Now I love a bargain just as much as anyone else, but I realize (in most cases), you get what you pay for. As an entrepreneur, a creative, or a corporate employee, you are the best advocate for your brand, product, or your work. If you undervalue yourself, other people are guaranteed to as well.
A brand recently approached me to partner with them in an upcoming campaign. I didn't have a past relationship with the brand, but I was excited because it was an opportunity that would move me in the direction I wanted to move into. They asked me if I was interested and I told them I was. Then they proceeded to provide me with what the compensation would be for the work they were asking me for. My initial reaction was disappointment, which was quickly followed by rationalization. I knew they were lowballing me, but because I was so concerned about missing out on an "opportunity," I proceeded to convince myself why it would be a good idea.
The day I was prepared to respond to the brand and accept the offer, my spirit was so uneasy. I literally could not shake the feeling. You know when your stomach is turning, your heart is racing, you feel antsy like you have to do something, but you don't know what...that feeling. A few hours later, I was listening to a podcast, and they were having a conversation about knowing your worth. Their entire conversation was a reenactment of how I was feeling. Well, come on, Jesus! I emailed the brand back and told them that, unfortunately, I could not accept what they were offering and provided them with a counter-offer.
Later that afternoon, I get an email from another brand looking to collaborate. This time, they provided me with a detailed explanation of what they were looking for and asked me to provide them with my rate. I provided them with about 15% more than what I was looking to get, and after some negotiation, we landed on MY RATE. Come on, Jesus!
The actions you take from a place of fear, scarcity, and past failures are much different from the actions you take from a place of peace, confidence, and trust. Having confidence in yourself will inspire the confidence others have in you. They will see your value, and instead of trying to low ball you, they will figure out how to afford you.
Now, by no means am I saying that there are not times where working for less than the ideal amount is not appropriate. You may have an opportunity to volunteer your services because you believe strongly in the mission, and there is no budget available. Or, you're gaining an invaluable experience and exposure that you'd willingly do it without pay. Either case, an equally beneficial relationship is formed, where you are not left feeling taken advantage of.
Knowing your worth takes time. Here are some ways that can help you get there:
Photography // Ali Folster
Get A Grasp On What You're Good At
What is it that you do well? Whether it's on the job or running your own business, what are the tasks, the skills, and traits you are known for? Sometimes we are so familiar with ourselves that it's hard to see our value from others' perspectives. Try sitting down with a friend or family member, and outline what your strengths are.
Cultivate Those Strengths
It's not enough to be good at something. Lots of people are. What makes you great is perfecting your craft and adding your own flare. If it's on the job, what do you do that makes you stand out from your coworkers? What is it that makes customers keep coming back? If you're an influencer, what is it about your brand that is memorable? This takes time. Learning, practice, consistency, and dedication will bring you from good to great.
Put A Number On It
One of the things I notice, especially in communities of color, is that we often operate in an "anyway-you-bless-me-I'll-be-satisfied" mindset. This can cause us to feel like we are ungrateful or asking for too much if we ask for our worth. I'm talking to myself as well when I say this; we have to stop that! Whether it's a brand, customers, or your boss, they see your value, but their job is to keep their out-of-pocket expense as low as possible. Putting a figure on the value of your services will give you a benchmark for negotiation and help you to know when you're being lowballed. If you're unsure where to start, talk to a close peer to get a reference or talk with someone who has previously been where you are, who can help guide you.
Remember, sometimes you will have to pass up on opportunities. But, the right positions will come that will move you right into your place of purpose. Don't sell yourself short.