Creative Folk: You Are Worth It

I recently watched this Abbott & Costello video, and figured out the math some clients try to use on creative people. Go ahead and watch it…I’ll wait.

Now you see what happened there? At the time, it makes perfect sense. And most clients who utilize our services talk about how they aren’t making enough to afford your regular rates. Since you are tired of eating Ramen and Peanut Butter and Jelly every day, you think to yourself, “At least some money is better than none.”

You give in. You want to be seen as the nice and understanding one, and quite frankly, rent is due. You think, “Gee…Maybe I will get some exposure, and then the money will roll in.”

Clients count on this. While they go shopping at Whole Foods, get $120 hair cuts, and go home to a house with a view of the city, you are in your one bedroom apartment eating Ramen and Peanut Butter and Jelly.

This is what you need to know. Because if you don’t, you will soon give up…Financially, you will have to…And we all know you are worth more than that.

No other professional is treated quite the way that creative’s are, because clients want us to believe they really don’t need us, even though they are the one’s who hired us to do what we do. Think about it. Why would they hire us if they didn’t need what we do? Do you go to the doctor if you are not sick? Do you go to a restaurant if you are not hungry? Do you go see a hairstylist if you do not need a hair cut? Well, why do you think they called you then?

They hire creative professionals because what they have currently sucks.

That’s right, I said it.

Creative folk everywhere! Hear me roar! They need us to continue to have a Shop-At-Whole-Foods budget! They need us to keep buying those $120 hair cuts! They need us to afford that house on the hill! So now I will explain some of the common excuses you will hear, and even give you some ammunition to blow those excuses away.

Excuses And Comebacks

1. “I can get someone else to do this for less.”
Oh really. Is that why you called me then? No, the truth is they either want to believe this, or they have called around and no one else caved in. They are hoping the one that caves in will be you. Your portfolio is what had them call you. They want what you have. Never forget that.

What you should say: “Then I encourage you to shop around, or go with those cheaper options.”
This calls the client’s bluff. They know how much time it takes to shop around and find a creative they like at the price point they like. This is why they called you, and you are about to walk out the door. We have always received call backs from client’s like this if they are smart enough to swallow their pride for making such a moronic statement to a professional.

Another thing you can say: “Sure. And you will get what you pay for.”
Again, calling their bluff. Not only that, but you remind the client why they like to shop at Whole Foods and not the other stores for their food…Because they believe that statement…They live it.

2. “I can get a student to do this for next to nothing!”
Yes, they can. A student is hungry for a portfolio, and they do not have the confidence to say “no” yet. They will do whatever you tell them to do with hopes the client will be happy and give them lots of exposure. They will also re-produce something this client currently has, and as you know, what the client currently has sucks. Once that student starts to realize their portfolio says nothing about what they can do creatively, and is also hurting them professionally, they will stop always being the “yes man for free” clients seem to desire.

What you should say: “If you do not care enough to invest in yourselves, that is a viable option you have.”
Whoa! Yes, this sounds scary. But you know what is scarier? Hindsight! The hindsight being knowing the value you brought to that client, while you eat Ramen yet again. It also puts the client back in their place, and reminds them why they hired you. More often than not, when we do this, we not only get the gig, but we also get the client’s respect.

3. “All I’m asking for is a website/logo/video/whatever…”
Of course, that is all they asking for! But as you know, that stuff takes time out of your life, and how much do you value the time in your life? And what is the client asking for? Brand identity! What does brand identity do? Helps a client get recognized. What happens when your client is recognized? They make more money! More hair cuts! More shopping at Whole Foods! Especially if it is done correctly. The point is, brand recognition done professionally earns a company money. When businesses decide to design their own stuff in-house, it doesn’t. Ever see a website/logo/video/whatever designed by the owner or the IT person at the company and cringe? If you cringe, you can be sure others are cringing as well. They are not dealing with that client, because it looks like the client doesn’t care. You are that professional they need. The ATamp;T logo was designed in 1983 with slight variations on it since. It cost ATamp;T a bunch of money to be made, and more to be re-marketed to replace the bell it had for years. Yet that logo earned them billions of dollars because of brand recognition. That AT&T logo has a 93% brand recognition rate. That recognition rate turned into dollars. I’m not making this stuff up! Them’s the facts:

What you should say: “And all I am asking is for what I am worth, and asking you how much you value what others think of your company.”
Boom! Bring it down hard! This gets them right where it hurts, because the truth does hurt. If they value their employment, they want the best, and the best costs money. Not making their company look it’s best hurts their bottom line, and threatens their value as an employee. Which in turn, threatens their Whole Food budget. If they try to belittle the work you do, and you accept the belittling, then you are not going to do your best work. This not only reflects on your skills as a creative, but also makes their company look bad…Which again, reflects your skills as a creative. Believe in yourself more than the client believes in themselves, and you both benefit.

4. “Our product is going to change everything, and you will get so much exposure!”
I don’t remember the last time I walked into a grocery store, went to the checkout, and the person said, “Aren’t you the person who did that thing? Just go ahead and take the groceries! Their on us!” Until exposure means you get fed, exposure is only good for the client…And you are the one who will be making that happen. Remember that.

What you should say: “If you believe in it that much, then you should consider me an investment…Otherwise, you don’t really believe that at all.”
Owned! The reason they say such a dumb thing is because they are hoping you are gullible enough to believe their hype. They are appealing to the “artist ego” myth that has been around for years: All we want is recognition for our work. Even if this is true (which, let’s face it, it is), it doesn’t mean your ego can pay your rent. This also turns their hype on them in a “put your money where your mouth is” sort of way.

You are starting to get it. They have excuses ad nauseum, but we keep allowing the excuses to happen. It is up to us as professional to assert ourselves as professionals.

You Don’t Need Those Who Don’t Value You In Your Life

When you go to the doctor, you do not haggle the price. The same goes for a restaurant, a coffee shop, Walgreens, Wal Mart, a mechanic, etc, etc. The price is what it is. If you cannot afford it, you shouldn’t have it. That is Economics 101. You are the product. If they want what you have, they should pay for it. Plain and simple. Sure, you may lose potential clients this way, but it’s just like dating: Weed them out quickly, so you can focus on the one’s that are worth it. Once you start realizing you are worth it, the quality of your clients goes up, the quality of your work goes up, and you can walk past the Ramen aisle once and for all.

Our kind has become a co-dependent type that has devalued the nature of our work, and it all stems from fear. But we are creating our own fear by devaluing ourselves. I have seen designers, video editors, etc making less than employees at the local Wal Mart. We created this mess. We need to un-create it.

Go get ’em, Tiger.