Adam Savage on Underbidding and Raising Prices on Freelance Jobs

On this “Ask Adam” episode of Tested, Adam Savage answers questions that many makers doing client work ask themselves. It often feels impossible to figure out how much to charge for your work. Like many creative professions, the fees charged are all across the board and there are few (or divergent) industry standards.

In the video, Adam is asked whether it’s OK to undercharge for a first job and he says, yes, as long as you tell the client when you deliver the work that you undercharged on this one and additional, similar work will be more. Adam recounts how he was hired to make a space suit replica and he barely broke even on the first one, but know he knows the realistic cost for future such jobs. As Jimmy DiResta says, “You go to school on the first one.”

He also offers some good ways of thinking about setting your own prices (and a big part of that comes down to gut feeling) and a few industry tips, like in the print industry, and other similar services (e.g. 3D printing), a rush job is usually 2-times the normal price. Many years ago, I was asked to do a rush job for a big magazine that paid industry top dollar. It was for a 4-page piece on the latest personal tech. They said: “How about $3,000?” I said: “Can we make it $6k — because it’s a rush?” They paused for a second and said “sure.” I hung up and thought: I just got $3000 extra bucks simply for asking for it.

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