Let’s Talk About Money

Money has always been a struggle for me. I personally believe(d) that money is to be spent. The concept of saving eluded me. I was never taught how to, only told that it was something I should be doing. So as any creative self employed person would, I lived from pay check to pay check, made sure I was making enough to cover rent and bills and feed myself. Whenever something unexpected popped up, as is inevitable in this life, I would be stressed, sad, and all around frustrated because I would be reminded that I have no savings to deal with situations like this. The pandemic only emphasized this further.

So this past year, it’s been all about the money for me. There are so many negative connotations with money. Whether it’s the root of all evil, or a sign that yuh sell out. Having it means you “feel you better than everybody”, it leads to greed and envy and all these yucky things. But here is the reality, without money, we can do nothing. Literally.

There was a specific period this year where I had zero dollars. All the money ran out and I was in between pay checks. Someone wanted me to meet them in person, and I couldn’t because I didn’t have a car at the time and I had no money to take a rideshare or taxi. I couldn’t eat because I had no way of going to the grocery to use the Massy points I had to get something to hold me over. And the state of depression I was in prevented me from reaching out to ask for help. Plus let’s be real, it was also shame. This moment really brought home for me the reality, forget comfort, forget nice things, money is needed to simply live.

Being the problem solver I am, (after getting help from people who called and asked the right questions at the right time, thank you), I changed how I interacted with money. First, I needed accountability and someone to help me budget. I reached out to my accountant and explained everything, I got really vulnerable. What happened after has literally changed my life: I meet every week with a financial advisor and go through how much money I’m expecting to make in that week, and how much I need to spend. Everyone I’ve ever tried to ask for help always wanted me to give them information on a monthly basis, but every month when you work for yourself is completely different. Weekly tracking worked. I started to see how many clients I needed to take on in a month, to pay attention to cash flow, to say no to a lime sometimes, to buy the cheaper product in the grocery, and generally be more aware of how I make and spend money.

For the first time in my life, I was able to use my own money to purchase a laptop for my business because l actually had it in my account. I want to be really open and transparent about this because we do not talk about money. As an adult I don’t know a week that has gone by that banking does not frustrate me. Something has got to give and I believe that together, if we share our experiences, information, advice, we can figure this thing out. So in case you were wondering why I’m doing an event next week entitled Let’s Talk About Money, this is why.

I am grateful to Lorraine and C15 Studios for agreeing to cohost with me. I am grateful to Dr. Keron Niles for calling at the right time. And I am grateful for all the experiences along the way, and all the people who were a part of them, truly.

Let’s Talk Money

For the past couple years I have been repeatedly told that I undercharge for my services. I even wrote a post about it 4 years ago, acknowledging and admitting such. Friends and colleagues have been showing me the actual figures, and the math is finally staring at me, and I am now glaringly obvious of how I have allowed my empathy to overrule my business.

This year marks 10 years since I graduated with honours from one of the top 10 design schools in the US. This year marks 10 years of working experience both at agencies and as a freelancer. This year marks 4 years of successfully running my own business. This year marks 3 years of teaching design to students. To say I am not qualified would be a gross inaccuracy.

I just read a post by Chris Do on why I might be unwilling to charge my worth and worth is such a funny word to me. He discusses how it’s a matter of confidence and most creatives lack the self confidence needed to charge more. And while I agree with this statement to an extent, I consider myself extremely confident in my abilities as a brand identity designer. The challenge is linking that confidence and ability to a price. I’ve taught people how to work out their fees, and I’ve done the work with them and then I return to charging what I have been since 2012. Empathy. I work with a lot of small business owners, as a branding designer, I am there at the beginning. I listen to all of their stories and pain points and internalize it in order to tap into their needs and pull out a design that would solve all of their problems (or at least this is what I tell myself). Through this process I begin to care… too much. This is where I should say, I charge customers based on what they say they can afford, rather than charging them for the service being provided. I get too personal.

I’ve been learning about boundaries this past year in particular, turns out, I’ve had none all my life! And in realising this, I need to put up some emotional boundaries with my clients. I have gotten really great at boundaries for how to communicate with me, to respect my time, but not so great at charging a fee that accurately reflects the value of the service provided. To paint a picture of how badly I undercharge, my fees are 1/4 and 1/5 the amount that my counterparts charge! I actually charge less than the junior designers I’ve hired to work on projects. I might be insane. And you might be wondering, why this oversharing, and why now? Well, I’ve learnt that there’s a freedom that comes with transparency that gives you the permission to do the thing you were supposed to do all along. I also believe in giving others the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and not have to make them too. And maybe most of all, the maths not mathsin’ anymore, which is a Trini way of saying that it’s not making any sense to continue doing what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years.

So, was this a random blog post about me still undercharging or was this an announcement that yesterday’s price is not today’s price? I’ve done the research, I’ve done the math, I’ve set the goals, and it is time for me to apply that same empathy I give my clients, to myself. Design is a billion dollar industry, for a really good reason, it is visual communication. It allows us as human beings to interact with all of the products and services we want and need on a daily basis.

Want to work with me on your next project? Let’s talk!

Are you undercharging for your services? Tell me in the comments because misery likes company.

Mental Health Awareness Month

In 2020, I started creating posts on Instagram for Mental Health Awareness Month. I missed last year, but here we are, new year, new chances, new things. I decided to compile all 4 posts here as they were helpful to some and can maybe help a couple more.

