Wow, where to begin with this one? For all the freelance designers and creatives out there…I’m going to have to yell this one out…WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING IS NOT CHARITY! Ok, I said it, you heard it and even if you’re not a designer, this rule of thumb still applies. It’s ironic how often people that love what they do carry around a chip on their shoulder about getting compensated for what they do best. Isn’t that weird? Whether it’s low self-esteem, lack of understanding or whatever the insecurity du jour is that gets in the way, it’s important to understand the basics of business 101:
- Make sure you value what you do. If not, nobody else will.
- If you don’t charge market or above market rate for your services, your clients may not take you seriously.
- What you do for a living is not a hobby, nor is it charity, so don’t treat it as such.
- Don’t feel awkward talking about money with your career peers because it’s part of gauging the market and learning about where to position yourself. The wonderful people over at Freelancer’s Union wrote about this same thing last week. (Disclaimer: Money is a place holder for value…it doesn’t define us, or correlate with self worth, — please don’t get confused about the fact that it’s just a tool…and yes you need it to live on earth.)
Other people’s circumstances should not override the boundaries that you’ve created for yourself to make a living doing what you do. For freelancers, it’s important to identify exactly what your time is worth. Make a list of how many hours you can work in a week and a baseline minimum of how much you have to make in order to live comfortably. If there’s flex room within those parameters, then consider offering a lower rate to certain clients, fulfilling your desire to be able to work with more people.
Of course there are times when you do want to donate your time as a form of charity. In those cases, be disciplined about when and for whom you choose to give of your time. Otherwise what could end up happening is that either that person takes your contribution as an ongoing expectation, or they magically attract more people who would like your services for free—not a good business practice.
Slightly deviating from the topic at hand…gender also plays into issues around compensation and valuation. It’s often the elephant in the room that doesn’t get addressed in real time but is always referenced as a data point in the news and media. To all of my lady friends out there…WE ARE STILL MAKING LESS MONEY AND IT’S NO LONGER 1940, 1980, or even 2000! Why is this happening? I thought I would see if the great minds at The Harvard Business Review had any insight. Here were some of their major findings according to an article published in 2003, entitled Nice Girls Don’t Ask
- Women don’t ask for promotions or salary increases in contrast to men in the workplace.
- Women either don’t know how to negotiate or don’t position themselves in a situation where they negotiate as often as men do.
- Conditioning from an early age to avoid self-promotion, to focus on the needs of others. (Martyrdom in the workplace creates a lack of opportunities for everyone, including yourself…the people at Harvard didn’t say that, that’s just my opinion)
Speaking of negotiating…these are the next two books on my reading list.
If you can believe it, at my business school, the art of negotiation was not addressed, so I’ll just have to do my own homework. If this is an area of weakness for you, hopefully you can make the time to learn more about how to advocate more on your own behalf. It’s a great opportunity to create more versus less for yourself.