I think I just lost a sale. But you know what? I don’t feel bad about it at all.
As an ex-bf of mine used to say, some money is just too expensive.
Sometimes it’s too expensive because you can tell the client will be a pain in the neck.
Sometimes it’s too expensive because you’re so not interested in the project that you’ll hate every moment you spend doing it. And hate yourself for ever taking it on.
And sometimes it’s too expensive because, although it may represent a decent chunk of change on the face of it, the client’s budget won’t begin to compensate you for the amount of time you’ll have to put into the job.
That was the case here. The project, a custom ketubah, sounded benign enough – not a design concept that made me jump up and down with anticipation, but something I could enjoy doing, and possibly even sell prints of down the road (always thinking, as I am, of how to make as much money from my work as possible – a necessity if you’re going to make a living from your art!)
The problem was the clients have a budget of $X, and what they really want is a $3X-$6X ketubah. Lots of detail, covering lots of surface area. That adds up to a very expensive piece, and if they’re not paying me the full price that my time is worth, then I’m subsidizing them.
In other words, I’m paying for it with time that I could spend doing other things that are important to me.
Much as I would love to offer my work to people who don’t have a lot of money (hey, I don’t currently earn enough money to afford myself! I get it! This is why I offer ketubah prints, which allow people who can’t afford an original custom work of art to still buy my work), the hard reality is, if I charge less than my normal rate in order to make my work accessible to people with less money, then what I’m really doing is hurting myself.
That’s time I could spend creating new art (to sell!), or writing, or working on getting singing gigs, or all sorts of things that are important to me.
Do I really want to spend my precious time that way? If I’m going to effectively donate my time (and hence, my money), do I really want to donate it to them? I have charities that I give to (my favorite is Animals Asia), and if I “donate” my time/money to these particular clients, that means less to give to my carefully selected charities.
When looked at from this perspective, the choices are a lot clearer.
So I offered as many options as I could, while drawing my line in the sand. This couple likes lots of detail, which is one of my specialties. For their budget, I could use a lot of detail, but it would have to be limited to a small area, rather than surrounding the entire ketubah text.
Or, if they wanted the design to encircle the entire text, I could do that, but not with the same level of detail. It would have to be looser, more expressive, more abstract.
This was, of course, not what they wanted to hear. They want what they want, and they kept circling round and round, trying to figure out how they could get what they want out of me. And I just kept holding firm.
Yes, I’m sure they’re a lovely couple. Yes, I know they don’t have a lot of money to spend. But neither do I. I’m working on making a living here, and if it comes down to them or me, call me selfish, but I’m choosing me.
Does the idea of some money being too expensive resonate with you? Have you ever had a hard time drawing a line in the sand? Does it make a difference to think of it in terms of subsidizing YOU or subsidizing THEM?
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!