Money versus intellect.
People have been bartering since the dawn of time. It is impossible for every one of us to know absolutely everything and to be proficient at all trades, so we have to trade our skills and time for other people's skills and time. Bartering – trading goods directly for other goods – dates back at least 100,000 years back. As human society evolved, more complex forms of goods and services were developed which were hard to quantify for the purposes of barter trade.
Bartering a goat for a pig seems a fairly simple deal. If both sides agree that both animals are of equal value, the trade is done. However, things get more complicated if goods traded are a bit more complex. How many goats is a newly made canoe worth?
3,000 years BC the first step in the evolution of money was made, and commodity money was invented. Gold and silver coins are the best example of this as they have a value of their own even when melted down. With just a few regulations, this became a standard in trading. This system was in place for quite a while, up until 17th century when representative money started to take swing. A piece of paper with some value written on in started taking shape, but it will be only by mid 20th century that the whole (developed) world completely abandons direct conversion of gold to paper and embraces what we know today as – money.
During this evolution of money, the basic underlying principle remained and still remains the same. Two sides agree upon a trade, and with that agreement no side is in a loss. It does not matter if a goat is traded for a pig, or if pants are traded for one gold coin, or if people give $499 for that new shiny device. If both sides agreed to the price, everyone is a winner as they gave up on something they got in excess to gain something they do not have.
A kilo of brains
Enter the world of intellectual workers. People who mostly do not produce tangible goods, but instead their produce is something ethereal, something floating in the mid-air. Designers, coders, programmers, psychologist and psychiatrists, marketing and PR folks, hackers and crackers, to name just a few. Working with intellectual workers should follow the same principles of barter; a client calls for a logo design, and when the rules of this barter are set there are no losers.
Yet in this intellectual trade, money seems to have stronger upper hand. For some reason, the intellectual worker is always subjugated to the Client, even if the barter setup was agreed to be equal in the beginning.
Let's see this happen once
The Designer and the Client meet to arrange their trade:
- Designer: Alright, I have to pay some bills, and my car needs an oil exchange, so I will need some money.
- Client: Right, OK, I got some money, and I need new Logo to be made for my company, that should be a good trade.
- Designer: So we have a deal, you will give me $100 and I will give you new Logo.
With the trade done where both sides are in equality, the Designer calls the Client:
- Designer: Hey, listen, you know what, this $100 note you gave me, it looks kind of weird and I do not think this is what I wanted. Could you send me a €100 note now? I am confident that this is what I actually want.
- Client: OK, but are you sure this is the last change?
- Designer: Yes, of course, I saw at my friend's place a €100 note, and it looked pretty good.
Few days later:
- Designer: Hey, ummm … look, I have consulted my mother and she did some finance and accounting back in 1982, so you could say she has an "eye" for money. Could you send me 200 Australian Dollars now? I promise that is the last change. Cross my heart.
- Client: Do you understand that this bends a bit much from the initial agreement? I am not sure that this Logo you gave me is worth that much.
- Designer: Oh, but I gave you my hard earned knowledge embedded into that Logo, it has got to be worth it. Thanks for the understanding.
It is our fault
The situation that exists today where intellectual workers feel less worth is our own fault. We have dumped the prices, dumped the hourly rates. We have obediently reworked that piece until the Client was happy even if we had to spend countless hours over what was initially agreed upon. We shrug with shoulders when they do not pay us and quietly sob in the corner.
Please remember this at all times:
- Your time is valuable.
- Your knowledge is valuable.
- Every piece you do has in it embedded all the experience you have accumulated so far.
Your intellect is worth more than you might think. Do not sellout. Do not yield.