This topic is dicey. And like a gamble, it’s hard to place a bet on it. But let’s face it, an artwork is worth nothing without a strong sense of self worth. I’ll tell you why if you read beyond the first paragraph.
Okay, now you are here. Let’s get started.
I learned the hard way that the value you place on your art as a designer is unconsciously determined by the value you place on yourself. You can only charge what you are worth. Therefore, we must not work only to improve our art, but also invest considerable amount of time into carving a worthy self image.
I usually have a good laugh each time a top designer advises younger ones not to sell themselves cheap. Look, you can’t charge above a perceived self-worth, otherwise customers would argue and bargain till thy kingdom come. And that could be hell.
I know designers who work hard to improve their arts in order to charge better. Yet there is no corresponding improvement in prices. They still charge poorly. Yes, it’s important to push out quality designs. Like every valuable product, there’s a direct correlation between stunning designs and high prices. However, designers must work to build self-worth.
Gaining a strong sense of self-worth ensures people play fair with you. But the question is, how do you determine your self-worth as a designer? For me, I asked myself some very salient personal questions.
How well do you understand yourself? How good are you at what you do? What value do you place on your time? How much are you willing to get in exchange for your time? What value are you bringing to the table?
Answers to the questions above will go long way in determining not only your self-worth, but also your art worth.
Over the years, I have come to realise this: the root cause of many designers’ ridiculous charges for artworks is low self-esteem. The moment a client asks for a price, the subconscious mind quickly sums up aggregate self worth and then present a price that matches your present value.
So work on yourself. Work to shape perception through a likeable and respectable self image. We have no idea how much the prices of artwork is affected by self esteem. A man who is down on himself can never see the value he’s bringing to a team through his art.
Once in a while, carry out an honest self appraisal. Avoid flattering yourself, but ensure you understand how much value you are giving at every given time. This self assessment is useful for two reasons: first, to know how much value you can bring into a project. And secondly, it gives confidence in your ability to create.
A good understanding of self is all that matters. It shows how you allocate time to things that are important to you. And it extends to how you charge for time spent on a project. We all know that time is an irrecoverable asset; and if we must exchange it for pay, it must be worth the perceived value of self, otherwise we would continue to get less than we deserve for works done.
Many a designer has drawn a price list that shows charges for design services. Whether we admit it or not, the price list is often a reflection of the value we place upon ourselves. Of course there are other contributing factors like industry standards, customers purchasing power, designer’s location etc. But none of these factors rivals self-worth.
A team that holds themselves in high esteem will inevitably possess a formidable sense of self-worth, which will determine value and further reflect the amount the team is willing to charge for such value.
So stop worrying about a competitor who charges less than a design is worth. Instead, work on improving your artworks and self-worth.
How do you build self-worth?
To thyself be true. A good understanding of self is key.
Get informed. Know all you can about design. Your knowledge and understanding of design principles and how to bend them at will will definitely give you an edge and help improve your self value. Being grounded in the art is the first step to earning the respect of customers and peers within the industry and that goes a long way to improve personal worth.
Self development increases self confidence, which adds to the value we offer as individuals. After all, we all need some level of confidence to do what we do.
Specialise somewhere. Design is a very wide field. A Jack of all hardly gets the respect he or she deserves. In the long run, people crave and depend on the services of experts.
An expert is an individual who has spent over 10,000 hours mastering just one thing. He knows the intricacies and almost every detail of the art offhand. He takes pride in the quality of his work. His confidence lies in the amount of time he has invested in perfecting his skills. The sacrifices and endurance over the years won’t let him charge peanuts for his services. He knows himself.
Know thyself and charge the amount you can gladly pay yourself.
Pay attention to customers. Get feedbacks and learn to improve customer experiences. At the end of the day, a good customer experience increases perceived self-worth.
What are customers saying about you? Do you leave them better than you met them? Always remember that the best advert remains the words of the mouth. The words of customers can make or break you, and potentially halt your growth. If they get a beautiful experience, be rest assured they will talk about it and share with others. And this will impact positively on overall self-worth.
Respect time. There’s a reason designers abroad charge hourly. In the grand scheme of things, time is all we put up for sale. A man that respects himself respects his time. Wear a watch. Take your time….seriously.
If you’re going to give up five hours of your life on a project, it’s only fair that the pay be commensurate to time spent. Pro Bono is good, save it for your CSR.
You earn the respect of people around you by being time conscious. Be too available and risk being taken for granted.
Finally, act like a king and you will be treated like one. Once you know how much you are worth, never settle for less than you deserve. Yes, sometimes you might have to walk off the negotiation table without a deal. That’s fine. It’s business. You win some, you lose a handful.
But look, when you lose, be royal about it. Look at it this way, “damn! I thought they could afford me. I was wrong. Next!!!”
It’s not arrogance; it’s a statement of a man who knows his worth.
Call to Action
I would like to hear from you. Perhaps you know more ways to help us improve our self-worth as designers, please go ahead, share with us in the comment section or via my social media handles.