This has been on my to do list for 2 months now but I couldn’t decide what I wanted to share this month until now. The truth. We have endless motivational quotes and positive words to inspire and share everywhere, but sometimes, most times, you just want to say how you’re really feeling and not be told some version of motivation. As someone who battles mental health illness on a daily basis, I don’t want to be told it will get better, because the reality is “it” actually won’t, I’ll just get better at dealing with the problem.

You know that feeling when things are going too good and you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop? Welcome to me everyday. I have a really hard time accepting congratulations, or celebrating wins. Birthdays, and special anniversaries, no problem. Personal or professional achievement, things going right, “happy moments” terrify me. I don’t know what to do with them, I don’t feel comfortable. I’ve learn this is not a normal reaction to when things go well, and I’ve been trying to actively force myself to celebrate wins however small they may be. But it is truly an uncomfortable experience.

When people ask me “what’s wrong?” sometimes, it’s really hard to explain in the moment and I wish I had something like this to point to which would explain it without my having to try to admit it out loud. 👆🏾 Depression makes no sense. None whatsoever. And there’s nothing I can say to a loved one to help them understand, in the moment, what I am going through. Now throw in running your own business and having to interact with clients and suppliers and then getting hit by one of these classics. Here’s to communicating more openly and honestly! And here’s to the people with patience, thank you!

So here I am, in the last minutes of the last day in May, telling you that I am trying my best. We assume a lot about each other because we’re not there every second of everyday. So we see an Instagram post and we fill in the blanks. We see someone out and we let our brains assume. The reality is that we really just don’t know what people go through. Every time there’s a celebrity suicide, there’s so much shock, and the cliché “they were rich, what did they have to be unhappy about?” There we go again, filling in the blanks, assuming. So I am here, reminding you that we are all really trying. Be patient with each other and more importantly, be patient with yourself.

In the infamous words of the one and only Prince: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…” 💜

Those Ramblings

I live in my brain. There’s running commentary 24/7, visuals both realistic and magical, thoughts, questions, images, memories constantly on loop always. This exhausts me, which is one of the reasons why I started writing. It was (is?) a place for me to take everything happening in there and put it somewhere else so I could stop thinking about it. It’s kind of like when you have an ear worm, that song that you can’t get out of your head and as soon as you listen to it, you’re good, and it’s gone. That’s what writing does for me. And yet, I hardly write. It’s always a battle for me to actually go from thoughts to words on a page. I hate to use psychology jargon as a scape goat but it feels a bit like self sabotage. I’ve identified the “problem”, I’ve found a healthy way to deal with the “problem” but I refuse to do it.

I’ve noticed this trend in other areas of my life.

I’m really great at identifying and acknowledging the thing, whatever it is. I’m also really great at finding solutions. But somehow my brain stops there. The next step, one might say the most important aspect, putting it all into action, I can’t seem to do. Full freeze. It’s like my brain goes, “Okay I’ve done enough work figuring out what the problem was and finding a solution, someone else needs to implement this, not me!” Is it laziness? Is it exhaustion? Is it fear of failure? Is it learnt behaviour? Is it entitlement? Is it all and none of the above?

I’m curious if anyone else has noticed this in themselves and how you’ve dealt with it. Or maybe as an outsider you may have a different viewpoint. Share your thoughts in the comments please. (And thanks for reading my ramblings 🙂)

Fat

As a girl who grew up in the 90s and 2000s, self esteem has always been a struggle especially when it comes to my physical appearance. In my 20s, I had a mini rebirth, fixed my outlook and started to love me for me, all that positive, self appreciation ish. I came into my own. Fast forward to that global pandemic we all love to hate. My mental health tanked, my self discipline became nonexistent and I ATE EVERYTHING.

High cholesterol, fibroids and a belly so big I can’t see my own vagine anymore, I am right back to the start, that girl struggling with self esteem and her physical appearance. I did not see this coming. I know they say life is just cycles, history repeats itself blah blah blah. But me, feeling like my teenage self at 32 years was not in the books. It now takes me an average of 2 hours to get to the shower and figure out something to wear that will be comfortable, look good, and hopefully make me feel better about this new body I’ve grown into. (I’ve never not been able to see my down there before, this is some scary shit!)

And for the people like me, reading this and thinking, well just fucking stop eating everything and exercise, yes, I agree! 100%. How though? I enjoy walking, so I thought I’d try walking my dog more often. Happens once every other week if I’m lucky. Free yoga on YouTube? Once! I started going to the market and only cooking local healthy foods. Fizzled out after 3 weeks. I’ve written all about my struggles with consistency before but I’m learning now that my bigger issue is that I no longer enjoy my own company. I’m relying (heavily) on others to do all of these things. I have run out of the energy or desire to continue being my own cheerleader. It feels like I’ve used up everything to get at this point in life and now I’m ready to hand the baton over to someone else. I am tired of doing it alone. But here I am, fat and very much alone. How did my life become this?

And this is not meant to be a fat-phobic post, this is a why am I Failing All Things post. This is personal. I am uncomfortable. I do not like this version of myself and I guess I’m writing it down to put words to the thoughts and feelings to help move beyond them and put action and energy towards what’s next. Right? Right?