When I decided to pursue my passion of photography, I was elated seeing how everyone seemed to enjoy the photos that I took for them. Feeling honored, I pushed forward in pursuing the opportunity to do something that I had always enjoyed.
Soon offers were pouring in…requests were coming for.birthday parties, engagements, and even offers that I’ve never thought of. I felt blessed, and was so excited. People wanted me! Why worry about such details as prices, and other things that might consume my time. People wanted me! I had a talent that I enjoyed, and they desired my works. I was in demand!!
As my experience and exposure grew, my thoughts were that my clientele would grow, and I could now make a career in doing what I loved! Of course– I was doing even more now–mostly free and discount shoots, but my boss was denying me any merit increases. And to think–that boss was me!
You see–I might have became popular, but I was also becoming very, very broke!
I have grown much wiser from experience, and I feel it is a sad fact that many of us , especially creative individuals–with such natural talents, undervalue our skills, and in turn undersell ourselves. If nothing else is learned from this article–remember that just because you enjoy your job does not mean that you must give it away for free! Of course–I will not charge for this lesson learned. It can be our little secret;)
What ever can you do to stop this cycle of underselling?
1. Take a look at yourself.
You have unique talents and abilities that no one else possesses. What are they?
What is it that you offer that no one else in your field does?
Focus on these. These abilities are worth something.
2. Listen to the experts.
Stop focusing on who might be better than you and learn to use them. Look to leaders in your industry for advice, constructive criticism and inspiration. You will be surprised who will be flattered and offer their advice freely.
3. Have a solid business plan
Never meet with a client without a plan before hand— this prevents you from being caught off guard, and leaves room for you to negotiate. Know what services you are willing to perform, pay expectations, and the time you will spend on the project, among other non negotiable things.
4. Look at the Market.
Educate yourself Sure you are creative–but making a business survive takes more than artistry. It takes solid business smarts. Take the time to see what professionals in your field are offering and asking. Read, train yourself, even take courses…and continue a path towards constant improvement until you get where you want to be…then improve some more.
5. Develop your business skills.
If you are to do more than merely survive in the business world , it is imperative of you to develop the skills to manage and run a business. You must learn skills in money management, time management and people management. Communication skills are a necessity, as well as networking skills.
6. Learn to negotiate properly.
Some people are natural negotiators, but if this in not you, develop and improve upon this skill. Think about what you want and what the other party wants. Decide beforehand where you are and where you are not willing to bend. Never rush into a decision and know your bow out point.
7. Expect More.
Don’t just expect more ‘from’ yourself but ‘for’ yourself. When we have low expectations of our earning potential —potential clients may see it as insecurity. You must teach yourself that you deserve to get more.
8. Learn to say no.
You can very quickly ‘Yes’ yourself into frustration and poverty. As hard as it seems right now, you have to learn to turn down jobs that hurt you and your career path.
9. Think about who you want to be.
Do you want people to see you as a valuable resource in the community?– Someone self confident and willing to be valued and respected? Do not be the one ‘ people call when they can’t afford the one they really want’.
10. Get noticed.
Stop hiding yourself in the shadows and start shining. Do more things like joining interest groups, attending conventions, and workshops. Bring awareness to, and show how passionate you are towards your craft as a professional with people that you meet.
11. Stop acting desperately.
Desperation is not a good thing–it can show a lack of self esteem. Be grateful but don’t be a pushover. Remember you are valuable and they are lucky to have you! Now you just have to live it!
12. Challenge yourself.
One of your worst enemies in business is comfort. Shake things up a little. Do things that you would not normally do, take risks.
13. Get used to the fact that not everyone will see your worth.
Even after years in the business, I still get offers of “we can’t pay you but you will get great exposure.” Listen carefully, “only occasionally does this ever work.”- Satisfied, paying customers are much better for business.
14. Stop the inner voices!
A. “But I want them to like me”
By ‘like’ do you mean ‘respect’? In business, respect has much more value, and starts with you respecting yourself first. Simply ask to be compensated for your time and talent.
B. “But if I am cheaper, I will get more business”
True – you will get many cheap and even some free jobs! – But you may very well miss the big projects because those jobs are important and many people know that they will get what they pay for.
15. Strike a balance.
It is good to volunteer for worthy causes but you will be no help to them when you are broke and worn thin. Set a limit to the amount of volunteer work you are willing to do and stick to it. Pay attention to yourself and when you start feeling burned out– take a break. Always remember that you have a life to maintain outside of business, as others do. Therefore, as you manage your time, do not neglect setting time aside for yourself and those around you not connected to your business life.
In conclusion, remember that in business you are in a constant process of evolving and skill building. This means you must always keep in mind that who and where you are today is not necessarily where you will be this time next year. Do not wait until you are ‘a little better’ to start demanding to be valued. This means to not let any personal feelings of where you are at this moment sabotage you–now or ultimately in your future. You are valuable asset in the business that you do–now go let the world take note!