Davy Greenberg summed up the feelings of a lot of us out there who make our living offering services directly:

The tweet went viral (with 36,000 retweets and 123,000 likes at this writing) and evoked a lot of emotion. This is something a lot of us can relate to.

Because I freelance, I'm always talking with new people for potential jobs. Often the conversation goes like this:

Potential client: I need someone to do A, B, and C by next Thursday.

Me: Okay, I can do that for you. It will cost $300.

Potential client: Great!

But sometimes the conversation goes like this:

Potential client: I need someone to do A, B, and C by next Thursday.

Me: Okay, I can do that for you. It will cost $300.

Potential client: What???? I budgeted $25 for this!

Me: Okay. Best of luck to you!

Potential client: I could get someone on Fiverr to do this for $25!

Me: Okay. That sounds like a great idea!

Potential client: Can you do it for $25?

Me: Nope.

Potential client: But I really like your writing!

Me: Thank you. It will be $300.

There are plenty of people who will do what I do for less money. There are people who do what I do for more money. The question is, are you getting what you pay for?

Often, in creative fields (which Greenberg works in) people expect that because anyone can write a paragraph, take a picture,  or sing karaoke, the people who do it professionally are really doing it as a hobby and it should be free or at least close to free. Because you do it for fun, we must be doing it for fun.

People don't generally think, "Gee, my doctor loves medicine! That's why she went to medical school! She should take my appendix out for free!" It's a ridiculous proposition.

Professionals in all fields spent decades perfecting their crafts. Just because they can do something quickly, doesn't mean they aren't worth the money.

I pay my accountant what seems to be an exorbitant fee to do my taxes each year, but I don't complain. Why? Because my taxes are complicated as income is earned across two continents and multiple currencies and are partly in English and partly in German. Could I do it myself? Probably, but while she can do my taxes in a couple of hours, it would take me a week's worth of labor--if not more, and I couldn't guarantee they would be correct. When you look at it that way, happily paying her bill is the way to go.

Creative jobs aren't, of course, the only people who face these dilemmas. Consider the old joke:

Shortly after an engineer retires, a machine at his former factory stops working. They try everything they can do to fix it, to no avail. Finally, the boss calls up the engineer and asks him to come in and fix it.

The engineer agrees to do so as a paid consultant. He comes in, walks around the machine, looks at a few things, takes out a hammer, and whacks the machine. It whirrs into life.

The engineer present the boss with a bill for $5000. The horrified boss says, "This is ridiculous! What did you even do? I need an itemized bill."

The engineer provides a new invoice that states:

  • Hitting machine with a hammer: $5.00
  • Knowing where to hit the machine: $4,995

Now, of course, not all responses to Greenberg's tweet were positive, which prompted him to reply:

Greenberg is right: I decide what I'm worth. You decide what you're worth. If someone is willing to pay it, great. If no one is, well then, you might need to adjust your expectations. If every single person wants to hire you, then you're undervaluing yourself. If you're meeting your financial goals, then you're good to go.

Don't undervalue yourself, and don't undervalue those you hire. Quality work often costs quite a bit. And that's okay.

Published on: Feb 18, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.