Are you listening?
When you own a business, it is up to you to designate the value of your service(s) or product(s) and ask for it. This sometimes includes negotiating with your prospect or a returning customer to come to a more agreeable [to the consumer] price while still maintaining the “value” of what you are offering.
Doing it Your Way
If you choose to discount so heavily that you do not profit from the transaction, there is usually a method to your madness. If you choose to give it away altogether, chances are, you are looking at the transaction as an investment [on your part] towards future business [read profit] from the customer/client or by way of the exposure they may be able to provide.
The same can be said if you “barter” or otherwise trade product(s) and/or service(s). You may not get cash in the hand, but surely you negotiated for something in return that you deemed to be of value, right?
Doing it Their Way
On the flip-side, when you work for an “employer”, it is up to them to deem the appropriate wage they pay you based on how they value the position you fill in their company. This rate of pay is not necessarily based on any skills or experience you may be bringing to their table; even if the skills, experience or other “accomplishments” [that have cost YOU time and money to acquire] were a prerequisite when you applied for the job.
When accepting a position for an offered wage, you are accepting the value the employer has placed on you. Sometimes, we accept lesser pay in exchange for the promise [or our own perception of a promise] of more money to come. Sometimes we simply accept a lesser wage because we know if we don’t, someone else will.
When the economy is such as it is today, it can be a dog-eat-dog world of competition where we drop rate in order to “get the job”, therefor decreasing the perceived value we had previously presented.
Value, Like Art, is Subjective
Marketing is the life-blood of a company yet many will scrimp, cut and sometimes neglect marketing altogether. In fact, “marketing” is usually the budget that gets cut first during tough economic times or when a company is looking for corners to cut.
But, does that mean that prospects do not value marketing and advertising?
No, it doesn’t, what it does mean is that they have yet to see the value in doing business with you.
Which leads me to all of my creative brothers and sisters…
The FREE in Freelance
Most businesses use “art” to market. This art may be graphics, jingles, written “content” and more. In fact, there is little about marketing or advertising that isn’t some genre of art created by a creative. But, art is subject and so is the value you place on your own work.
Often times, when one is a creative, our work is devalued based on supply and demand. There was a time that savvy artists could demand higher rates and admittedly, some charges may be a little ego driven because after-all there is no other type of “worker” that draws from their own self the way an “artist” does. Our tools are our hands and our minds, everything we have to offer comes from within us and our product is not always something a buyer can see in advance.
Sampling our work is acceptable, but not when “sampling” means creating something new in order to entice a potential client. In other words, if I were a fabric maker, the chance of me creating a whole new kind of fabric just so you can see-touch-feel before you decide to buy is a bit out of the question, so why would or should it be any different for an “artist”?
Most artists are freelancers, but freelancing doesn’t mean the result of their work is — or should be, free. We price our work according to the time, effort and over-all creativity we put into each successive piece and all of those things hold value.
Supply & Demand
When demand is high and supply is low, prices rise,
When supply is up and demand is low, prices drop.
But, what happens when both supply and demand are high at the same time? The market for your product(s) or service(s) bottoms out and people, i.e. the artist’s prospects and clients, can get greedy and the marketplace easily becomes very much like the old saying,
“Why buy the milk when you can get the cow for free?“
And believe me, there are a lot of free “cows” to pick from!
So much for having a “cash cow”, even if your “cow” is cleaner, healthier, smarter, prettier, better, cheaper, easier to acquire and so on….
So, how do you keep your “cow” from devaluation?
Price Yourself and Pace Yourself
The first thing any creative needs to do is to understand the pasture their “cow” is grazing in, meaning, what is the landscape in which you are trying to sell your work?
The current landscape for artists is rife with undernourished “cows” that are priced below market value — and even more that are available to anyone for free, but it is also full of worthy competition.
With the connectivity the Internet has provided, talent is at the fingertips of anyone seeking it. This means, where once you were a unique commodity, your are now just a potentially over-priced “cow” nibbling at whatever green comes your way in what can become a breeding ground for “mad cow” disease.
Does this influx of competition mean you now have to drop rate? Or worse, give it away?
No, not necessarily, but there is some growing controversy on this topic. Some will tell you that by giving it away we become “slaves to the Internet“, and there those who heartily disagree saying if you give it away it will come back to you.
So, which is true?
Both, and here’s why…
Finding YOUR Freelance Nirvana
I will take a lot of flack for this, but not everyone is a great “artist” or an “artist” at all.
Thankfully there is a market for mediocre and/or unrefined talent because, that is how a”passable” artist now can evolve into a “great” artist later, but unfortunately this group of “cows” is doing well to clear the edible green from the pasture while overrunning [and stripping] the landscape for the tried and true experts.
Companies want content and they want it bad because they know consistent, fresh “content”, i.e. text and images/graphics, are what drive their online exposure and SEO. If they can get it for free — or for the equivalent of a peanut or two, they will. Remember, to them, this is marketing and marketing is where most company’s corners are cut.
You can say they will, “get what they pay for” [and they usually do], but the reality is — as most professional freelancers are discovering, this saturation of inexperienced and “freebie” artists in the market is changing the landscape for those of us who have worked hard — investing both time (by paying our dues while gaining expertise and finesse) and money, in order to become the professionals we are.
As a professional marketing person and published freelance writer, I understand the ebb and flow of the market and can adjust my rate according to existing supply and demand. I can also choose to devalue my own “art” and give it away. Instead, I have found that a balanced combination of give-and-take keeps the clients rolling in and when I provide quality, I provide more value, therefor increasing my worth to the client and justifying my rate.
If a company profits from your talent, then you — the artist, should also profit in some way. Even non-profits have a budget for what you have to offer, so don’t sell yourself short by letting prospects and customers milk you dry just because someone else is willing to give away the farm.