Art for Money by Michael Ardelean

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The employee of the future is a freelancer who can work flexibly and independently on many projects with many companies. But freelancing can be a nightmare in which you work on the edge of burnout and get paid miserably (and late).

However, it doesn’t have to be like that. As a freelancer, you have agency over how you price your work, outline a proposal, and communicate with your clients. By following certain best practices, you can build a great network of clients and get paid well 一 all while enjoying the freedom that freelancing provides.

Main Notes

→ The biggest threat to your art is the conflict that rises from negatively associating it with money. You must emotionally detach your money from your art.

Assuming you are great at what you do and everyone knows it, can set your price 50% higher than the market standard salary, because paying you more is still cheaper than hiring a true employee in your place, and your boss has the added benefit of zero commitment (as do you). And that’s just the minimum. If you’re better, faster, and more pleasant than the full-time employee equivalent, companies are likely to pay you even more, and gladly.

The employee of the future is an entrepreneur within a company framework—someone who is flexible, understands what they’re bringing to the table, and values personal relationships. Someone who can work independently, manage up, and provide a value that is exponentially higher than the cost of employing them. Some of the best creative leaders have a background in freelance.

→ You have to know that those clients who can’t afford you will at least respect your professionalism and your price, and they’ll remember how pleasant and excited you were. They’ll come back to you in the future when they have money, or they’ll recommend you to someone who already does.

→ There are freelancers out there doing great work and getting paid great money for it. Like them, you want to stand out from everyone else by offering a unique overall package that no one else can replicate—not by simply being cheaper.

→ A good proposal sends two messages:

  1. The first message is straight-forward. “Here is my understanding of the work you have asked me to do for you, and how much it will cost.” That part is expected.
  2. The second message is more subliminal, and comes across in the beauty, language, and specificity of the proposal. That message is, “I have great value and I know how to deliver it on a specific timeline in exchange for precise amounts of money. You will be very happy that you hired me. Indeed, I have done this many times before.”

→ If you can work on a project basis, do that, and, divide the project into phases, with a cost for each phase:

  • 50% for phase 1
  • 30% for phase 2
  • 20% for phase 3

This front-loaded pricing model encourages the client to stick with the project because they’ve already paid you most of the money. Play with these percentages if you like, but I encourage you to ensure that the smallest payment is correlated with the final phase. The final phase is where clients are most likely to get off track, and if they’ve already invested substantially in the project, they’ll be incentivized to continue being a great partner and finish clean.

→ Let’s address the fallacy of the Bad Client. Many creative people believe that there are good clients and bad clients, and all you have to do is avoid the bad ones, and the good ones will just be totally cool to you without you having to require it. This, of course, is false. The world is not full of good guys and bad guys, but just people who mostly don’t know what they’re doing. It’s your job to help your clients figure it out, by being organized, laying out what you’re going to do and what it will cost, how you expect to be paid, and by being trustworthy yourself.

→ 50% of every client relationship is 100% you. You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you tolerate.

→ When you get the job, crush it. Over-deliver, and over-deliver early.

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