Putting a price tag on your creative work is always tricky business. On one hand, you have costs to cover, personnel to pay and a business to grow. On the other, you have a client limited by a budget and who, unhappy with your rates, can easily go to the next videographer eager to build a portfolio even when it means getting lowballed. This is a scenario JV Chiu of Javinchi Studios knows too well.
If you come from a mindset that the industry is saturated, you will likely move to compete on price. But JV challenges that thinking, noting that it’s possible to demand higher-than-average prices with a strong brand. “A notable example would be the wedding industry,” he told The Crafters in an interview. “Even if there are dozens of videographers, there’s still an illusion of price premium,” JV added.
In fact, despite the seemingly saturated wedding video industry, only a handful of names emerge as top-of-mind. This is proof, JV says, of how crucial brand-building is in the creative industry. With a strong brand, you wouldn’t have to go looking for clients. “You know how when you go looking for something, the more difficult it will be for you to find it? The same goes for getting clients,” JV said.
When clients do come to you, JV advises that you first probe what the project involves before negotiating on price. “Really have the client define what they want,” he said, adding that most clients who want lower prices are unclear about their requirements. “Initial briefs often evolve as you ask more questions and they figure out the direction they want to take,” JV explained.
By asking lots of questions, you get to know clients better, putting you in a position to deliver output that help them reach their objectives. For JV, the goal is for you to build such relationships with clients such that they know what they get for the price they pay.“I have clients who no longer negotiate because they trust and know the quality we provide,” he said.
But, of course, there will be projects that you really want to work on regardless of whether or not it is a profitable endeavor. Go ahead and pitch. JV suggests, however, that you think of the project in the context of your business and other projects instead of viewing it in isolation. What opportunities are you forgoing so that you can work on this project? Will other projects suffer if you take this one on?
To bring down costs, video creatives, leading studios or production houses tend to cut on manpower, unconsciously taking on more roles than they can handle. “Sometimes you go beyond your scope. [I]t’s possible but it will burn you out fast,” JV said. “From a business perspective, you have to realize that you need different people for different functions,” he added.
It also pays to think long-term. Being a creative involves having to wear many hats, but JV Chiu suggests that you identify the path you would like to tread, further develop the strengths and address your weaknesses. In that context, ask: How will the project before you help? “Never stop learning. You’re a creative and you need to invest mostly on yourself,” he said.