In last week’s article, I mentioned a term in passing that got me thinking.
Imposter syndrome. What the hell is it? Why is it sticking with me so much?
I sat down with the young woman who I’ve started mentoring to discuss this feeling with her. I wanted a second opinion. Why do artists and creatives feel like their work doesn’t have value?
I’m very fortunate as a working artist. My mother and my grandparents all supported my artistic growth as a child.
They encouraged me to pursue art, let me express myself, and understood that I loved being creative. I loved to draw, so I had drawing supplies around me all the time.
Mrs. Autumn was always encouraged to do art as a hobby. Many parents don’t realize that it can be so much more than a hobby, though.
The perception of the “starving artist” is unfortunately common, and it’s always with the best intentions. Parents want their children to be “successful,” but many people don’t stop to consider what success actually is.
My definition of success is providing comfort for my family while doing something I love.
I’m not worried about getting rich (though art is a very lucrative field). I just want a happy family, and to be happy myself with what I do.
The starving artist mentality.
The stereotype of a starving as an artist has permeated our society. Art isn’t valuable in a production economy, but creative careers are re-emerging.
Unfortunately, there is still a “harmless” bias toward artists as low-value members of society. Creatives are now faced with the idea that their work is worthless, or worth less.
It makes it difficult to tell someone “I charge $1,000 for my skill.”
Which leads to impostor syndrome if you make money from art. I faced it, Autumn has faced it, and many, many other artists have been in the same boat.
Impostor syndrome in action.
This is the feeling you get when you feel like a fake. When you have trouble telling someone your hard work and skills have value.
Is a web design or logo worth $500, $5,000, or $50,000? Yes. To all those. But it’s hard to believe it.
The same goes for tattoos, fine art, a great book. You have to believe in your own worth to charge more than the minimum. And you have to be different in a world where everything is the same. But it’s possible.
No matter what the situation is, though, you’re going to feel like a fake at first. Because creativity isn’t a valued skill. Yet.
When I started raising my prices as a tattoo artist, I felt like I was ripping people off. But I also knew I had to live up to the new pricing if I wanted to charge more.
And so I did. I started over-delivering on my work, providing extra services and stepping outside of the “norm” for a tattoo artist. I became more exclusive.
The first sale.
Autumn told me a story of her first sale, and how shocked she was when she finally made money off of art. $15 at 13 years old. That was the beginning of her “career” in art, as she continued to do commission work through high school.
It was work she enjoyed, and it gave her a side income that she eventually abandoned because it wasn’t sustainable.
When I asked if she ever felt like she charged too much for a piece, she said “no.” But she crushed with too much work because she didn’t charge enough. She held herself back because she didn’t feel like her work had the value that it does.
She also said that she didn’t feel like she had charged enough.
My first sale was in high school. I was part of a gallery of young artists in Kentucky. I managed to make my first sale at around $50, which was a good bit of money for a high school student in the early 2000’s.
Ever since that first sale, the rush of getting paid for creativity has stuck with me. I was a serial entrepreneur for years. I built up semi-successful sole proprietorships and one partnership that ended poorly.
And pricing my work has always been a challenge.
Make yourself uncomfortable.
Understanding how to price your work is challenging for any creative. In the end, it boils down to what you feel like your time is worth and how confident you are.
Think about how much effort you put into your work. How much training have you gone through to get where you are? What kind of unique qualities can you bring to your work?
Once you break it all down, you can usually get a good idea of what would be a livable wage for your services. Then, charge a bit more. Charge enough to make yourself uncomfortable.
Price is a story.
Understand that price is a story. Your prices tell your potential clients or customers a lot about you.
Your price is usually a good indicator of your quality of work, how confident you are in your own skills, and the types of clients you want to take on. There’s nothing wrong with being the low-priced option for art, but it’s crowded down there.
When you compete on price, racing to the bottom, you’ll have to cut corners with your supplies. You’ll have to take less time with your clients. You’ll have to produce work at a rapid pace to stay afloat.
If you’re average on price, then you’re not special. You serve the average person with your average prices and average service. There’s nothing wrong with average. It’s average because…well…average is usually good enough.
The last option, the last story, is a higher price. When you charge more, you have to be confident about your pricing structure. You also have to deliver higher quality. And you have to be different.
That means producing better work and being very hands-on after the work gets delivered. Or organizing community events for your clients so they are part of your exclusive club.
The point is – you have to make your clients feel like they’re getting something special when you charge more. And it’s worth the effort.
Believing your own story.
It takes time to defeat impostor syndrome, especially when you’re trying to charge more. The trick is to believe the story you want to tell your customers. Because then it’s not a trick.
Look your customers in the eye and explain that you charge more so you can make your customers feel special. You spend a precious part of your life on each new project.
Charge more because you over deliver. Because you’re different. Charge more because you’ve decided exactly what you want to work on, who you want to work with, and that’s where you focus your energy.
The more you believe in your own story, the less you’ll feel like a fake.
I believe in you. Do you believe in yourself?