3 tips to start getting paid to think


I was working with a client on her brand for her jewelry line years ago. It was such a fun experience because I didn’t just get to design the brand identity, but I was involved with her and her team in formulating the brand strategy (however, I had no idea that’s what it was called, nor did I charge for it).

I wanted to start charging for my thinking but I didn’t know how to be seen, or even see myself, as someone who could get paid for that. I always thought a deliverable had to be attached to what I did, otherwise, what I did wasn’t worth anything. “How can you charge for something you can’t see?!” I thought. But really, the value wasn’t innately in a logo or design, the value was in the result those designs brought about. And my thinking was a big part of what made those things valuable. Without the research and thought behind the designs they’d be created with no purpose, and thus, be worthless.

Here are 3 tips I wish I would have known to start getting paid to think:

1. Separate out your research phase and put a price on it.
If you’re not comfortable with charging for or doing brand strategy on it’s own yet, you may want to start here. Maybe you have a research phase before you start designing. Maybe you send a questionnaire to your clients. Separate that phase out and put a price on it in your proposal. This way, you’re showing your client and yourself that your thinking and research is worth something.

2. Create a consulting service for brain pickers.
Do you have clients wanting to pick your brain about something? Great! That means your thinking is already being valued. Set up a page on your site where people can sign up for a consulting hour with you and charge them for it. I love using Calendly for this. Next time someone asks you to pick your brain, you can offer them that option.

3. Share your ideas.
Have you ever had a really good idea for your client? Share it with them! Show them that you care about their business and that you have ideas that may help them. Disclaimer: you need to listen to what their goals are cause lame ideas that don’t align with their vision will be a waste of time for them, not to mention really annoying. I like to ask “have you thought of or tried _______?” It’s less about advice giving and more about opening dialogue.

If you’re looking to make the transition from being a design order-taker to a consultant, starting with even one of these baby steps will begin to build your confidence.


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About the author:

Melinda Livsey is a brand strategist, designer, and educator based in sunny Southern California. She’s the founder of Marks and Maker, co-founder of Pre-lance, and co-host on the Futur. Find her hanging out on Instagram and say hello!