“…only when individuals trust the culture or organisation will they take personal risk in order to advance that culture or organisation as a whole. For no other reason than, in the end, it’s good for their own personal health and survival…”
Simon Sinek, Start with Why
I have been reading, rather, studying this book and it is a powerful insight into business foundations and growth. But the principles Sinek shares in this book also tap into who we are. He talks about trust, but what’s been on my mind lately is appreciation.
For the past, two to three weeks I have found myself on phone calls with people I want to work with or friends seeking advice on how to best value themselves amidst the dwindling purchasing power of the market for obvious reasons * coughs* COVID-19.
My lecturing and rebuke haven’t been one out of hurt but love. I have met people with extensive experience with the most fantastic work ethic and ingenuity in their line of work. But they accept such little pay for the work they do. Most ‘sensible’ people will tell you it’s about market forces. It does play a role. But it is essential to understand your value from a broad spectrum of angles.
Let me explain. Angela had been referred to me highly by a very close friend of mine. I spoke to her on phone and later had a Zoom meeting with her. She was the consummate professional. I wanted to work with her to manage my client’s social media accounts. It was extensive work managing atleast an initial 4 social media accounts daily. She has been doing this for a considerable number of years and is very conversant with her line of work. I am minimalizing it, she loves social media management. And she oozes enthusiasm when she talks about it. She has tonnes of ideas.
When she told me she would charge me KES 15,000 (USD 140) a month for all that work. I was shocked. I had to ask her what made her choose that rate. She argued that she would just be posting already made content and she would be managing the engagement. I was saddened and disappointed by what she said. Because she had internalised the reasoning of Kenyan clients who don’t fully understand the amount of work it takes to justify a rate commensurate to the work.
You may argue that since there are so many people doing this work, it naturally drives the pay rates down of social media managers. I beg to differ, someone who understands analytics the way Angela does and her extensive experience, this is aside from the amount of work she is about to walk into, she deserved to demand more. I told her as much.
I also told her, I knew exactly where she was coming from. For anyone working in the conventional arts creative space driven careers (i.e. copywriting, social media, graphic design, DJing, photography etc), it’s not clustered and classified as architecture, law, medicine and the likes, that also means most people don’t understand how much energy, time and manpower it takes to deliver anything great. You have to learn to sell it to people.
I get it, it is exhausting repeating yourself and justifying your work to people who always look at the bottom line and are OK with mediocre if the cost justifies the passable end. But if you know you offer more and are selling to the mediocre taking clients you never grow. You end up jaded and like most people I know, move to a completely different career line where it is more likely to be appreciated and paid its value.
I gave Angela a week to think through the work scope, she met the rest of the team who would be working on the client campaign, to fully understand just how much would be required of her. At the end of the week, I called her again and asked what rate she settled on. She increased the price marginally and giggled.
“Are you sure, that’s what you feel you are worth for this assignment?”I asked her just to be sure. She then increased the price marginally again; this time almost shrinking at the end of the line embarrassed to state her worth.
I repeated my question. Then she finally gave me a costing which was slightly over three times the initial value she quoted sheepishly summing it up with, “if you can afford it.”
Angela was ashamed of her worth because of the rejection she has faced from clients. The constant devaluing of people’s work in the Kenyan market is the reason why mediocre has become the standard. It’s why people shift careers. Appreciation of one’s work isn’t solely in publicly applauding one’s genius, it’s important to remunerate it as well. That is a motivator, not the sole motivator, but it is what provokes people to want to push harder and do more. And in that process you who renumerates it will also benefit from the growth in ingenuity setting your work and business apart.
The reason why we are constantly complaining about why advertising is shabby, why new coverage is a popularity contest and void of research is because, in part, those who try to exert themselves are quickly slowed down by the mockery of their ideas and the lack of investment (not just money) in their dreams and ideas.
The general pay rates in this market across the board are dismal. And that plays a huge role in why growth across organisations and individual careers are stuck at mediocre. Until we start to pay everyone, consultants and employees their worth especially those working in the art based careers of communication, entertainment and production, the field as well as the experts in this area will continue to be stifled.