The letter below wasn’t written by me. It was written by Blair Enns, the BC based speaker, author, and founder of Win Without Pitching.
I orginally stumbled across this letter back in 2011 on the blog over at Industrial Brand and I went from there right to the original post. The title on Blair’s posting read,
Why I Charge More: A Designer’s Open Letter to His Future Clients.
After reading it I liked it right away. I also thought it was relevant not just to those in the design industry, but to any entrepreneur who is providing a product or service to a market, and so I thought I’d try to draw some more attention to the message this note contains. In rereading the letter six years later, I’ve realized that the message stands as true today as it did for me when it originally made an impact on me.
Mr. Enns opens by suggesting that sometimes we are in it for the money, but points out the irony that exists in the fact that the less we’re paid, the more likely we are actually doing it for the money. He says, “When we’re paid well, it’s suddenly about something much bigger.” I agree 100%. When I’m paid well, that client gets in my head and I think more often of them, the project, and how I can best impress with the work I’m doing – moreso than I think about the financial payoff.
So, in the interest of sharing good things when I find them, here is an open letter to not only my future clients, but perhaps yours as well…
Dear Future Client,
The more I charge you, the more pressure I put on myself to perform for you.
The client who grinds me on price is the least satisfied. They get less attention from me and are most likely to be pissed off at me. And I don’t really care, because to be honest, I resent them. The very fact that they are on my roster reminds me that I’m part prostitute. For them, I’m doing it for the money and as it isn’t very much money I’m not troubled by not doing it well. They pay me a paltry sum, I perform poorly, they get angry and I resent them. We can have that type of relationship if you like.
The client who pays me the premium gets my best work. They’re the one I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about, wondering if I’m doing all I can to earn their money. When they call, I jump.
Hell, I call them first. I take pride in moving their business.
I imagine they wince when they open my bill (they don’t say), but they thank me for all I do for them. They’re the one I worry about.
I’m great at what I do, but if someone hires me without giving me the resources (money, time, access) to do a great job, it’s easy for me to rationalize poor performance. When a client gives me everything I ask for, they removes all the obstacles to a high quality outcome. There’s no way for me to rationalize anything less than perfection.
There is no greater pressure than the pressure I put on myself, and the only way you can add to my own sense of pressure is to pay me well. Yelling won’t do it. Neither will threatening to pull your business. My deep sense of obligation comes from you paying me well enough to dispatch all of the excuses. Then I have to prove to you, and more importantly, to me that I am as good as I say I am.
So, I’ve given you my price and it’s the price I need to charge to bring a deep sense of obligation to the job. Will I work for less? Probably. Can you negotiate with me? Sure. We can have that type of relationship if you really want me to be that type of designer and you want to be that type of client.
Let’s just understand each other before we get started.
Note: The original posting stated that anyone reading it is free to edit and use it without attribution, but I’ve included it here pretty much as it appeared originally, and I like attribution, so of course Mr. Enns gets full credit.
Jamie Purches, Owner and Art Director @ Donkey Ink Design
Jamie Purches is a Vancouver based digital designer. Operating as Donkey Ink Design he's been providing brand, graphic, and interactive design services to businesses of all sizes and industries since 2002. He's a fan of vans (the vehicles, not the shoe brand), hoodies, and food.
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