And yet, writers generally have to justify, defend and explain their rates continually.
So what makes the difference? What makes creative design command more money than that creative copy? Is it vision? Skills? Imagination? Tangible goods that clients can perceive? Beauty?
All that and more. It’s perception, plain and simple – and writers are unfortunately stuck dealing with what their clients perceive.
“But I write great work!” I can hear the cries now. “Surely my client can see that. Just take a look at my outstanding portfolio and my blog. It’s clear that I’m an excellent writer. My work speaks for itself. Why can’t they see that?”
Because people who aren’t in the industry can’t. Period. And you really can’t blame them for it, either.
Writing the Western Saddle
Horsemen are pretty proud people, and western riders love all the bling they can get. Shiny buckles, braids, accessories, and carved leather make a western saddle a beautiful thing to behold. A quality saddle costs more than a car.
I know nothing about western saddles beyond leather storage and care. I know how to saddle up a horse and I know what makes for a comfy ride.
But I couldn’t tell you if that intricate rose-work pattern was hand-carved or stamped in by a machine. I wouldn’t know if latticework is tricky or scrolling is more difficult. I couldn’t tell if those laces were well set in or whether the braids are better choices.
Present me with 10 western saddles, and I couldn’t tell you which one was better than the next. My perception is simple: it’s a western saddle. You strap it on, you sit, you ride. Hopefully, you don’t get too sore in the process.
Good Looks or a Better Ride
So if I’m in the market for a western saddle, I’m going to choose based on personal preference. This one looks pretty. It’s got extra bling. It feels nice. It’s comfy and the price is reasonable. The sales rep keeps saying the plainer saddle over there at four times the price is the better saddle, but I’m not convinced.
My perception is that the saddle I’ve chosen is a good one – because I don’t know any better. I’m shopping based on my budget and my needs. I also think I’m too smart to take someone’s word for granted. Hey. I’m an educated person, after all. I’m smart enough to know a great deal!
That’s the problem with writing. Unless you’re a saddlemaker or someone steeped in the industry, you couldn’t tell much beyond what you perceive as quality. Your decisions are based on trying not to look like an idiot and trying to fit the expense into what little money you have.
Same thing goes for writing. People try to buy within their budget (while trying not to be shocked at the cost) and they try to appear like they really know what they’re talking about. But unless they fully knew what quality writing was, unless they’d tried writing or seen poor and good results compared, they couldn’t tell the difference if the letters smacked them in the head.
Be a Nice Salesperson
I see too many writers working hard to defend themselves. They get snotty too. What’s the point in making someone feel stupid with snarky comments, though? “Well, you get what you pay for…” or “Do you even know what quality is?” or even “If you think cheaper writers can do a better job, then good luck to you!”
Oh come on; you know who you are. There’s a massive group of arTEESTes out there making lofty cries right now.
The best shopping experiences I have? They’re the ones when I ask a clerk a question, he answers, and then he allows me to choose not to buy. He smiles, thanks me for my looking time, and lets me do what I want to do.
He doesn’t make me feel small. And want to know something? I think better of him – and I come back to shop at his store for something else.
People aren’t stupid. They know quality from crap. They aren’t trying to put down your work or get your dander up by offending you. They’re just not writers. They don’t know. They’re choosing the pretty saddle – doesn’t matter if it’s not the most comfortable ride. They’re making decisions on what they feel is best for them.
“We need to educate people then!” I know. Of course we do. The world could use more education on the value of words. But as writers, we can do it in a way that educates people and makes them feel good without attacking their ignorance.
So empower people. Teach them the differences of quality. Let them know how long it takes to write (and write well). Show them what more you can give beyond common words, and explain to them how you propose to do so. Invite people into your world, and help them explore it.
Don’t make them feel unwelcome.
And if they do end up choosing the pretty saddle over the better one? Let them. Wish them well with a cheery smile and some understanding. They’ll come back when they’re saddle sore.