asks how much she owes him.
He says, "5000 francs". Outraged, she exclaims, "5000 francs? That’s absurd, it only took you a mere ten minutes!"
He calmly responds, "No, madam, it took me my whole life."
A tense and unique encounter turns into a situation referred to by many creatives and consultants when pricing their services.
Sure, Picasso is an extreme example because, well, he’s Picasso — that exposes some interesting facets to this phenomenon we’ll get into later as well. Unlike so many brilliant artists we know of today, Picasso knew his worth and everyone coveting his creations. He was able to leverage the value of his work and get the true compensation for what he did.
When you’re discussing a project, campaign, design, or any service you need to perform or create with a client, you’re rarely going to explain to them how much it’ll take in terms of hours. Ultimately, the client shouldn’t care how much they’re spending so long as their problem is being solved and the solution is worth it enough to pay your price.
Similar Time & Price Might Never Equate to Comparable Value & Results
Consider the executives of Nike hiring a freelance designer to create their logo — yes, the very Nike logo we see all the time and everywhere today. The literal "swoosh" takes a few seconds to sketch for anyone who can outline some decent curves. Do you think after that freelancer comes to the executives with their swoosh solution they’re going to come back and say this only took you a few seconds to create and therefore we’ll not paying more than one hour of your rate? Absolutely not. Consider the research, development, trials, errors, and stories the designer had to take into account while creating this logo. It could very well have been 100x more difficult to create something so seemingly basic than an intricate, detailed, and robust logo. The Nike symbol is extremely valuable now because of its worth, not because of the amount of time it took someone to create.
Now, once we consider the amount of time it took someone to create something, it forces us to think about how long some projects might actually take. The answer is it depends. You might be foolish to suggest the Nike logo was created in a short period time. After all, the extremely minimalist logo has to capture the entire essence of a huge company. Because of this, the amount of time it took to capture the entire essence of a huge company may be quite a long time — therefore, if you are counting the hours you’re paying for, you’re still getting a great value for the time.
Pricing Services — Valuing Time
At Calaboration, we charge very accordingly. Depending on the package you prefer and the infrastructure you wish to incorporate into your business, you may be spending considerably more depending on the results you wish to see — this is a crucial facet of your business to consider. Your client won’t (and should not) mind what kind of infrastructure you have to create or what sort of campaign you have to run; they’ll be paying for the results you are able to provide.
We’ll pretend you are running a lead generation firm. If you want a certain number of email signups or leads per day, building and architecting that campaign might take the same amount of time it would if you wanted 5x fewer leads per day. However, the skillset required to accomplish 5x fewer leads is also 5x less esoteric and valuable. In the grand scheme of an agency or single person’s workload, time is nothing compared to value. In an agency setting, an intern being paid a fraction of what a specialist makes can take on the less expensive work while an experienced executive would take on the heavier and exceptionally priced tasks. Ultimately, both parties are taking the same amount of time while providing extremely ranging values.
Valuing Goods vs. Results of Services
Some things to consider when putting prices on things are the medium in which they’re being delivered. How scalable are you, your company, or your products? A cookie cutting web design service should be much less expensive than a bespoke, custom developed website. A generic up-and-running-in-no-time website generator should be even less expensive than anything a developer has to put their hands on.
A product that does the job of a developer or marketer, no matter how well, will always be less expensive than a person doing it because real people worked on the product to begin with. When you have men and women catering a campaign or website to your specific needs you’ll see higher returns while investing more in the process.
In the land of web design, social media marketing, Facebook and video advertising, along with so many more emerging crafts, there are plenty of opportunities to choose a budget-friendly SaaS program over a custom-tailored shop filling your every need. The difference in price will be significant while the difference in signups, purchases, and overall exposure will certainly reflect it.
It Took Me My Whole Life
When Picasso said the ten-minute painting took him his whole life, he refers to the decades of experience he has acquired to perform such amazing work in such a short period of time. The complicated thing to quantify is that the woman in the park wasn’t in a hurry for the painting. She may have been more understanding if Picasso sat on the painting for a few weeks and proceeded to call her saying her portrait is ready. This is why anyone who asks, "how much is it", on your sales call before you even get into your pitch is surely not going to be a quality customer — anyone who is more concerned about cost than value will never be convinced that your product or service will truly benefit them. Similarly, if Picasso said,
I can whip something up in ten minutes for x.
I can start now and wrap the portrait up by the end of the month for x * 5.
She may have very well been satisfied with this transition.
Value of Branding & Results of the Brand
If you need a TV commercial done for the night of a sporting event, is anyone going to ask or care which agency you used to get it done? Probably not. You got the result of a great commercial, people enjoyed it, sales came in, and that is that. Conversely, if you had a portrait on the wall by some local student, a very similar painting is extremely more captivating if the understanding is that it was done by Picasso. This is Picasso leveraging his brand to get more value out of his work.
Taking an entire lifetime to not only master the craft of painting but also build a reputation so solid was more than half the battle of this artist. The result of having a Picasso on your wall vs. a local hobbyist’s is substantial. One result is a cute painting that can be adored for a few minutes while the other is a masterwork that should be admired and studied — all because of the person that put the bristles to the canvas.
Ultimately, you are going to get what you pay for. If you are asking for intern-level services, you may pay intern-level prices. If you want extremely specialized services, you are going to pay the price for that. When Picasso is asked to create a portrait, no matter how long it takes him, you’re asking for premium-level work done and your investment will reflect that. If you’re asking for similar work from an intern, your investment and result will reflect that as well.
We never suggest fooling clients into thinking their project is more difficult or taking longer for the sake of raising the price but just that the result is going to be even better which would require a higher price. Raising prices is only difficult when you neglect to provide equivalently more value and results are going to be more impressive after the prices are raised by those standards every time.
Picasso accomplished the difficult task of being in such demand he can request any price for his services. Selling services and giving away time and products isn’t terrible in order to acquire even a fraction of the same success. Once something takes you your entire life to master, there’s no excuse for anyone to expect the service wouldn’t be extremely expensive while also providing an extreme amount value.