Many years ago I worked as a Project Manager for a general contractor who did both residential and commercial work.
Since it was before the great recession but smack in the middle of the reality television boom we found that many of our best customers were Do-It-Yourself (DIY) homeowners who had learned the hard way that some projects were much harder than they appeared on television.
I can’t tell you how many times I saw the carnage that came from a DIYer’s attempt to do some basic electrical/plumbing work let alone the crooked tiles and the cabinets that had doors that wouldn’t open.
What Is Good Is Not Cheap & What is Cheap Is Not Good
Been thinking about it all for personal and professional reasons. Within the professional world there is a conversation about whether writers should work for free so that they can gain exposure.
And within the personal there is a Bar Mitzvah coming and we are smack in the middle of trying to figure out how to cover all the things we want to do and your favorite writer is trying to decide if he is going to hire someone to do a photo montage or if he’ll do it himself.
I can’t articulate how irritating it is to me to hear writers talk about how smart it is to work for free and how exposure is so valuable. Until exposure is accepted as legal tender by the banks, power companies and grocery stores my interest in it is limited.
Limited because there are some opportunities where exposure brings enough juice to the table to merit a real conversation but most of the time exposure is code for we can’t afford to pay you or we don’t value your work all that much.
Exposure has a step cousin called cheap that I am not real fond of either.
Cheap is usually the favorite child of the crowd that loves the low price leader and the people who don’t value a professional writer’s work because they think it is easy to sit at a computer and write copy.
I am not a fan of theirs because frequently what is good is not cheap & what is cheap is not good.
The root of all this is value and when you don’t value something you often don’t want to pay for it. Some of prospects and former customers told me they didn’t like paying so much for construction because they saw it as work that was done by the stupid and mindless.
I didn’t engage them in philosophical discussions or point out that they spent two weeks and $8000 dollars doing something that my crew would have done for half , in half the time and with a much higher quality finish because I didn’t see an upside to it.
As a professional writer life has been a little different because I have had discussions about value and explained why I rarely work for free. One client asked me to justify my rate and I told them that I could do a better job than they could in half the time that it would take them to do it.
They saw the benefit in that. Not only was the finished product better than what they could do but it was turned around in far less time than it would have taken them and time is always worth something.
But that happened because we came to an agreement on the value of the work. It doesn’t always turn out that way.
There are people in other countries who speak English who work for pennies and they are grabbing chunks of business. I don’t fault them for trying to make a living but it is worth mentioning that you can speak/write perfect English and not produce the kind of copy people need because there are cultural differences.
What About That Photo Montage?
One of the things we want to do for my son’s Bar Mitzvah is put together a photo montage of pictures. Think of it as a slideshow with some music.
Amidst my commentary about the need to hire professionals I mentioned that I am thinking about doing the montage myself. Since I appear to be contradicting myself I thought I’d explain why.
This is a project that I know I am capable of doing because it is similar to other work I have done but my first choice would be to hire a professional to handle it.
That is because I am certain they will do a better job and it will take them less time to complete it. Time is valuable and I would prefer to focus it elsewhere.
However it looks like the budget won’t allow for it so I’ll probably take it on. But unlike some of my former clients if I screw it up I don’t have to worry about being forced to redo a bathroom or spend thousands to repair the botched electrical work in my dining room.