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.

I knew I was paying too much, but I didn't care. It was totally worth it. Click To Tweet

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?

47 thoughts on “What’s it Worth to You?”

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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).”

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  4. 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!

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.


  6. 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.

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