I had to step back from this for a bit, mostly because I was in a car accident in January, and by the time this conversation was getting hot I had been diagnosed with broken ribs and was taking (with much gratitude) the painkillers. I thought it best to avoid writing under the influence of narcotics! And yes, I’m mending, though slowly. This is so not the January/February I had planned 🙂
Anyway… I wrote that post about the quilts made for the Decemberists’ record company’s giveaway, and obviously touched a nerve or two.* Meg Cox, one of our respected industry leaders, snagged an interview with the artist, Valerie Bradford, who made the quilts (read it here). And as Meg points out, I while I took the band to task, it was the record company that made the deal and the artist that gave the valuation of the work. Mea culpa.
Obviously, none of the terms of this arrangement can be changed. It’s water under bridge. But what we CAN do is be well armed, and well informed as to our process before we shake hands on any future deals that could come our way. And to that end, let’s have THAT discussion now.
Here are things you can do:
- Track your time. Every time you work on a project, document what you do and how long each step takes. Even if you’re not selling your work, it’s good to know these things so that, IF an offer arises, you have some educated basis on which to rest your calculations. I put together a simple sheet for that here.
- Figure out the cost of the project FIRST. I have a simple version of an invoice template here, and my friend and fellow WASWI Torch Bearer Molli Sparkles expanded it greatly here – and you can use any of the elements of either document to suit your needs. If you can fill out the forms confidently, then you’re close to knowing what it takes to make the project. And in case you think that doesn’t work, several people have emailed me privately and said that, when they presented a bid that was itemized so comprehensively, they walked away with a deposit with no haggling. It’s all in the education.
- Plan for contingencies. Either put the contingency budget into the bid, or over estimate your hours and bring the project in cheaper if all goes well. According to a friend who used to produce movies, even the littlest indie films have a 10% contingency added to the budget. You should do the same.
- Don’t get twitterpated! Is it flattering to be approached with a project, a magazine offer, a book deal? SURE THING! But don’t lose your head. By all means call your bestie and dance around the room, but don’t say YES immediately. You can screw yourself royally by acting in giddy, breathless haste. Do your research, ask your industry colleagues for advice (all contracts are not equal), and work out what it’s going to take. Ask your GUT what the right decisions is for YOU (and if you have trouble with that, I really recommend this book). And if all signs point forward, then prepare that bid and move forward.
I know I say it over and over, but I really do believe it: if we all work together to educate our buyers and ourselves, and ask for our worth, then we can change the game for all. We are $ew worth it.
*P.S. I don’t think touching a nerve or two is a bad thing if it gets the conversation going, gets us considering our worth, or gets us, as an industry, to fight for better. And being as most of the commentary directed at me from our industry was very positive, I think I’ll keep touching the nerves. And for a truly wonderful podcast on internet trolls, check this out.
BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!