Friday, 24 June 2016

"Cheap" Work - And What It Does To Your Industry

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague just now - the lovely and talented Dina Arsenault. The discussion opened my eyes to something still existing; something that I thought we as an industry had dealt with already. Sadly, this turns out to not be the case, and it fired me up enough to get these creative juices of mine going.

We were discussing rates, and how we come to those rates - I've had some new projects pop up, and since they're a bit different than what I've been doing lately, I reached out to Dina because she and I do very similar things professionally, and I wanted to touch base with someone who knows their stuff. Sort of a "sanity check", so to speak. Am I still on track? Are my rates reasonable? That sort of thing.

Imagine my surprise when we started discussing the fact that there are still businesses out there who are not just undercutting professionals like us, but who are almost giving away their services! I'm not going to name any names here, because I don't think that's appropriate in the least, but I will say this: If you are running a "social media strategy and management" company, and you're charging anywhere near $150/month, it's time for a lesson in self-worth - and in economics.

I've been doing this for a long time, and my rates reflect that. I'm not "cheap" - and that's okay, for a number of reasons that we'll come back to. The reason this entire conversation upsets me is two-fold:

  1. You're making a statement about the value of your work, and worse yet;
  2. You're making a statement about the value of mine.

Remember that saying: "Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Two." - it exists for a reason.

If you tell someone that you're able to provide strategy, content, and social media management for $150/month, I sincerely hope you have 20 accounts, no employees, and absolutely no interest in having any sort of life outside of work, because quite frankly, that is ridiculous. Not only is it ridiculous, you are horribly undervaluing what you do - and what I do. When you under price YOUR work, you're also devaluing mine.

The time alone that it takes to create the right strategy for a business - never mind the analyzing of date, reporting, and tuning! - costs more than that. The time it takes to create good, effective content that is based on a solid strategy and that's speaking to the right audience costs more than that. The time required to properly manage online communities/Facebook Pages/Twitter accounts and provide the level of customer service necessary to be effective costs more than that. By setting the bar low for these very important services, you're effectively saying that "what I do isn't really worth much, so don't pay me for my time." 

Listen, I think we can all agree on this sentiment, right?

Here's my question: Does that mean that "cheaper" is the way to go? Let's get back to why my rates are what they are for a moment, shall we? 
  1. I've been doing what I do for approximately 15 years. I'm what you call "experienced". (No age jokes, people. Just don't go there.)
  2. I'm VERY good at what I do. I have spent years getting good at it, and I bring real, tangible results to the clients I work with. I go out of my way to ensure that when a client works with me, they get what they've come to me for - and oftentimes, more!
  3. My time is worth something. None of the work I do for clients springs out of thin air; I actually have to do the work. That work requires time, and that time requires my full attention and skill set - and payment for my time is reflected as such.
  4. I have costs, too! Whether it's my laptop, my internet connection, my travel costs, etc., they're all real and I'm responsible for them.
So, let's recap. When you are saying "We can do it for $150/month!", one of two things is happening. Either a) you don't know the work required to do this job PROPERLY, or b) you're more worried about "getting out there" than you are in making sure that people who require and want your services understand that it has a value.

You're not helping yourself be taken seriously, and you're devaluing what I do. Please understand that this isn't good for anyone, including the businesses who are paying that horrifically tiny fee - when the day comes that you realize how much work you're doing and how little you're being paid for it, you're going to swiftly lose all motivation, and it will become a matter of "why am I busting my butt for this? It's not worth it!!" And then, my friends, your clients get shoddy work. It's a vicious cycle, and it CAN be stopped.

So seriously....cut it out. Value yourself. Value your time. Value what you do. 

I promise you, you're worth it.

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