Monday, July 10, 2006

For What it's Worth

My parents left early Sunday morning after spending last week with us, keeping a watchful eye on Cassandra and Robert, and helping out around the place while I was out of the country. Cassandra loves getting up early in the morning and running down the hall to snuggle with Grandma and Grandpa. She was a little disappointed Sunday, I think, to have to "settle" for her daddy and me.

While Mom and Dad were here, they very kindly agreed to babysit Saturday night while Robert and I enjoyed a rare evening out alone. We went to Pizza Hut and then tried to see the second installment of Pirates of the Caribbean. Alas, we were not alone in our plans for the evening.

"Pirates" is showing here in Coloma, a few miles away in South Haven, and a few miles away in a different direction in Benton Harbor. We drove all three places -- only to learn that the shows were all sold out.

So we came home.

We finally saw the flick Sunday afternoon, while our friend and houseguest Karen watched over Cassandra.

The movie was ok. Good, even. But not worth driving all over creation and beyond in order to glimpse it. And it certainly merited the PG-13 rating it's been given, though there was no shortage of small, underage children inappropriately attending the flick.

Who's to say what something's worth? We paid $4 apiece to see the film, because it was an afternoon showing. That included free popcorn and pop. I believe we got our money's worth. I'm happy we didn't have to shell out $7 or $8 each, and another $5 for popcorn and drinks, however. I'm not sure it's worth a $20 date.

But just because I feel that way doesn't mean that many, many others will disagree with me.

What got me thinking about such things is the process I'm going through launching a new website offering a variety of educational services to writers. The website will feature everything from free audio files and articles to in-depth, targeted training tools, coaching, editing, critiquing, consulting, and more.

When letting others know of your services, however, it is necessary to examine your fee structure. The most important thing is providing something of value to your clients. The second most important thing is making good use of your time and theirs.

At the end of June, I met with a freelance editor who is currently wrestling with this very subject. He is quite a talented, capable editor. He is comfortable with the demands of academic, scholarly writing. He edits everything from book manuscripts to doctoral disserations. And he is woefully cheap.

He had himself convinced that he needed to price himself at essentially the same hourly rate as a mediocre waitperson at a steakhouse because students are notoriously short of funds. While I certainly understand the realities of the "poor student," I can also appreciate the reality of the a "living wage."

I pointed out to my friend that if he was able to get enough editing jobs to work full-time, according to his current fee structure, he would not make enough in a year to support his family. Therefore, there was no real incentive for him to aggressively seek out new work.

He was thinking so much about keeping his fees low in order to attract new clients, that he had never stopped to do the math and realize that he simply couldn't afford to have many clients.

Undercutting your fees too much has more undesirable aspects to it than positive ones.

* It diminishes your knowledge, advice, and service in your clients' eyes.

* It causes a significant amount of grumbling when you find yourself working very hard with very little to show for it.

* It forces you into a holding pattern where you are spending so much time working on projects that don't pay, that you can't focus any attention on developing projects that do.

* It makes you start to doubt your own abilities and contribution.

I'm not for a moment suggesting that you allow greed to rule your head when determining your fee structure. What I am suggesting, however, is to apply at least as much business sense when deciding what to charge for your services as you do when choosing who to pay for theirs.

Project Update

The first edition of Carol of the Horse is finished. The narration is done. The song is done. The CDs are burned. And we are ready to go.

It's so exciting to see this project near completion. Everyone involved with it is so supportive and enthusiastic about it. Cassandra loves the book and has appropriated one for her own, personal use. I, for one, cannot wait to be able to show it to publishers and get them interested in it. Further bulletins as events warrant.

A long-running editing project for Trafalgar Square is nearing completion. They want me to have it done before I go to Orlando on Thursday. This means wading through some 1000+ photos and choosing appropriate ones to illustrate key text points. This, then, is the only thing on today's agenda.