We still associate women with the soft sciences and the humanities. That’s all well and good, but as luck would have it, content is still a realm where value is 100% established through negotiation, and the news from the front isn’t great.Like most stereotypes, the stereotype that women were Made For the humanities dies hard. I’m thrilled to see more women in the hard sciences, women CFOs and CTOs and so on – but that doesn’t help the zillons of us who are living in WordLand, by choice or of necessity. Lots and lots of women deal in content.
We are graphic designers, wordsmiths (my mom had a writing business called The Wordsmith when I was in high school), freelance journalists, photographers…..all these soft and squishy arenas were content may be king, but content is worth bupkis unless we’ve got several somebodies who are willing to pay for it. Every single writer, designer, and creative person I know has two or three good stories of people trying to talk her out of her value. “Naw, I couldn’t pay THAT much,” they hear, “Can’t you do it for free?”
Ironically, we read, and hear over and over, that women also can’t negotiate. That’s a big problem, because negotiation is the name of the game where content is concerned. What’s the value of the copy for a website, except what a client is willing to pay? Same goes for a technical training manual, a graphic treatment for an annual report, a photographic display. The art may be in the creation, but the business is all selling. What will you pay for it? What will you take for it? Ay carumba!
I always say that creating content is like owning an antique store. Now, practically every antique store you’ve ever visited has a sign in it that says something like “Please don’t haggle with us; we don’t negotiate.” Understandable. But these signs protest too much, if you know what I mean – because everyone knows that everyone knows how it works. What’s the harm in asking “That wardrobe that’s priced at $995 – would you take $800 cash for it?” What’s the downside? You’re not going to get kicked out of the antique store for life. The owner can say No, but that doesn’t hurt the prospective buyer. In other words, the rules are transparent to all. You bought this wardrobe at an estate sale, you priced it at $995, I don’t blame you, it’s probably worth that; but I, the buyer, stand here ready to pay $800 cash for it, and maybe you’ll take it – how would I know without asking? Doesn’t hurt to try.
So as much as I empathize with the antique-store owner who doesn’t want to haggle, I understand the haggler’s point of view too. There is no clear, objective value to a piece of antique furniture. It’s whatever the marketplace (right here, right now) says it is.
And content is the same way. I speak to groups, and I write (among other things – I lead a wonderful global women’s community, too). And every day, I mean every single day, I get requests to do these things for very tiny amounts of money, or none at all, and I don’t expect this to stop. If you’re in the content business, you know what I mean. You can’t even get angry about it – it’s going to happen. I get “but you’re going to be in my city anyway, can’t you just stay an extra night?”
“Oh wow, now that you put it that way, I’ll have to double my fee to stay away from my children that long.” Ha!
Maybe God(dess) put so many of us women in the content realm to train us on standing up for our value. Maybe when there are no widgets involved, when it’s all us on our own two feet, saying “I can do that for this fee, and no less” we really get to feel our power. Is that the secret? What’s your take?