Today is definitely a lesson in not working for free.
I checked my bank account this morning and the number is scary. I’m very close to overdraft fees at this point. I’m kicking myself for doing so much work for free over the last year. And when I say that, I mean that it was rewarding in its own way but has also hindered me. Despite what it seems like, my job is hard. And it is a real job. Sure, I get to work from home. However, that does not mean that I don’t work long hours some days or have a stressless job. Let me break this down:
Web development requires hours of learning on top of actually building sites. I don’t just design websites. I also code them. I build custom themes. I create plugins. I spend hours creating custom designs so that they fit with branding and highlight the content they are presenting. I connect the sites with social media and even setup those platforms for clients. I am currently learning the best ways to make sites optimized. I am passionate about accessibility and plan to learn as much as I can to make the sites I work on accessible (for people with disabilities). I also want to eventually take on sites that are already built and make them accessible. Web development is a technical job as much as a creative job, if not more so.
Design is a whole other job, encompassing so many things. I make logos and create overall branding for people. This includes hours of research to gain understanding of the client, their users and the industry they belong to. Then comes the brainstorming and sketching things out. I provide each client with four potential designs, they give feedback, I present them a new “draft” based on their feedback. We may go through more rounds but we work together to find something that works both for them and the people they are trying to reach. This doesn’t just mean grabbing already created designs and putting them together. This is custom, meaning I actually build the objects, decide on fonts (what a monster) and come up with a color palette. There is a lot to consider in each of these things. And that is just logos! I also do all sorts of other things like posters, mailers, business cards and so many other things. Each of those have similar execution but can also demand different skills.
Photography is no different than the other two. I have spent over a decade working to improve my skills. I can use both natural and artificial light, both requiring study and hours upon hours of practice. I have photographed weddings and events, portraits of all kinds, product photography, journalistic photography and more. Each of those requires both similar and different skills. You have to understand the settings on your gear, how to compose the images, how to account for possible design work with the images, etc. You also have to pay attention to every detail, from the subject’s appearance (hair, face, etc.) to any change in lighting to the background of the shots and more. There is a lot to pay attention to all while also listening to the creative part of delivering images that work well with branding (if applicable) and meet the needs of the client. And then there’s the editing! Editing can take hours or it can take days depending on the project. Even with simple editing, it takes time and attention to detail in order to provide beautiful images.
There is so much to what I do than just throwing things together and hoping for the best. I constantly use both technical and creative skills in every part of my job. And I’ve worked so freaking hard to have these skills. So the next time you want to hire someone in these fields, don’t think that our pricing isn’t well thought out or fair. We have to account for cost of travel, time, gear, time, cost of software and programs, … did I mention time? If you think that we shouldn’t consider those in our pricing, I encourage you to go into Target or any store and ask them for the price of the item outside of manufacturing, shipping, cost of labor, etc.
If you aren’t happy with the price we give you, there are things like Squarespace or Wix for you to create your own site. There are also stock sites that provide basic templates to create logos and other design work. Just don’t try to make us feel bad for our pricing. My pricing could be a lot higher but I keep it lower because I want to work with smaller businesses & start-ups, organizations, candidates and families/people who just need things a little more simple. However, my pricing still seems high to a lot of people even though I sometimes offer things at $100s to $1000s cheaper than most. That is why I am making this post. We work hard to deliver quality work and should be compensated accordingly.
To those I have worked with over the past couple of years who have received discounted or free work, this is not a post to make you feel bad. I made the decision to work with you because I loved what you were doing and wanted to help out. However, I am just not able to do that anymore if I want to pay the bills and buy food. That may seem dramatic but I really have gone without at times because of my bad decision making and desire to help out. I have no regrets about working with you and have thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to help you grow.
So, yeah… This year is about remembering my worth and not settling for less in order to help someone else get ahead. It is *not* about taking whatever job I can instead of taking on clients that value my work and my skills enough to pay me fairly. I’ve done that my whole life but now I need to focus on me. No more giving special prices for the same amount of work. No more hustling only to make too little to pay the bills. No more devaluing myself. No more.