One of the hardest things for any artist to do is to figure self-worth. And when I say “artist” I mean anyone who creates something and sells it. I would even go as far as to say “even a person who has a personal service that they provide for money” is also in this same group because the service is personal and therefore in my opinion falls in to the “creative” category.
I’m writing this post to hopefully inspire young creators to dig in their heels and find there self-worth. Your self-worth is how much you need to charge for what you do. Are you a photographer, a model, sculptor, painter, clothing designer, makeup artist. Maybe you are a chef or a cook, an interior designer… or maybe you make little bird houses. Either way you are a creator, you create using the medium of your craft.
All too often creators are never paid enough for what they do and it is their own damn fault. Why? Because they do not know what their self-worth (as I call it) is. Or if they know, they are not demanding it. A very wise attorney once told me he had many clients who were creators of some variety or another and he went on to say that they are they’re own worst enemy when it comes to making money. Let me give you a personal example.
Almost 20 years ago I started a BBQ catering business out of necessity. Laid-off from a job, zero income and no wealthy family members or friends to turn to for help… well I felt like a foot soldier detached from his unit 50 miles behind enemy lines. I guess the word “bleak” would be appropriate and things looked grim. No money soon equates to no roof and you’re down by the river… with no van. First thing “don’t stay in the house” even if you have no gas or transit money, go find a bicycle or use your feet, but get the hell out of the house every day and get around people and network. So I knew how to cook… hell I always knew how to cook, so while working a landscaping job I managed to get enough money to start-up a catering business. From the beginning I was a hit and never really had a problem finding customers. But I had a huge problem charging what I was worth. I came across another caterer who said my price for an on-site pig roast was affordable enough the he could use my service from time to time. Well he knew that I knew he was making money on top of what he was paying me. I didn’t seem to care as long as I made my money. Then one day he told me “you’re doing it too cheap, you need to charge more.” But I was afraid if I raised the price no one would call me. The next call that he got for an “on-site pig roast” he quoted the customer $300 on top of what I would have charged. The customer said I’ll call back after I confer with my spouse. I said “yeah… good luck.” The next day Craig called and said “they booked the job.” After that he always referred the customer to me and it was up to me to sink or swim.
So I sat back and did some real soul-searching and analyzed the situation. My friend had good “phone and people” skills so I practiced that and I got real good… and fast because it meant money. Now cut to today I have a photography business, I create using a camera. Unlike my BBQ business where I have little competition, the photography is very competitive, so to solve that problem, I try to create in a way that leaves the average photographer behind. How? Be different and be better, but don’t be cheaper. With my BBQ business I have cooked tons (not pounds) of meat in 18+ years. We cook it the old fashion way with just wood, no electric, propane or gas… just wood. Everything we make is homemade… there is not a caterer in my area that can compete with what I do because everybody wants to take a short-cut. When I talk to other BBQ guys and they ask me about my process… well I encourage them to take short-cuts. Why? Because I don’t, and never will. Kind of sneaky but it don’t matter… because every loser want to take a short-cut.
So back to my photography, I know I am not the best photographer/Photoshop artist out there, I also know I am not the worst and I know I am different. The opening statement on this blog site I say “there are photographers and then there is me.” Now let me say this; after all I have just written what you really need to do, no matter what your game is “you need to put a price on what you do” that price needs to reflect back to how good you are. If you’re good you will get the price you’re asking for. If you cannot get that price you need to get better at what you do. “Nothing and I mean nothing worth having comes easy in this world.” Let someone else negotiate your price for you, after all that is what happened to me. Most of all you need to have the guts to just walk away if the price is too low. And I know this is a hard thing to do… real hard when times are tough. But I’ll do it, I will just say “no” and walk away or hang up the phone or whatever the case maybe. Sometimes they call back the next day, week or month and I get my price. Other times… it’s like standing in the desert alone.
So don’t expect people think “oh my gosh he/she is an artist and they’re worth every penny.” That isn’t ever gonna happen. But if you work hard at your craft, know your craft, know it inside and out. Live it, breathe it, become it… this is what will make people believe in you. And if they believe in you then price becomes irrelevant. If you’re a model you need to learn your craft from every angle. If your making bird houses then make them the best damn bird houses ever made. Remember… never sell anything, it’s too hard to sell. I couldn’t sell cake to a fat man. It is so much easier to get people to “buy” something than it is to “sell” it to them. If they want it they’ll buy it. So on that note “don’t be a sellout” and have a great day.