Don’t let them have the milk for free

Last week, the following photo was posted on my newsfeed by an artist friend of mine:








Now, I am sure there are plenty of public relations and advertising professionals, graphic designers, musicians, carpenters, roofers and many others who can relate to this sentiment. How many times has a “friend” asked for professional help, feedback or actual deliverables for free? Do you happily and easily oblige?

My question is this: Why? I am not suggesting that we bogart our gifts; we all are experts at something and many times, especially in close circles, we do share and contribute. But when it comes to the value that we and others have related to our professional livelihoods, we need to do a better job of explaining the value in our process and why our fees associated with it are important. This also means not offering it to everyone who reaches out to you all the time. There needs to be discretion.

For some reason, it is always the creative segment that is asked to provide their talents for free. Rarely do you see doctors, lawyers or accountants just giving away their talents for nothing.

And, we shouldn’t either. The reality is that if there are people in our profession who are doing “favors” for free or at a really reduced cost, then it devalues the services we can provide paying clients to help sustain a living for ourselves.

Most professionals offer competitive rates. However, I would be cautious of those offering rock-bottom prices all the time. This can reflect inexperience, desperation or lack of value in their work. I also often think of exactly how many projects someone would have to work on to even reach the median household income rate. In that case, it would suggest that their time and focus are spread out in so many directions that the quality of their work and communication can potentially take a hit.

So, creative types, let us unite! We have to accept that there is strong value in our work, and we all should have a track record to prove it. We don’t have to cower or be embarrassed when we offer average prices for our work. We should ask for it with confidence knowing we have delivered (and over-delivered many times) in the past and will do so again.