tcu frogs amon carter stadium

What’s it Worth to You?

I’m a TCU alum and love going to football games. The first game of the season is this weekend and I’ve already got my purple t-shirt ready to go.

For those of you either not from Texas or unfamiliar with Texas ways, there’s two important things you should know:

  1. Texans take football very seriously (even if players are single-digit ages).
  2. When football season starts, it’s still hot as balls out.

at the tcu rose bowlIn 2011, TCU won the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin and in 2012 we joined the Big 12 conference. The newly shining light on our football program (plus crazy tuition hikes) led up to a massive stadium renovation in 2012. During that season, we played all of our home games during daylight hours because stadium lights weren’t complete.

Bear with me, I’m working up to a point.

The new stadium is multi-tiered and large (45,000 capacity). During that 2012 season, I made the long hike to the top of that stadium many times (I’m too cheap to pay for better seats). And, because the games were during the heat of the day, I was hiking up HOT: like 100 degrees+ hot.

I remember one game in particular, I made the hike to the top and there was a man at the end of the ramp selling ice-cold bottled water (best marketing spot EVER). He charged $4 for a little 16oz bottle of water and I knew I was paying too much, but I didn’t care. It was totally worth it.

It’s About Value, Not Cost

This past weekend I came across a forum post for someone looking to hire out some WordPress work. The phrasing of the post spoke of someone who didn’t understand the value of what they were asking.

Let me show you what I mean. Here’s a screenshot of the request:

work request

What the Poster Communicated:

  • It’s “easy” (though not easy enough I could do it myself)
  • If you’re good at what you do, it won’t take you long (it doesn’t matter that it took you a long time to be skilled enough to do the work quickly)
  • I need this work ASAP (I didn’t plan my project well and need your help to bail me out)
  • I’ll manipulate you with the hope of future work (I’ll give you worthless stock options!)

In this case, the Poster attributed no value to the person who might be in a position to help. Even though the post doesn’t mention cost, it’s clear that the expectation is a quick-turnaround without a full understanding of the technical work involved. The omission of cost indicates that the Poster isn’t concerned with paying for the value someone could give by helping out on short notice.

I’m gonna tell you right now: If you want me to give up personal time on a weekend to jump into your project, it’s going to cost more than regularly scheduled time. That time is worth more to me, and therefore I value it more and will not give it away for less.

Carrie, You’re Over-Reacting

It’s possible I misread the post or assumed wrong things. But even if I did, I still think there’s an important takeaway. When you’re hiring out work (whether it’s for your website or for a car repair), it’s important to look at more than just the end result.

  • What’s the ease of communication?
  • Is this person reasonable and reliable?
  • Do I get consistent, honest feedback?
  • Is this person working toward my best interest?
  • Is this person available to me at the drop of a hat?

You can ask those questions of a service provider, regardless of the type of service. For each question you answer “yes” to, be prepared to pay more, because that’s added value.

Costs will vary from provider to provider, but when it matters — when you’ve got a problem and need to find someone with a solution — what’s that worth to you?

Carrie Dils

I’m a recommended Genesis Developer with 15+ years experience in web design and development. I'm creative, resourceful, and ready to put my mind to your project. Want to discuss your WordPress project? Let's talk!

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve always taken the promise of “more work in the future” to be code for “I’ll be short-changing you now, though.” I also saw this post and had the same reaction, Carrie – I don’t think you overreacted at all.

  2. says

    Spot on! And, no, you aren’t overreacting. I see these kind of posts all the time. People ask for some pretty complex stuff and don’t want to pay very much. They do it by devaluing the worth of the task in the job description. Crazy. Good rant! very good | I hope Norcoss agrees

  3. says

    Agreed, no overreaction here. This is something we all see way to often, so many red flags as you have pointed out. And as mentioned, anything that promises more work down the road, bigger dollars, or even, my God, some kind of partnership, is waving the big red flag proudly.

