This article was originally published as a guest post for our community partners, Music on the Move Studios.
No matter your role in the creative ecosystem, you must present yourself as though you have something to offer that nobody else can.
But, here’s the kicker…
You have to believe it first!
One time, I had a coaching client. He was a musician, putting on a weekly open mic night at a local establishment. When I asked him how much he was charging for his time, he told me he was doing it for free, and that he didn’t think the venue would pay him.
I responded by assuring him that he could — and should — be getting paid for the service he was providing to the venue. His response?
“What service am I providing?”
Live entertainment, for one thing. As a performer, he had invested years of time and effort — not to mention, thousands of dollars — into his craft. And, because this was an open mic night, he was bringing the establishment even more business by inviting other artists and their loved ones to participate. In addition, any time spent promoting the series through his own digital channels was valuable time spent.
Even after that, he made it clear that he wasn’t interested in negotiating a rate with the venue. (We also didn’t remain working together for much longer, as you might imagine.)
The greater issue here is that he didn’t recognize the value in what he was doing. By offering it for free, he invited the venue to undermine his value, too.
We’ve all done this, right? We want to get business in the door — or gain “experience” — so, we offer our time and often-already-developed talents at deep discounts (or worse, free of charge). We think that having additional portfolio pieces will pay dividends for more business down the road. Sometimes, they do — and sometimes, we still remain in our own way when it comes time to negotiate a fair rate. That could become even more complicated once word-of-mouth gets around that we’re the “cheap option.”
It’s up to us at entrepreneurs to break that cycle, and we must do it by communicating our value. That means charging according to our experience, the value of our time, and what we uniquely bring to the table that nobody else can. We also must factor in that our needs — not just as business owners, but as people first — must be met.
The machine can’t run if the engine breaks down.
That’s you. You’re the engine.
Value yourself in a way that keeps the machine running strong.