Episode 296 — Blowing Up Your Freelance Prices


Episode 296 — Blowing Up Your Freelance Prices

We have these barriers that we put on ourselves because we set our reality to be around these limitations. We tell ourselves we can’t do something. Or that art doesn’t pay. Or that the industry sucks. These are the constraints — or excuses — we put on ourselves to dismiss the possibility of what could be real. That becomes our reality. So how many things like this are you telling yourself? 

Most of you don’t want to step out of your comfort zone. But if you do get triggered, it might be good to lean into those uncomfortable spaces and pains. When you dismiss ideas, chances are you just don’t want to put in the work. 

It all starts with asking the right questions and setting the right goals:

  • What if it were possible?
  • What would it look like?
  • And what would I need to do to get those results?

In this Podcast, Allan talks about examining your limiting thoughts and resistance, setting higher goals, building winning habits — and overcoming those barriers that once seemed impossible. 



[03:42] The 4-Minute Mile

[06:40] How to Overcome Barriers in Your Mind

[13:51] Are They Barriers or Resistances?

[16:46] A Word About Habit Builders



Hello, everyone! This is Allan McKay. 

Welcome to Episode 296! I’ll be talking about how to blow up your freelance prices and how to demand higher rates for your work. I’m super excited about this one.

We’ll be talking about money, which is a subject a lot of us uncomfortable with. We’ll be talking about how to build positive habits around money.

I’ve got a free course available right now on how to build your personal brand: how to position yourself and get the right clients. Got to www.Branding10x.com to download these free training videos.

Let’s dive in!



[01:08]  Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[21:53] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!



[03:42] At the beginning of my career, I was earning $25,000 a year. I thought that was pretty good because I had this idea in my mind that “art doesn’t pay”. I thought artists could make about $50K per year. That would be the cap you could make in your career. So I thought I’d just keep doing what I was doing and eventually hit that mark. In other words, I thought of it as a very linear process. In my mind, $50K was the max you could earn in games, tv, film, whatever industry it would be. By thinking small, my goals shrunk to fit that pattern.

[04:24] A few years went by and I was earning about $33,000 a year. That’s when a few of my colleagues opened up to me that they were earning a $100,000 a year. That shattered my reality. After realizing what was possible, it didn’t take me long to start earning that amount as well. This is something to think about: I was on this linear path, just coasting through my career. Once I knew it was possible, I had this giant leap in salary. It sounds so unrealistic to have such a jump just by finding out it was possible. The $50K myth is possible!

[05:04] I want to break something down related to this and why I was able to get this result. There is a lot behind why it worked. It’s something I’ve replicated in my career. Something I’ve talked about before is the 4-Minute Mile (www.allanmckay.com/218). In 1954, everyone believed in the 4-minute barrier in running. It wasn’t possible to run a mile in 4 minutes. Everyone tried to break that barrier, but it was impossible. In came Roger Bannister who broke that barrier in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. What was once fact was brought into question. It didn’t take that long before others broke that barrier. The record itself has been broken 1,400 times. So why could nobody break that 4-minute barrier? And once Bannister showed it was possible, everyone else could do it. 



[06:40] This is why this stands out in my head: We have these barriers that we put on ourselves because we set our reality to be around these limitations. We tell ourselves we can’t do something. Or that art doesn’t pay. Or that the industry sucks. These are the constraints — or excuses — we put on ourselves to dismiss the possibility of what could be real. That becomes our reality. So how many things like this are you telling yourself? There are things that we constantly dismiss as being BS because they aren’t set in the reality that we want. For you, that reality might me, “Art doesn’t pay”. Or, “Work is hard”. That’s the reality you’ve gone on to accept. These are just the excuses we give ourselves so that we don’t have to try. When you hear something, you can choose to believe it or dismiss it. Or you can choose to challenge it!

[08:04] When I hear someone tell me that you can make $100K doing what you love that makes me think: What if that was possible? So when I had the $50K Myth challenged, I could dismiss it or I could entertain the idea. That was the big moment of reflection for me. Before my threshold was between $25K and $50K. There wasn’t room to grow. Now, because the threshold is much higher, the current trajectory that I’m on isn’t going to work. How long will it take me to get to $100K? Maybe 20-30 years, based on my current trajectory. But knowing that there is room to grow, maybe I can change things up.

[09:31] The way I could do it by setting bigger goals to go after. Which meant that if I were to take a step back, it became obvious the current trajectory wasn’t working. To build a better strategy, I needed to know what I was worth and figure out how to get to that bigger goal. That meant that I was more comfortable asking for more and I was motivated to do more toward that goal. Now, I knew it was possible. If my reality as an artist used to be that I didn’t make much money, it was because I heard enough negative nancies online complaining that there was no money in the industry. A lot of the time, we make that excuse because we think we’re doing pretty good. The reason we aren’t doing better is because there is no room to grow. A lot of us would rather push the possibility to grow away because we think, “It’s not me! It’s the industry! Because it doesn’t pay that well.” 

