It seems like this past week’s trend has been the perceived value of your product or service based on the price. In other words, are people paying what they think you’re worth.
It started with an entitled client at my day job, complaining about things that she wasn’t getting that wasn’t included in the product she’s paying for. I’ve gone over and beyond for said employee, giving her hours and pages that were far outside of the scope of her website. This client could be paying 50x what she’s truly paying for what I’m giving her, and she’s still not satisfied.
This isn’t my first encounter with this. In the past, I did not charge appropriately. I was slaving for hours, which diminished my true earnings. Looking back on it, it’s pretty sad because I was MISERABLE. Those were not my ideal clients.
Now this isn’t a shot at these clients personally (not really anyway). This is a lesson in value. As a business owner, you may not be in it for the money, but you’ve still gotta eat. You can’t pay your bills with shout outs, likes, and hearts. People who truly value your work will pay for it.
My friend John T. Unger tells this terrific story from his days as a street poet. He would do a poetry reading and afterward some guy would come up to him and say, “Your poem changed my life, man!” And John would say, “Oh, thanks. Want to buy a book? It’s five dollars.” And the guy would take the book, hand it back to John, and say, “Nah, that’s okay.” To which John would respond, “Geez, how much is your life worth?”
Now, let’s talk about music, which is where I really see this happening. After Napster got popular, supporting an artist took on a new look. Why buy an album when you could pirate it? Now we’re in the age of streaming, where the artist gets maybe pennies per play (in which some artists on my playlist have at least received the cost of an album from my plays alone). There are people who don’t buy albums anymore. There are some artists I have supported via album sales, because I enjoy their work.
Books, too. While I love the public library, and have a large digital library of ebooks and audiobooks, I still can’t give up going to independent bookstores and purchase a book at full price. Why? Because I appreciate the art. I show my appreciation by buying.
The struggle of black businesses is the expectation of “the hook up”. While I’m sure it exists in other communities, I don’t know any other culture who has this sense of entitlement so badly. While I love a good deal and bargain just as much as the next woman, I also realize that the black owned businesses that I support has priced accordingly to make money. Not to break even. Not to come up short. Why would I put them at a disadvantage?
So as a patron and a business owner, we have duties: pay for something you find valuable, and charge for something that is providing value. There are gifts in free stuff too, but it should not be a way of life.