From Crafting to Consulting

From Crafting to Consulting

Mary had just retired from a senior VP position with a major corporation. Now she finally had time to dedicate to jewelry making, a longtime passion. A couple friends of hers are working artists and they gave her a referral to a former metals instructor named Shannon.

Mary contacted Shannon and explained that she had a small collection of stones she'd accumulated over years of international travel; she was hoping to find someone to teach her stone setting one-on-one. She ended the call by asking to visit Shannon's studio the following week to discuss arrangements.

"Wow, this sounds like fun," Shannon thought. "What a cool opportunity. I think I like her already. She's direct, knows what she wants, and is out to have fun. But, what should I charge for the training?"

Shannon had a Master's of Fine Arts degree in metalworking and had recently retired from a career teaching at a university in California. Although officially retired, she worked mornings creating alloys for a foundry. She enjoyed the work because it gave her the opportunity to continue working in metal, plus she wanted to stay active in her community.

After her mornings at the foundry, Shannon worked in her studio fulfilling jewelry orders for boutiques and museum stores across the country. "How shall I decide what to charge Mary?"

Shannon was well connected in the craft community so she reached out for some advice. She made a few calls, had some delightful conversations, and got suggestions on what she might charge. She decided to determine a per-day-rate, prorated from her university position. Feeling a bit guilty, she rounded it up to $350 a day.

Mary dropped by Shannon's studio on the afternoon of the meeting to check out the space and see her tools. She was full of excitement. "I've heard about these, but never seen one up close," she said inspecting the specialized kiln.

Shannon liked her instantly. "This will be fun," she thought as they settled into a conversation about what Mary wanted to focus on.

After they'd talked for almost an hour, Mary asked what Shannon would charge her. Shannon responded, "Well, this is the first time I've been in this situation, so I asked around to determine a fee..." as she said this, Shannon could see Mary begin to stiffen. "So," Shannon continued, "I decided to base the fee on my university salary. How does $400 a day sound?"

Shannon could see Mary catch herself before saying, "Shannon, you need to charge me at least half again that for an afternoon session, say three hours. You have spent a lifetime developing your expertise, after all. Just look at the studio you've built-it's gorgeous and much more comfortable than the community art center workspaces I'd have to use if I didn't know you. People in my industry with this many years of experience charge more. And so should you. Why don't I pay you $525 per session? $400 is for your time, $125 for the studio fee. And, while I'm at it, that's what you'll be charging any future client going forward."

Shannon was astounded and a little embarrassed. "Thank you, I don't know what to say, other than, really?"

"Yes Shannon, this is what experts charge for your level of experience. I spent years negotiating with overpriced consultants in a variety of fields to get their fees inline with reality. And believe me, plenty of them, mostly men with far less experience than you, asked for more. I'm sorry if I seem a bit condescending. I just want you to be fairly paid. You are such a valuable resource."

"I've been on a bit of a mission lately to help women ask for and get what they are really worth. I'm tired of men asking for more than they are worth and getting it while women are underpaid."

Shannon, with a new perspective on her value, happily signed up Mary as her first private student. Over the course of their work together, Shannon gained a new appreciation for what her time is worth. Some of her other takeaways:

Expertise. She came to understand that the many years she'd both spent metalsmithing and instructing had real value that others could benefit from.

Referral. Mary came to Shannon on a referral from trusted friends who were also working artists. The referrers knew Shannon's experience would meet Mary's needs. That referral was only to Shannon; it eliminated the possibility of competition.

Range. Shannon did the right thing in reaching out to her immediate community to determine what to charge, but she didn't reach out to those in other professions. It just didn't occur to her. Shannon didn't look far enough to determine the appropriate fee range for a consultant with an advanced degree and thirty years of experience.

Interests and issues. Shannon understood that Mary wanted to learn to make jewelry. Materials, studio usage, time spent on instruction, and fees were the issues. Issues like these are the practical, concrete aspects to be taken into consideration when negotiating fees. Interests on the other hand are the underlying, intangible things that are always more important to reaching an agreement. In this case, Mary was interested in developing a rapport with a recognized artist, and wanted that "insider" feeling of working in a metalsmith's private studio. Luckily for Shannon, another one of Mary's underlying interests was fair pay and respect for women. Money wasn't an issue for Mary. The fairness principal was what mattered. Because of this Mary became Shannon's champion and paid her fairly.

You might be surprised to know that this kind of outcome is not uncommon in negotiations between creatives and clients who trust, respect and need their expertise.

Ted Leonhardt