Saturday, June 25, 2011

{ My } customers value my work

"When you undervalue what you do, the world will undervalue who you are"
Oprah Winfrey
If any one should know what it means to be valued, especially professionally, surely it is Oprah.
Like many professional artisans, I have a hard time pricing my work to accurately reflect the time it takes to create it. It's always a balancing act between what time and effort I have poured into any piece, and what the market will bear. In my recent foray into time budgeting (see my last entry) and the faux interview I conducted for myself, I was looking at what I value and where I need to direct my attention. 
I believe there is a perception out there in the world that if an activity brings us joy, visible, expressed joy, then we should receive no other compensation. If we are defensive about wanting to be paid, we only exacerbate the misconception that we don't deserve to be paid.
I remember 23 years ago when I was in college, working for Greenpeace collecting door-to-door, with my earnings based on commissions. I was, and still am, passionate about the environment, and the job was a bit of a dream at the time. Sometimes people would attack me with the accusation that I was paid for my work. I found that if I cowered and apologized, I got no donation but smug looks and a closed door. 
But if I immediately, with great conviction and no trace of humility, said, "Of course I'm paid! I proud to work for Greenpeace. We're doing important work!" the prospective donor's whole demeanor changed, and perhaps their thinking too. Usually I then got some donation or they joined.
What had to change was MY thinking. I had to value the work I was doing, even though I was enjoying it and believed in it. I was helped by some training materials from the office, talking about the value of professionals in the environmental awareness movement. They recommended speaking about being a professional with valuable time to our leads. 
But I think what really made the difference was me conveying the idea that I was affronted at the suggestion that I was a mere unpaid volunteer.  We weren't some penny ante, half-baked, nickel-and-dime, amateur hour outfit, you know. We were professional activists.
People sometimes undervalue my art. They look at my dolls or bags and sneer at the prices. Well, clearly they don't see the work or the value to themselves in something beautifully hand made. These are just not { my } customers. There is no trying to persuade them differently - that is just another poor use of my time. And it is certainly not useful to me to charge less.
People who do value the dolls, seem happy to pay, as if they have found a wonderful bargain. (They have.) 
Now I have started my new scrap booking business, and I am seeing the same kind of dichotomy of response to my prices. My prices are perfectly in tune with what others are charging, and frankly it's not worth it to me to work for less. My time is valuable. Some people say, "How can you afford to charge so little?". They know the time a good page takes - usually because they are croppers themselves. Unfortunately that means they aren't my customers.
Others say "$30 a page?!" with incredulity, and think that they should pay less. Folks, minimum wage is $8/hour. Your page will take at least three hours plus materials. Still think it's too much?  You are just not { my } customer. 


Zenmomma said...

Your work is beautiful. Time, talent and love woven into exquisite pieces of art.

Robyn Coburn Writer/Artist said...

Thank you Mary. That's a lovely testimonial. May I quote you?

Britta said...

Unfortunately we live in a walmart world where all the average consumer seems to care about is price... Fortunately, there are a few smart people who value quality over quantity. Good post!

Robyn Coburn Writer/Artist said...

Yes the few, the smart, the customers I mean.
Thanks for reading.