for free, ivan jerkic, the marketing guy, splitx, one ivan

Why can’t you do it for free?

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Ivan Jerkić

Ivan Jerkić

I help businesses with my knowledge and experience. I might know a thing or two about technology, marketing, strategy, branding, and growth.

Why can’t you do it for free? You need to value your work. This is not a rant post, just an oversimplified explanation of common misconceptions I believe all of us working in marketing encountered at some point in our careers. I think designers will agree here first.

You see, the work we do is complex. And that complexity makes it hard to measure it in a conventional way of working hours or simple deliverables such as common goods. For example, a logo is much more than what you see. It tells the story, carries emotion, and conveys the personality of a brand.

By branding a product or service for a client, you’re actually, in a way, raising it – giving it the set of rules on how to behave on the market, how to communicate and present itself to the public.

So, when we deliver a project, it’s much more than a sum of working hours. It’s a set of actions that can make or break a client’s business. And, that brings huge responsibility, the one many overlook. Yet, we’re shy to acknowledge that.

Who is ready to take that responsibility and get compensated more or less the same as what you pay for a kilo of potatoes?

Logos are much cheaper than potato

I found this quote one random afternoon scrolling through Instagram. At first, I was like “wtf”, but if you get into it, it makes sense. Let’s do the math:

  • The average price of one kilo of potatoes in the US is $2.5
  • If you browse sites like Fiverr, you’ll see that you can order a logo for $5, two kilos of potatoes
  • Sites like Fiverr give the impression that design is very cheap, therefore leading some of your potential clients to believe it’s true.
  • It’s not Fiverr’s fault, but yours – you’re the one listing that price.

for free, value, value yourself, branding, design, clients, potatoes

Now, let me rephrase this into two questions, one for businesses and one for designers.

Businesses: Will you trust your company’s future image to someone who clearly values her/his work the same as 2 kilos of potatoes? I guess if you want to have a future in the first place, you just – won’t.

Designers: Do you really want to earn five dollars for potentially making your client millions in revenue off the amazing brand image you’ve created?

Well, this may be an oversimplified example, but you get the point. However, there is more.

Now everyone’s unhappy

One thing that’s really important in marketing is to be on the same page with everyone: yourself, your team, the client. Why’s that? It’s because of “small changes”. Can you switch up that color, make it more “lively”? Can you make it 20px bigger, no no I meant smaller? Can you try this video in the campaign instead of that one? Can you move this section up, and show those products further down the landing page?

Oh, yeah – you hate it because you suddenly have a ton of extra work, the client hates it because the project is not going in the desired direction. Everyone hates it.

Be on the same page with everyone, right from the first meeting – and you won’t ever have to deal with situations like these. Define your work as detailed as possible, set realistic expectations. Many times, I’ve seen marketers hyping up the projects unreasonably high just to get that deal signed – therefore leading clients to expect the impossible, just to be disappointed later and cluttered in a ton of “small changes”.

If you clearly define the value of your work, everyone involved will know what to expect. No one will ever ask you again these ugly words “Why can’t you do it for free?”.

Let me oversimplify (again).

You bought a new Toyota Corolla in pearl white color from a local car dealership, because it was the last model left for the time being. 2 months later you regret it since you actually hate white cars. You see a new shiny dark-grey metallic Corolla available now. For sure you won’t go to the dealership and demand a free exchange because you suddenly prefer a different color. You’ll first need to sell your old car for a lower price, and pay up the difference for the new one.

for free, value, value yourself, branding, design, clients, cars

The same logic should apply to the mid-late phase of any marketing project. If you both agree on something, there should not be additional tasks done for free. But, it’s up to you to simplify the complexity of the value of marketing to all project stakeholders. Don’t make false promises. Don’t intentionally skip the details in the hope to overcharge. Karma is a bitch.

Value yourself

This leads us to a simple conclusion. Value yourself. Value your work. If you cannot set a realistic value for your work, certainly no one else can either. By saying this I don’t mean that you should charge more. You should charge your worth. Overcharging is equally as bad as undercharging.

Be the advocate, simplify the complexity of marketing. Let the people know what you exactly do and how that brings intangible value to everyone involved.

Freelancers and agencies’ marketplaces, rather called price dumping sites, are irreversibly damaging the industry, making it cheap, unimaginative, and unoriginal. Instead of ranting about it, make it an opportunity to showcase your creativity and imagination in all aspects of marketing. Value yourself.

Do you want to further discuss this subject? Feel free to drop me a line.

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