A short while ago, I had a conversation with a business owner who was getting ready to create a new, elegant line of products to be sold across the nation. Earlier on in the process of getting to the spec, it seemed that he was undecided on the direction he really wanted to go, or could go. Throughout the 5-week process of working with him, I actually gave him estimates on three different projects, all under the guise that “this one is The One” we were going to do together.
Near the beginning of the process, he had mentioned that he had thought about hiring an intern at $10/hour to do all his designs, but decided he was looking for someone with more experience. He also revealed he had been working with designers who wouldn’t budge on their premium rates and others who were holding his artwork hostage because they wanted to retain their copyrights. He needed a new designer that was going to be flexible and work with him, instead of fight him each step of the way.
Sounded like a great plan to me! I was all in!
As we had brainstormed all the projects together, I felt really excited about the work he was proposing. Each of the projects had components that thrilled me, new avenues to explore, ways to stretch my talents and knowledge, the ability to hone my craft. As the masterminding together got more expansive, so did the projects. It was way cool to be part of!
By the time we got to the third spec, he seemed certain we were going to go through with this one. The previous two had been put in the “hold” bin while he found investors and parties interested in being part of the project. Based on our mastermind sessions for the third project, I had determined that he and I would be working together on an ongoing basis and chose to create my estimate as though he were a retained client. I gave him a top-notch deal on my services and, when I looked over the estimate, I was really pleased on how it had turned out. For a project that would take about 3 months in working time for research, copywriting, creating 17 unique pieces of art, 205 ads, cover design, and the layout for the entire project, I had offered a kickass estimate that would honor my time and talent, as well as his need to stay within a profitable budget.
When he looked over my detailed estimate, his reply was, “I’ve decided to not do this project. It’s too expensive.”
I haven’t heard from him since on any of the projects.
He had given me two vital pieces of information that could have swayed how I put my estimate together: 1) he was considering hiring a $10/hour intern for the projects; 2) his premium-rate designers were no longer working for him.
I could have given him a $10/hour estimate. Had I done so, I would have lost my shirt in the process. With the time/energy intensive nature and sheer behemoth size of the third project, I would not be able to take on any other clients. As an entrepreneur and the source of income for my family, agreeing to do a project of that size and commitment for way under my price point would have bankrupted me – financially, emotionally, spiritually, energetically. The exchange would not have been even and I would have been left shriveled up, exhausted, and probably pretty hateful.
I also took into consideration the fact that he was no longer working with the designers who were at $50-65/hour because it wasn’t profitable for his price point. I could see the value of having an ongoing working relationship with this company, so it made sense to me to offer a preferred rate.
If I had undersold myself and gone for the job in a state of “I neeeeeeed this job,” I most likely would have caved and bid the entire thing at $10/hour. I have had my practice runs with that logic already. I’ve taken on “problem” clients who were unclear on what they really wanted and who were unwilling to invest time/energy to getting clear about it or even talking with me because they were “too busy.” And, for every single one of those clients, I gave away my services in the first place, billing for way beneath my minimum rate and then spent way too much time on their project because they didn’t know what they wanted and, therefore, I had no clear objective. Honestly, I’ve done way too much of those kinds of deals and it never ends prettily. It definitely isn’t Happy Money. (Thank you, Mr. Michael Waters for that terminology!)
Something I learned about UNHappy Money is that it truly is a NOT-happy situation. Generally, I walk away feeling beat up and the client ends up with something they are dissatisfied with. Because they had no idea where they wanted to be in the first place, let alone how they wanted to get there, they end up not using it at all and feeling angry they were ripped off. Or they desperately go about modifying the end-product themselves or giving it to another designer to fix the work I’ve done, all while (I imagine) saying, “That, Angie, she’s just impossible to work with. Look at this crap she created for me! What is that?!!”
Yeah, UNHappy Money is serving no one.
In life, there are a lot of situations that can be either UNHappy or Happy “Money.” Being committed to honoring yourself first, while being in the service of others is one sure way to build a Happy Money life. And, when you’re living your Happy Money life, you will discover that it becomes impossible to dishonor yourself.
I always welcome your thoughts, questions, and comments.
Feel free to jot down what you’re thinking in the comment box below.