    • says

      Jackie – you’re right. There were people who responded to this request that they could do the work and I think that just irritated me more. Before you can sell your value, you have to value yourself. One the one side of the coin, I’m preaching to the choir by showing off an example of a poorly-worded work request, but on the other side, I want people to understand what they’re worth – not in a false or trumped up way, but in a way that helps them crawl out of the mentality that they should give away their services for pennies. There’s no success in that mentality, only “getting by.”

      Apparently I was not done ranting.

  4. says

    Sometimes, people mean well but don’t realize how they come off; other times, they know exactly what they’re doing.

    Regardless, I think you’re spot on with your assertions.

    And the “possibility” of “more work in the future” is either a lie or just betting on the come.

  5. says

    LOL Every. Single. Day. 30 times a day.

    I don’t think you overreacted at all, but I have found out after fielding a whole bunch of emails just that this one, that some people are really, and I mean REALLY terrible at written communication. Condescending. Rude. Pushy. Then on the phone they’re great to work with. It’s really bizarre and I still don’t understand how there can be such a giant disconnect.

    I mean, some people are just terrible, but I usually try and feel things out a little bit more before I totally blow it off for good.

  6. says

    Ryan, I can actually see where it comes from. I am terrible at academic papers but I once had an English teacher tell me I had a real way with words. For some people, the pressure of appeasing an authority through writing creates wacky emails and papers. On the phone, they can’t second guess everything they say and edit it to make it worse so they come off more human.

    But Carrie, I don’t see it as mean at all. I thought you pointed out the red flags nicely.

  7. says

    There must be a book out there somewhere that these idiots read that tells them to say these exact things. It is ALWAYS easy. If someone else does it! “Future business” is ALWAYS a dead giveaway :)

  8. Lindsey Riel says

    Greatness. I love the addition of self worth in the comments. That just might be the underlying factor in both the request and response.

  9. Ginger says

    Totally agree Lindsey.

    The last line is the most troubling to me. I find it condescending in nature, dangling a carrot. I have worked with de-valuers, unfortunately discovered after acceptance. Now I’d like to think I know better and will at least do more homework on my end before hand.

  10. says

    I saw the post, and while I really believe no harm was meant, I’m glad you decided to call out the poster – if nothing else, that person will realize how it was received by others. I think the poster was trying to convey a sense of “This won’t take long, so please help me” but it didn’t come across that way at all.

    From a freelancer point of view, every time I’ve taken on a “simple” project or an emergency, it wasn’t worth my time. The sooner we all get onboard with refusing to work with people who don’t value what we know/do, the better off we’ll be. Appreciate the post. :)

  11. Len says

    I get this even in my field Carrie. Someone will call me with what they claim is a small job, one that should be easy enough for me to tackle, won’t take long and they need it done ASAP.

    Whether it’s easy or not is irrelevant. Whether it’s a big or small job is irrelevant. How long it takes me to do it is irrelevant.

    If I’m required to drop what I’m doing to accommodate you it’s going to cost you. If I have to give up some free time to accommodate you it’s going to cost you. With respect to the price, I set the price – not you. As far as the line “may lead to possible work in the future” goes, um, no thanks. I’m more than capable of finding my own work – I do so all the time.

    Not to toot my own horn but I already willingly give of myself without expectation of return to others. I resent the fact that someone expects me to drop what I’m doing or give up some free time to work on their little project for a rock bottom rate so that they continue on their merry little way making money with their website.

    Thanks for posting this “rant”. :)

  12. says

    With you 100% Carrie. I remember when I first started working with Genesis. I had no idea about PHP, my HTML knowledge was basic and my understanding of Javascript was none-existant.

    When I used to ask on the forums for help, I didn’t have any idea of how much it would cost. I knew I didn’t have the budget, so I went away and learnt how to do it myself. That process has made me appreciate how long it takes to acquire that knowledge and how much that knowledge is worth.

    It’s taken me four years to get the point now where I can do pretty much anything I want. However, I’m still learning and there are many areas where I could improve drastically (cough *Javascript* cough).

    I’m more than happy to help out guys and girls on the forum, Facebook group and Twitter with basic queries, but the reality is I’m already doing the job of four people. I simply don’t have time to do freebies that I could – and should – charge my full rate for.

