In the past few years, I’ve been really intentional about where I spend my money. From random TaskRabbit* hourly projects to finding photographers, graphic designers and makeup artists for my campaigns, I typically go out of my way to hire a woman of color. A bunch of the art that fills my home are from black women artists, and I do most of my splurging on black designers ( that’s a whole other topic with lots of photos to come!). And through my extensive research and support of these amazing women entrepreneurs and businesses, I’ve noticed two things:
They undervalue their goods or services.
They’re uncomfortable with giving their rates when approached about a project. They give me the runaround, which gives me (the client) too much to worry about, and so I find another person or solution because often, I have a strict deadline.
I purchased a beautiful art print from a very talented artist two years ago. I had to send her a Direct Message through Instagram in order to purchase her art. None of her work was available on her website, although that’s what she was advertising on her social media. And when I inquired about the price, she wasn’t sure of what to quote me. She finally priced it at $60, and the piece arrived bent as if it was folded right down the middle. What a bummer! Similar artists( who are not black or female) have quoted me hundreds of dollars for comparable work. Their art is also available for sale on their websites with dimensions along with their terms and shipping policies. And they know how to pack and ship their work.
Most recently, I tried to hire a black female photographer, and I’ve asked her about her rate on more than three occasions over the past few weeks, and I still haven’t gotten an answer. She had great questions, but she never replied with a rate. Same has happened with a few makeup artists. Typically, when I approached non-female or non-black photographers or makeup artists, they have a base half day/full day rate, along with some terms. They’re normally open to negotiate based on the project, but they’re always able to start with with some helpful information about their services.
As a black creative entrepreneur, these encounters and exchanges hurt me immensely. It leads me to believe many things. That black female entrepreneurs are not confident to price their goods and services because they have the right don’t support system. Because like me, they’re probably self-taught, which means they don’t have access to the right information. Or that people often approach them to work for free or for very little in exchange for exposure. Or that people make them believe that their passion, talent, and hard work are nothing more than hobbies. And so they don’t take the time to really think about how to price or negotiate their work.
I’ve never had a mentor, and I went head first into launching my first business. I don’t come from money so most of my big paid partnership work come from years and years of doing free work. I started by underpricing my products because I had no overhead cost or someone to advise me otherwise. I really wish I had someone to help guide me, but at lease I had the privilege to become my first teacher. I’m not terrified of going through the experiences, whether they’re good or bad. I’m also not terrified of failing. I have many interests and passions, and I told myself that if my projects fail (although I’ll work really hard so they don’t), I will be fine doing other fulfilling things. I promised myself that I would and could still be happy and live the colorful life that I deserve no matter what. With that said, I’m more than happy to share some of what I’ve learned in the past five years of entrepreneurship creating content for big, international brands, AND founding and growing my company Fanm Djanm.
Here are my top FIVE tips to becoming a wiser entrepreneur:
1- Invest in yourself. If you don’t invest in yourself, why should anyone else? Take time and spend money to learn to do things the right way. Take the class or workshop. Upgrade that camera. Do your research. You become good at doing something by doing it often. And the best things take time. To some people, “I’ve made it”, and to me, I’m just getting started. Every chapter has its challenges, and you’re never too experienced to learn new things. There’s no shortcut to owning and operating a successful business. It takes time, patience, commitment, and a whole lot of reinventing yourself.
2- Know your worth. I know what you’re thinking… But how do I know my worth? Knowing your worth will come with time and experience. I still laugh at the time I only charged a few hundred bucks for a big project. Ha! But at that time, that’s truly what I was worth. I wasn’t investing enough time or money on my creative side. At that time, it was just a hobby or side thing. I had just gotten started, and although I was good, I didn’t know the ropes yet. Network and make friends with people who do similar work. And once you’ve gathered all of the necessary information, ask yourself the following: How long have you been doing this? Are you constantly booked? Do you get inquiries on a daily basis? How much time and work do you put into it? What value can you add to X project? What can you bring to X project that other people can’t? Do you have a voice? If so, what is it? Are you able to explain why your service or good is what it is without hesitation?
3- Turn down things that don’t and won’t serve you. I still take part in projects and make time to promote things I’m really passionate about for free. With that said, we all have bills to pay, and we like to splurge on shoes and makeup (and some of us are trying to start a scholarship fund for underprivileged kids in Haiti) so we can’t spend all of our time doing things that add no value to what we’re trying to accomplish. If you must show up for your friend or a random person who requires your skill and talent without pay, does that thing add anything to your portfolio or experience. Does it help foster relationships you need? Monetary value is not the only thing, but your time is worth SOMETHING. When you look at it ten years from now, will it make you cringe? Trust me, I have many many things that make me cringe now. But that’s ok! I’ll take the L, so you don’t have to. Sometimes, even if something pays big bucks, is it really worth promoting? Do you really want to add your name and likeness to something that harms the world or your community?
4- Support other entrepreneurs. It’s hard out there, folks! My company focuses on the headwrap, but we’re slowly growing into creating more accessories and clothing. That doesn’t mean I can support other designers. It doesn’t mean I should just copy what they do and have my seamstress work on it. It’s not fair. Success is not an individual achievement, it’s a community achievement. If you eat, make sure the people around you eat too. Also, try to collaborate with other entrepreneurs. For example, Coco and Breezy make dope sunglasses. I have a few pairs. So it only made sense to do a joint giveaway with them in honor of black history month. People who wear headwraps need sunglasses too.
5- Be firm. Be confident. Come up with a day rate or a set rate for various projects. Refer to tip ONE. Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re worth. Generally, I get messages like the following from brands: Hey Paola! (Insert BIG brand here) is releasing a new shoe and would like for you to help promote it. What is your rate for two instagram posts, two stories (2-3 frames each), link in bio for 24 hours and whitelisting access? All of these things I mentioned cost money on their own. So, I would quote them for my time, creative process, assets, and everything else they ask for. Link in bio for a brand means that my website gets pushed aside, and that’s potential work lost. Whitelisting means a wider reach for the brand, and so on… I generally only give them rights to digital use. Anything else cost more money. Oh, and never ever agree to unlimited, royalty free use unless they’re giving you an enormous check! If my rate is higher than the brand’s budget, I’ll either negotiate if I really like what they do or decline if I think they’re just a big company trying to take advantage of me. Just remember, brands/people don’t approach you because they want to do you a favor. They do because they see the value in you and your work. So know your worth, and be unapologetic about it.
I hope these tips helped you. If you have any other questions or have anything else to add. Drop them below!