Opportunity Cost

A couple of months ago I wrote about preparation, and some people’s unwillingness to invest in it. Bizarrely the same people who don’t want to pay for something to be done well, often still expect it to be delivered to a great standard.

On a related matter, I saw this meme on Facebook yesterday which brought a smile to my face. I hope you like it, and this may be the one and only time you see a cat here on the blog. Like a lot of these memes, this one is spreading fast and I know not from where it originated. If anyone knows the source, please tell me so I can credit it.

Client Brief Client Budget

The example I shared previously, had it been accepted by me – would have turned an already tiny fee (sorry but I can’t bring myself to tell you how low the offer was) into something quite microscopic and definitely unprofitable, when spread across the time needed to prepare and deliver the work. If you run your own business, you’ll already have your own measures in place in order to check and test this kind of stuff. You do have those – don’t you…? 

Somewhere in the mix, there is a point below which you not only devalue yourself and your service, but you also cost yourself other, more interesting and useful opportunities. And I think this often gets missed. I know it can be tempting to say, ‘what the hell, I’ll take the fee, it’s money in the bank’, and of course, it’s your choice, but I think that way, impoverishment lies. Working for peanuts can not only set a dangerous precedent for future work, it also starves you of time that you could be using to develop something of greater, and ideally mutual, value.

I guess the important word here is mutual. Ultimately if you’re happy being stiffed (or doing the stiffing), that’s fine. But if you believe your work is about reciprocity, about helping people including you, then the next time you’re offered work that isn’t profitable, don’t just think about the money – think about all the other, useful, productive things you could be doing with that time to build something really fantastic.

Curious to know what others think. Whether you be the buyer or the seller, is there such a thing as a win-win scenario?

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

2 thoughts on “Opportunity Cost”

  1. Someone (@ResliCostabell) once told me that you can choose to work for nothing or for one pound. You might think of it as a loss leader or a chance to display your wares. But the bill should read

    My true worth £xxxxxxx
    what you are paying £1
    one-off discount £xxxxxx – £1

    so that you – and the client know what this is costing you

    1. Hi Sally, thanks for being in touch. I can see how Resli’s suggestion could work – indeed I’ve previously done something very similar.

      And you can choose to work for any price. I sometimes choose to work for nothing, and if I’m choosing to do that – that is fine. I’m less happy about expectations being set when there’s not the budget to meet them I guess.

      Cheers – Doug

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