    Is that harsh? Maybe, but the reality is that we have a skill and we need to be more careful with what we give away.

    Oh and “There may be work in the future for you” is a red flag for “I want you to work for free, and to be honest, there’ll be no work in the future because I’m not even making any money myself”. So you’re 100% right to rant against it.

  13. says

    I have to chuckle, because I’m the one who responded to her, and ended up doing the work – and you’re 100% right on all your translations Carrie, this was her mindset at first.

    Luckily, I asked more probing questions and she was easy to communicate with. She was willing to be educated about making assumptions about what’s “easy”. I was able to educate her on the Agile project management methodology of “Design as you go”, and the pros and cons of doing design and planning on the fly.

    I quoted her my price and she didn’t balk, I did some fun toolset work and made some quick coin.

    And I’ve paid my dues on the whole “future work” thing, (i.e., dangling transparent carrots) and Pammy don’t go there. Show me the money or walk.

    Thanks for writing the way you do – I love it!

    • says

      Hi Pam,
      Thanks for clarifying your experience and glad that it worked out well for you. That’s the goal – always a win/win on both sides (she got what she needed on a short turnaround and you pocketed some quick cash).

      Cheers,
      Carrie

  14. says

    If a client includes “it’s just a…” in the request, I usually decline the work because the perceived value of “just a little thing” often means they’re so out of touch with my value.

    Good on you for calling the poster out (double-y good for not naming names, you’re such a class act, Carrie!) and calling attention to this issue.

  15. says

    I’ve seen this kind of thing so many times, and I always want to strangle the people who have no experience of code who say “It should only take you an hour.” If you don’t know how to do my job, then don’t tell me how to do it.

    DEFINITELY charge more if it’s a last-minute rush job: the client’s bad planning is not YOUR emergency. I’m glad this worked out for Pam, who is clearly experienced enough not to fall into traps, but yes, that job posting had red flags all over it, and is not one I’d’ve wasted time responding to. (Though actually I gave up on Types and Views a while ago, having concluded that it’s better to roll your own CPTs.)

    In my copious spare time I’m working on revamping my business site, and this has made me think I should put in a page about factors that can adjust the price upwards.

    • says

      the client’s bad planning is not YOUR emergency

      Spot on.

      As for factors that adjust the price upwards, I like to think that when you hire me, you’re getting all those things anyway (that is, great communication, expertise, etc – everything but “rush work”) and that’s why my price tag is what it is (versus a line-item add-on for each extra value). People that don’t value (or place as much importance) on those things will naturally be “weeded out” based on my rates. But I agree that certain things (i.e. retainer, rush, etc) warrant a noted up-charge.

  16. says

    Awesome post and fantastic comments. Like everyone else, I’ve a seen this countless of times. The “this is a simple project for someone who know what they’re doing” is pretty annoying coming from someone who doesn’t know how to do it and has to hire someone. I don’t go to my mechanic saying “this fix is easy.” Also, someone telling you their project could lead to more work is typically just a way to get the developer excited and take the project for less. I stay away from these types of client.

    There are websites filled with this type of client, though. Elance is one great example: “Here are my requirements, they’re easy for someone knowledgeable (though I am completely talking out of my @$$), I don’t have money to pay you anything worth while but I might send you more work if you break your back on this despite being paid next to nothing (not really the intent, though).”

  17. Angie Vale says

    Great post Carrie,
    When I first started I was keen to please everyone and I didn’t charge enough for my time but I’m getting much better at explaining the value of what I do. I sometimes help people out by fixing things that don’t work on their current site by charging an hourly rate and sometimes they come back to me to build a new site for them or for training.

    I hate it when people say “I only need a simple website of a few pages” because straight away they are under valuing your time & experience. If that is the case I tell them to go to Weebly and don’t waste my time!

    • says

      Thanks for sharing, Angie. Getting comfortable with the value you offer isn’t an easy task (I’m still learning it), but to paraphrase someone else from these comments, we tell people how to treat us by how we communicate. Sounds like Pam did an awesome job of re-framing the conversation so that the Poster understood her value.

