When No Means Yes


There's been a lot of chatter about getting paid for your work. Holly Becker at Decor8 wrote a post this week that resonated with so.many of us. Over 100 comments, people!

Part of the difficulty in setting a price for our work is that it is something made by us, either a service we provide or a specialty item we make. If we were making mass-produced widgets, someone would come to us and say, "I'd like three widgets please". We'd give them three widgets and they'd pay the bill and off we'd go, widgets in their hands and cash in our jeans.

With mass-produced widgets there is a clearly defined market price. The barriers to entry are high (someone has to build a widget factory to compete with our widgets).

Creative stuffs? Whether it's a photograph or a graphic design or a handmade ornament on etsy, it's a relatively LOW barrier to entry. Everyone has a camera and everyone is a photographer. Everyone has InDesign and everyone is a designer. Everyone makes a craft or knits a scarf and everyone is a seller on etsy. Everyone has a blog and everyone is a content creator.

So it's SUPER easy for us to undercut each other. Either work below market rates or work for free. Anything to get the work. 

But we all know how that goes - lowball your work and customers value it even LOWER than before. (I think WE also end up feeling icky about our work too when we give it away).

So what's the answer? Do we NEVER do anything for free? NEVER give a discount? How do we decide when it's a good idea to do a freebie or a bad idea?

What have I done for love or money:

  • I've written guest posts on friends' blogs
  • I've written guest posts on bigger blogs in exchange for promotion/exposure
  • I've been paid cash for guest posts
  • I've had an essay published in a book in exchange for a gift certificate
  • I'm speaking at Alt Summit where I'll be co-hosting a roundtable in exchange for my conference fees

I haven't done any sponsored posts for products mostly because I haven't had the time to track down the opportunities and there aren't a lot of products that fit my blog. 

Branding is my barometer

In the past few months I've been working hard on branding. I've taken some courses taught by Kathleen and Tara at Braid Creative. I can't tell you ENOUGH how amazing those two chickas are - brilliant, insightful. Wow. Go sign up - right now!

Between these two groups of smartypants women, I've become so CLEAR about what Raincoast Creative Salon is about - who I am, what I am doing here, my expertise, what I have to offer, who my audience is, and where I want to go next. It was HARD work. They asked TOUGH questions. Made me think. A LOT. Proverbial steam coming out of my ears.

But I have elevator gab, people, I have elevator gab! When I got to Alt Summit I won't be hemming and hawing about what this place is about. Better late than never, eh?

So Sandra, branding in a post that started off with talking about working for free? What kind of a right turn is that??? Yes, my friends, branding. 

You see, branding, the exercise of REALLY, TRULY defining specifically who I am, what this place is about, who it serves and what I am providing and will provide in the future - that's MY barometer that I use to decide what work to take on or not, ESPECIALLY if it's for free.

I start with the end in mind - where do I want to be in six months or a year? That's my starting point.

It's that simple. 

Opportunity X comes along. Does it fit with what I'm about here? Will it get me closer to my goals for 2013? Will it deepen my expertise? Will my work get in front of new eyes who will appreciate what I do here? Yes? I'll look at it. No? Thank you very much, but I'll pass.

And by saying "no" I actually am saying YES to me, to my brand, to my hard work, to my vision, to my dreams. 

Saying no means yes

How about you? Have you worked for free? Why or why not? How do you decide what to take on and what to turn down?