[11:15] When that reality was challenged for me — and I realized that artists can make money — that removed the barrier for me. What that meant that instead of blaming the industry, I had to look at myself and say, “What am I doing?” and “What do I need to be doing?” When I realized that I was at the bottom, I realized there was a long way to go. It also made me want to develop a strategy that would have a better trajectory. 

[11:47] Anytime I’ve been handed a piece of information that challenged my reality, it would take me down the rabbithole of “What else is possible?” An anecdote I could use here is about my wife’s cat. This cat was an indoor cat his entire life. When I took him outside, he became obsessed with going outside. When we find out that there is more, for many of us that’s what drives us to do more. Some of us also get offended by the talk of money — or by telling you that you can do more. That’s actually a sign that you aren’t where you want to be. You may not be aiming high enough or you don’t want to put in the work to get there. So it’s more comforting to think that it may not be true and that it’s just how the industry is. 

[12:45] Most of us just don’t want to put in the work. Most of us don’t want to step out of the comfort zone. But if you do get triggered, it might be good to lean into those uncomfortable spaces and pains. I always found those pain barriers interesting. A lot of us react differently. But when we’re dismissing ideas, chances are we just don’t want to put in the work. You can challenge the idea:

  • What if it were possible?
  • What would it look like?
  • What would I need to do to get those results?

[13:42] If other people are getting those results, then it is possible. You can make an excuse around it — or you can choose to entertain it.



[13:51] The other part is internal excuses or friction. When you say, “This may work for you, but it won’t work for me,” you need to pay attention to how you feel. If you feel discomfort, could there be other reasons why you’re being dismissive? A lot of us are saying that running a 4-minute mile is still impossible. We’re clinging to that idea. Even though there are people who are already doing it! 

[14:27] Once you start seeing things as possible, you have something to aspire to. I stopped saying, “That’s impossible!” Instead, I started saying, “How does that apply to me?” It’s a completely different mindset. It’s similar to having a roadblock to navigate around. Every single time I hit a wall and think, “That’s impossible to go further”, it changed everything once I saw someone else do it. Then I just had to figure it out, build a new strategy, apply myself and get off my ass. That’s the critical thing here: Once you’ve seen that someone else can do it, you now have no excuse. 

[15:31] I’ve heard this a lot in my career. People would come up to me and say, “Hey, when I first started I thought, ‘If Allan could do it — so can I!’ And that was my motivation”. I didn’t understand what that meant. The more I heard it, the more I started to realize what that meant. It meant that if I had done it — it was possible. Whether it’s me or other people, if you have a career you want and you think it’s not possible, sometimes it’s just a matter of dumbing it down. Of course the problem is that some of us want the results but don’t want to put in the work.



[16:46] The last thing I want to talk about is that we’re all habit builders or habit breakers. So when we’re setting goals, sometimes they’re impossible until you break the habits you currently have. That means that you have work to do! It all starts with asking the right questions and setting the right goals. I also think it’s important to set goals you don’t think are achievable. The reason for this is that some of us set lower goals so we can pat ourselves on our back. But if we were to raise that bar, that’s the big change. This is where the real change happens. It forces us to take a step back and realize, “What I’m currently doing isn’t working. Maybe there is a different way.” 

[18:17] The other aspect of this is that by setting bigger goals, it will force you to fail up. If you were planning to get 3 new clients by the end of the year, you should set that bar at 12. If you set that goal and don’t hit it, you can still get 8. By aiming higher, you’re doing something different. I had a friend who did that. He also started listening to his clients. This is what changed everything. He was able to do things he wouldn’t do. He didn’t get 12 clients — he got 8. So what’s better: You banging harder or taking a step back and looking at the goal a bit differently. 

[20:09] Finally, I want you to think who it is that you see as being successful. Most of us would agree that those successful people wouldn’t be where they are today if they didn’t overcome the big obstacles. They’d gone as far as they could! I want you to strive for better. I want you to break the 4-Minute Mile that you believe is impossible. Steve Jobs said this beautiful quote, “The people who are crazy enough to believe they can change this world are the ones that do!” So never get comfortable. Anytime you’re tempted to shoot down an idea or tell yourself, “It’s impossible” — observe yourself. Ask yourself, “If it were possible, what would that look like?” That’s the first question to get to the next level. No one grew by staying where they were. What if it were possible? And how would you go about doing it?


I hope you enjoyed this Episode. If this resonates, please check out my free course on branding and how to get the rates that you want. These are actionable steps: www.Branding10X.com.

Next week, I will be setting down with the team at Platige, talking about The Witcher.

I’ll be back next Episode. Until then —

Rock on!


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