Wednesday, May 18, 2011

5/18/11—Earning What You're Worth

Today's Draw: Two of Pentacles from Infinite Visions. How do you feel about your job? Do you feel you have an equitable relationship with your employer? Is your work/life balance in balance?

The Two of Pentacles is about balance in earthly matters, whether that be your career, your home life or your finances. In this card, two people come together and each can help the other. Perhaps she can trade one of her chickens for a trinket. Or buy one outright. They may even be a good match romantically...equitable partners who can support each other. 

This is really all we want, right? What's fair? But often we allow employers to take advantage of us. Or we seethe about people who earn a nice paycheck despite their incompetence. Or we fail to appreciate the dozens of different ways our employers compensate us. If most of us really examined ourselves, we wouldn't want to be either over compensated or under compensated. We really just want what's fair. 

As a self-employed person, I've put a lot of thought into "what's fair". Some would say my rates are too high. Some would say they're too low. Without naming numbers, they're at the low end of the high end of the spectrum. As a good, strong writer with 25 years of experience and offering value-added consultative skills, I think my clients get a fair return...and good value...for what they pay. And that's how I like it. Because it puts me in a position of having a good flow of business and the power to pick and choose who I will work for. 

I perceive that a higher rate may make me have to make concessions I'm not willing to make. At the rate I charge, I tend to attract clients who want an experienced writer who is also consultative as to overall creative direction and marketing. At a higher rate, I feel I become less of a partner, more of luxury and, frankly, less appreciated. I believe the same is true working for a lower rate. Now these are all my perceptions and may have nothing to do with reality. But what has proven true to me so far is that my low-end-of-the-high-end rate buys me a client who appreciates and values me and visa versa.

For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you've probably heard me talk about how much I appreciate my clients in the past. And it's not BS. They pay in a timely manner. They give me feedback. They thank me for my work. And they let me know how much my work contributes to their clients' happiness with them. I could say I'm lucky, but the truth of the matter is that I've created this dynamic. I've "fired" a number of my biggest clients in the past for a) the way they handle their accounts payable and b) the way they treat me. So luck has little to do with it. These are the conditions under which I work and I've had the integrity and balls to stand by that for my 15 years as a consultant. 

Which leads to the real point of today's discussion, compensation is about more than money and benefits. It's in the way you're treated, the way you feel, the balance you have between work and life, and numerous other factors that have nothing to do with money, such as your commute, how you feel morally about your employer, etc. Whether you're an employer or employee, consider this today. Are you being fair in your dealings? Are you receiving fair value? Because if you're anywhere out of balance, you may be paying a price that is too high in areas other than compensation. When we measure compensation totally in terms of dollars and cents, we do ourselves a disservice. And when we fail to examine and exercise our options in terms of earning what we're worth, we do ourselves the greatest disservice of all.

Just an addendum for those who are wondering how to price themselves hourly...Someone once gave me a rule of thumb that I think is pretty good. A freelancer, in my business at least, can realistically expect to average 20 hours a week or 1000 hours a year. So decide how much you want to earn in a year (such as $45K) and take the "K" off the end. That should be your hourly rate—$45/hour. Also keep in mind that you WILL be paying your own insurance and you may not be commuting or putting up with other stresses of a full-time job. Of course different businesses work differently. But this works well for people who are doing small project work like advertising people or tarot readers.

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