Amy Crow
Designer / Illustrator / Maker


Asserting Your Value and Learning To Say No

Do you know what sucks? Getting asked to do what you do for cheap or worse, for free.

I don't know what moon was circulating what planet, or how far Mercury was in it's 50th retrograde this decade (come on mate, give us a break) but this past month has just been the time of of the undercut. So here's to recognising these inisidious issues and solving them with transparent honesty, diplomacy and a touch of sass.

I recently quoted for a project. There were a few things that I had considered with this project to keep it viable for the client without loosing out on the cash dollars (because food can't be paid with sympathy votes or mass email chains). I knew they were a start up but balanced with that was the value they were going to get from my design work for potentially the next 3-5 years and potentially in their branding for the life of the business.  Also I had this feeling in my entrails that there were going to be numerous iterations and tweaks and all that stuff that 100% of people hate doing. I'd tried to circumvent this as much as possible by being super transparent from the get go. Alas, they came back saying the quote was higher than they were anticipating and requested if I could I break it down into segments for each component of work. 

My answer in short was no. I've started project pricing. Why? Because if someone outside your skill set tries to determine the amount of time something will take you, you've already screwed yourself over. By keeping the control on your side means less battling for dollars and justifying the work from a time spectrum. Time and value are on opposite sides of the axis, not the same. Sometimes I come up with brilliant ideas in 5 minutes sometimes they take a week. No one can determine that so don't let people think that they can. 

MY MAIN ISSUE: My issue is that, after all my questioning and nailing the details, the issue was actually not in my pricing at all. Sometimes clients have this amazing ability to make us question the value we place on our work. In this instance, it wasn't that the quote was "higher than anticipated" it was actually that the clients budget couldn't accomodate. 

TAKE AWAY: Stand your ground. If you say no to something, you haven't lost out or failed. You've actually just made room for something you'd rather say yes to, that will have less grappling for cash, less time spent trying to justify your worth and over all less stress.

I'm sure we've all been asked to do something for free. Nothing quite undercuts your sense of worth like being asked to use your expensive college degree to not pay that back or eat something fancier than migoreng. Let me set this straight, I have done voluntary work and I am open to doing more work pro-bono if it's for a) the right cause, b) something that aligns with my business, current aesthetic and values and c) if I have the bandwidth to do it properly.

I recently was asked to do this "fun" "exposure" gig for a large company. You know the type, all the same issues of every large company that wants something quick, cheap but always at your expense (time, resources etc) while making it sound like it's benefitting you.

I was asked after the details were settled if we could cut costs (I wasn't being offered compensation so I don't know where this negative budget even came from) on the main material- which was actually the crux of the whole reason why they asked me in the first place to do this particular gig. I didn't catch on that quick to how bizarrely unfair and not beneficial this whole project was until I realised that it wasn't going to elevate my business, talk to the audience I was aiming at or present the work I do in the right way. So I turned it around quite quickly and cancelled it. I honestly felt bad for wasting their time (even though their timeline put pressure on me) but I also think I would have felt worse for presenting work I don't stand for, to a standard I wouldn't be happy looking back on and also using my time for something that wasn't going to positively influence me.

At the end of the day, you and I can't afford to spend our precious hours, weeks and months doing work that is unfulfilling, not worth it or not useful to move forward and leverage for shinier goals and projects. It is hard to recognise these things. It's even more difficult to say no when they appear to us as beneficial or opportunistic when really they are thinly veiled con jobs that might not pay you at minimum but at maximum won't help you to collaborate, extend your reach, speak your message or affect mass populace.

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