Saturday, November 13, 2010

What's My Value?

How do you put a value on yourself? Your time? Your knowledge? Your skills?

Is it by comparison to others? By market demand? By number of years of experience?

This is the crushing question I have had to face. After 10+ years of earning no salary, being a Stay-At-Home mom, I have just begun my own photography business. And the biggest hurdle I am having is asking people to pay me.

I have no idea why. I mean, what's the point of starting a business if I'm not going to earn money, right? I theorize that it's because I have spent the last decade working for a salary of hugs and kisses. I have repeatedly chosen to be a helpmate for my husband and a nurturing mother to my children and a quiet servant of the Lord. That's all good, but it doesn't exactly command top dollar.

So when it comes time for me to do the work that I'm good at, that I've invested my OWN time and savings into, that I'll be using the profits from to provide for my own family, why do I cower and shrink when negotiating how much I deserve to be paid? What am I so afraid of??? I think I will offend people. I think I will look selfish. I think I will look foolish (believing I might be OVER-valuing myself). I think people will never hire me. I think my fees may promise one thing but my skills may deliver another. I think I will be compared to other professionals. I think I may not meet their expectations and possibly disappoint them.

To try to put a set dollar amount on the value of my work is counter-intuitive to the thinking I've forced my brain into. Being in a marrige, and especially being a mother, I've had to come to terms with serving my family happily and not immediately reaping the benefits. The blessings certainly come to me, but not always in the way I'd expect nor at the time I want. When I spend 3 hours in the middle of the night, comforting a baby who's sick, how am I compensated accordingly? When my children need $50 of school supplies every fall, where's the return in my investment? When I give up personal time so that my husband can have some personal time of his own, how do I put a value on that??? I believe part of the reason my marriage is a good one, is because I've left behind the idea that I will be fairly and equitably reimbursed for the investment of my time, my effort, and my money.

So now, to suddenly do work that I'm proud of and force myself to quantify it for profit, well, that's just next to impossible for me. I am still stuck at the point of being totally and completely happy when clients are simply happy with work I do for them. They could just pay me in compliments, for all I care. Not that I can buy a new lens with a pocket full of compliments, but still they feed my ego more than a fat check ever could.

Texan Mama


Gigi said...

Compliments are nice and all - but....I think this is probably one of the hardest parts of starting a business - what to charge. As I'm sure you've already done - my only suggestion would be to check out the rates of other local photographers and then cut the rate about 10-15%.

Jennifer said...

I think you are doing an awesome job and you deserve a good wage. You put in a lot of work. It may take some time to accept it, but you totally should.

Crystal said...

I LOVE the pictures you truly are amazing! I wish I was close enough for you take pics of our family. I'd pay ya!!!!! SD is pretty far from TX, however! What a bummer for me not to be able to partake of your talent! GOOD LUCK!

misssrobin said...

I have a couple of friends who are photographers and I know they have both struggled with this. It's tough to say you're worth something.

Try to believe it yourself. Then it won't be so bad asking others to believe it. Easier said than done, I know.

Good luck.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

All true stuff. And as a former teacher, you'll recognize my difficulty in trying to charge for tutoring; it's WHAT I DO WELL and while I realize it is apparently a commodity, I like doing it and feel a little weird getting money for my time, energy, & attention.

Luckily I also have a contract with the school district/state and they decide I'm worth a few bucks & send checks.

Good luck, dearest; I will pimp your services as best I can from here :D

The Nice One said...

BEAUTIFUL photos!!!!

Aunt Crazy said...

You are very good at this and you deserve to be paid well. If you have the ability to offer affordable AND adorable pictures to families that wouldn't be able to afford them from anywhere else, do that. I wish you were closer to me, I'd love to have you do my son's senior pictures for me!!! AND, I promise I'd pay well...LOL