  18. says

    I’ve always taken the promise of “more work in the future” to be code for “I’ll be short-changing you now, though.”
    Yikes, is that how it sounds when others say it? I have been saying that for years and did not short change the worker. My intention was to say “dont mess me around, dont be dishonest, dont cheat and I will give you first refusal of future work”.

    That being said, the job being mentioned above really does seem to neglect the amount of work required, assuming the person can simply jump straight in and start coding immediately without first auditing the code and understanding how it is working so he can complete his task properly. Wanting it done that same day is completely unreasonable.

    • says

      Hey David,
      Thanks for pointing out how you’ve used that phrase (and your good intentions with it). I think that the better way to communicate the same intent is “I’m looking to develop a ongoing relationship with a trusted developer/designer/whatever, so this would be a great project to see if we’re a good fit for each other on future projects.”

      I know there’s always a trust risk when working with someone the first time, but I always ask people in the community (privately) if they’ve had experience with a freelancer before I hire them. In other words, I research them. By the time I hire them, I’m not worried about them being dishonest or cheating – at that point it’s just a question of whether their skills and our work styles are a good fit.

      Carrie

  19. says

    I think your interpretation is fair. I’ve noticed that my friends who don’t freelance (i.e. 95% of them) often forget the time, skills, and costs of running a business. Most of them react to price, because to them these types of jobs are just commodities. Like you said, they don’t see the value.

    I’ve also noticed that being a freelancer changed how I view the services provided by other contractors, e.g. my plumber. Pre-freelance me would want cheap, fast, and good. Of course as the saying goes, I have to pick two.

  20. says

    Alas, I also made the error of being helpful to someone in the SP forums earlier this year.

    What she was asking for wasn’t unreasonable, and yes, my experience allowed me to find the problem quickly and fix the major issue and suggest solutions for two other issues I found, and a written synopsis detailing my recommendations of site issues she should address (not even proposing that I do the work, just being helpful in detailing what I found and what she should fix!)

    Although she agreed upfront to a price for that minor security cleanup and evaluation, 6 months later and 3 promises of payment to come, I still haven’t been paid. She was doing this for a non-profit website that she’d inherited, and couldn’t figure out, too.

  21. says

    Actually, because of that, I changed the way I approach new projects. If I haven’t worked with them before, and it’s a fixed price project rather than a maintenance deal, they pay 50% up front before any work is done :)

    Seems to be working so far.

  22. says

    Great post Carrie,
    Yes, Summer is spot on. 50% up-front is not unreasonable. Trying to get the balance could of course be a problem, but at least you never work for nothing.

    I really would recommend using a written contract too. At first I didn’t feel comfortable with this. But a good contract helps to protect the freelancer as well as the client. I was shocked to find that clients actually love a written contract too.

    I use a variation of Andrew Clarke’s ‘Contract Killer’, which he has generously open-sourced. Many clients won’t even read it, but I have had some actually burst out laughing. It’s amusing to watch their faces turn from a frown as they expect to have to trawl through pages of small print legalese to a smile as they find they can actually understand what they are reading and enjoy the humour. You don’t normally expect jokes in a legally binding document!

    A contract doesn’t need to be dull and hopefully you will never have to go to court with it, but I think they can help things turning that sour anyway. Definitely worth a look.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Last week, I decided to submit some proposals on Elance, a popular website for hiring freelance workers and for freelancers to find work. My intention was not to actually look for work on Elance but rather to see what type of success I would have when submitting proposals that included a price I actually set (a price that did not consider the client’s BS budget for the requirements). For each project, I would take some time to determine the price I would quote anyone who contacted me about a project with those requirements. In summary, I had NO success. I’m not going to lay out a bunch of data and specifics about each project. Instead, I want to share some interesting points and my overall opinion of finding work on Elance. For some more opinion on this subject, check out a post on medium.com about “the real cost of outsourcing work to the cheapest bidder” and Carrie Dils’s post, “What’s it Worth to You?“ […]

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