I’ve been working for others about as long as I have been self-employed, and I’ve learned only one thing throughout all this time: value = delivery. I began the bulk of my professional career as a grant writer, and as a grant writer you are charged with paying for yourself, plus. Usually you are required to bring in three times your salary to justify your job. Seeing as how I was never a highly-paid grant writer, but I did win many 6-7 figure awards, this wasn’t difficult to accomplish. My jobs have always been secure…
Now that I am a freelancer, however, I’ve noticed that my personal expectations of what I deliver to clients changed a bit. I expected pay for work–competitive pay–pay commensurate with my skills and experience. What’s wrong with that? Work is a deliverable, right? You need writing services: a blog, a book, web copy, a press release, business proposal, a grant, flier, etc. I should get paid for the work I do based on my experience, talent and quality and the value of what I deliver. Right? Not so fast.
“Eat what you kill.” I have been in the land of commissioned sales, of percentages on projects with little cash laid up front but with lots to gain on the back end, based on the overall success of my deliverables. Some people cower at the thought while others thrive with the sense of empowerment to create their own revenue. I am the latter. I like knowing that the cash in my hand is a direct result of the work I have done. In other words, “eat what you kill.” If I bring money in the door, I get more money. In this strategy, my value is directly correlated with the money I generate.
As a writer, that may sound like a strange principal, and arguably it’s not the right strategy for everyone. It’s not the right strategy for every project, either, or for every client. But, over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear that this is exactly how I work best. Pay me most not just when I produce, but when what I produce turns a profit or is deemed measurably valuable to you in some meaningful way.
I’ve watched so many employees walk into businesses with a sense of entitlement that made my eyes water from the stench. They had no sense of hustle, no desire to bring efficiencies or ingenuity to the game, and felt no responsibility to add to the immediate bottom line of their workplace. Yet, they felt completely entitled to continue receiving a salary for breathing, whining and taking up space.
I’m not saying that all staff or contract positions need to conform to this philosophy, but I am saying that if you want to be deemed truly valuable, take on an “eat what you kill” mentality. Take risks that force you to deliver in big ways for you to see real pay-offs. Justify your salary by developing systems that save your company money, eliminate waste and redundancies, produce innovative products and services, commit to constantly increasing your performance and the quality of your work, or better yet bring hard cash through the door in the form of contracts, or developing a new customer base. Eat what you kill.