Worth is in the Eye of the Beholder

I bet you a million dollars you got into a creative line of business not because you wanted to “make a lot of money,” but because there was something about this art that spoke to your heart. You probably can’t even put it into words, but there’s just something about using your creativity to move people that feels like it’s made for you. Am I right?

As artists we often forget that when you step into the world of entrepreneurship with our art, there are new factors that come into play. There are facts of life that make perfect sense in the business world, but are totally foreign to the artist inside of us. It’s like the left side and right side of our brains are in battle with each other for our attention. But if you’re going to make a living selling your art, there’s one particular truth you will need to wrestle with from day one. And that is…

“Worth is in the eye of the beholder.”

What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that it doesn’t really matter what you think you’re worth. What matters is what your potential audience or clients think you’re worth. Now I want to be careful here. I’m NOT saying that your self-worth has no value. It absolutely does. I mean, come on… if YOU don’t believe in your work, no one else will.

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

What I AM saying is that, regardless of what value you personally believe your art to have, ultimately it’s the market that is going to determine what you can sell it for. This is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a curse because you may feel that the amount of time and energy you put into your craft is worth $500/hour. And there may very well be someone out there willing to pay you for that. But if your market can only bear $100/hour, that is a reality you have to face and you’ll need to adjust your rates accordingly.

But the flip side is also true. You may be at a point in your career where you feel you are only worth $20/hour, but there are people in your market just as talented (or even NOT as talented) as you, yet they’re earning that aforementioned $100/hour. My experience has been that most artists fall into THIS category. Where they UNDER-value their worth.

And I get it. I really do. Part of being an artist is feeling like your art is never good enough. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing this, if you truly have the heart and soul of an artist, you will always struggle with feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, or dissatisfaction with your skill level. I believe it’s an empirical quality of every artist. It’s those feelings that bump up against the business facts of life; that make you continue to charge LESS  than what you could get because you feel unworthy to charge it.

We're not worthy.

I can’t help but think of Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey’s characters Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World”, falling prostrate to the ground declaring “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” whenever meeting some rock-and-roll icon. Inside each of us artists is a little Wayne and Garth, bowing to that potential client in front of us who is just waiting to give us money, and we’re exclaiming “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

Double Down

So here’s what I want you to do. Prepare two price points for the next two potential clients you meet. For client #1, give them a price in line with what you always have done. For client #2, DOUBLE IT! I’m not even kidding. If you were going to charge client #1 $2,000 to do a job, charge client #2 $4,000 for that same job.  My friend and colleague John Goolsby of Godfather Films is famous for making this suggestion to new event videographers over the 2+ decades he’s been speaking and teaching. “Double your prices over night” he would say. The overwhelming majority of peple who hear his advice never heed it. But he has stories of the few people through the years who have and it’s changed their whole life.

John has built a multi-million dollar business and travels the world shooting events and corporate videos.
John has built a multi-million dollar business and travels the world shooting events and corporate videos.

For the record, I’ not saying to become that $500/hour pipe-dreamer I mentioned earlier. Because frankly, it’s way more likely you’re so under-valued, that doubling your rates will bring you more in line with the market. But if doubling them is too much for you, increase them 50%, 25%, heck 10%. Just try it. Once you start getting people to say “yes,” that left side of your brain (the analytical and business side), will gain more confidence and start bringing in more money. And that will make the right-brained side of you feel more confident too. You may then come to realize that “Hey, maybe my work really is worth it.”

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