There’s No Such Thing As Free: Pay People What They’re Worth

Logo Contest

Freelancers, Small Business Owners: Don’t Accept Less Than What You’re Worth For Any Job.

Small Business Owners: Pay People What They’re Worth.

I’d like to tell you a story.

A local business, who I will not name (because I don’t believe they actually intended harm or knew how bad “spec work” requests are), decided that they were in need of a new logo.

Instead of hiring a graphic designer, this business decided that they would hold a logo design contest. They would reward the winner with $500 and a six-month membership to their business. The two runner ups would also receive memberships. Oh, and there has to be at least 25 entries or they can’t pick a winner.

Sounds innocent enough, right? (The graphic design community’s eye-roll heard round the world, aside)

Let me change the scenario for you, just a smidge.

You have cancer. You decide to crowdsource your treatment by way of a contest.

You round up a bunch of doctors and say, “I need ideas on how to cure my cancer. I need y’all to sit here and pitch me ideas on curing my cancer until we find one that works. The Doctor who finds a cure for me will get $5,000 and six months of high-fives. The next two Doctors who were closest will also get high-fives. Oh yeah – and if we don’t get at least 25 ideas, nobody wins.”

How many Doctors do you suppose would actually participate in your contest? For that matter, how would you know the ideas were actually quality ideas and not just novel ideas?

Just Think About How This Will Expand Your Portfolio!

I asked three different graphic designers how many hours a “quality” logo would generally take. Here’s what they said:

  • “5-10 hours if everything goes perfectly with minimum revisions.”
  • “Depending on the job, anywhere from 12-30 hours.”
  • “About 50 hours at $75/hr or so – many high-end businesses pay upwards of $15K for decent branding work.”

Why so expensive? Because good work adds more value than it costs. Just like a good Doctor can add years to your life, a good Graphic Designer can add thousands to your income. There’s a reason you don’t see Doctors on Fiverr – they know their skill is worth more than that.

So why are Graphic Designers on Fiverr, then? Well, for one: most are “graphic designers” not Graphic Designers (in the same way as you can refer to WebMD as “your doctor” and not Your Doctor). Second: many are students, newbies, or hobbyists.

Spec WorkContests like the one above treat professional work as a hobby, and in doing so – devalue the work of the contestants who don’t get picked. Sure, the onus is on the designer to enter the contest or not – but the business is making a statement that they don’t value most of the work that’s submitted on their behalf. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a message I’d like my business to send.

Update: In fact, it bothered me so much that I created a term for it on Urban Dictionary: Exploitsourcing

If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t go out to eat, right? So if you can’t afford to pay 25 graphic designers for a concept, you shouldn’t ask them to, right? It’s not the waiter’s fault you can’t afford to tip, like they ought to go work at a fancier restaurant if they expect better treatment. That’s bullshit.

Working on a logo is not a prize in itself. Nor is a logo concept equal in value only to yet another portfolio piece. Professional work goes beyond “just being creative” – it involves an element of passion as well as skill. Graphic designers and artists may be passionate about what they do, so are Astronauts. Yet, nobody asks an Astronaut to go to space for free.

Passion for what you do doesn’t automatically make your skill a valueless hobby.

Accounting done well? That’s art. Done well, it saves you thousands and costs several hundred. But it takes significant skill to get to that level.

Do you know why there are so many starving artists out there? Because there’s so many business professionals out there who think that art is “just a hobby” and don’t respect the value of art done well. As a result, there are too many artists out there who have been conditioned to believe that their skill doesn’t have value – monetary (resulting from skill) or intrinsic (resulting from passion).

Prosperity purchased on the premise of under-valuing a contributor’s work is a sure-fire way to destroy your business and alienate your partners.

It’s prostitution. And it’s wrong. And just like you can’t blame the pimps 100%, you can’t blame the hoes 100%, either.

So knock it the hell off, OK? And tell your friends: pay people what they’re worth. Insist on getting paid what you’re worth. Two sides of the same coin.

(Header Photo: Spec Work)