Thanks to the college I was lucky enough to attend, my senior year was filled with a lot of preparation for working in the field of design. I remember this specific class as if it was yesterday: Estimates and Invoicing. Apart from designing our stationery, we individually had to work out how much money we would want to make in a given year, and work backwards to figure out what our hourly rate was and how much certain jobs should cost based on our individual skills and speed. Fast forward five years later and I am still not making or charging anything close to those figures we worked out on that day. Why?
On returning to Trinidad, when I applied my rates (converted from USD to TTD) it seemed like too much. I was fresh out of college, with very little real experience and had a lot to learn. I no longer thought I was worth those numbers. I started to ask clients how much they wanted to pay, what was their budget, basically I asked them what they thought I was worth. And five years later, I have not stopped. I’ve been operating like that insecure, naïve, recent college grad and have not allowed my experience to influence the one thing that should matter most: my money. I’ve heard it all from “think of the experience”, “portfolio builder”, “we can’t afford that”, “we need you”, and yet at the end of the month when rent and bills are due to be paid I cannot reciprocate those same sentiments to my landlord or service provider. It does not add up. So why, five years later, am I still undercharging? Why am I still letting others determine my worth when I know better?
Fear. Low Self Esteem. Being Female.
Part of me fears that if I charge more, I will lose clients and the struggle to make ends meet will only get worse instead of better. Living with depression means that even though you know better, you constantly question what you know to be true and believe that inner voice that says, “you’re not worth it”. And as a female, compared to my male counterparts who give a price and the client accepts or denies no questions asks, I get questions, I get challenges and requests.
I am a strong believer that we get what we accept and allow and for five years I have tolerated and allowed this to happen. I have allowed myself to be used for my abilities while receiving below par compensation; monetary or otherwise.
As I enter the beginning of year six this month, I am making some deliberate changes, going back to that class and reminding myself of my worth, my journey and my time. And if you can’t recognise it, afford it, or respect it then we cannot work together.