Getting paid what you are worth

The other day, I was in a hotel and in the lobby was an imposing painting of a buffalo on the wall. A massive and impressive piece of art the length of a small car. Later on, I enquired from the hotel manager about the painting and he said.

“Hata haikufikisha 5,000/-”

I was dumbfounded! I know someone that sells picture frames with cowrie shells or textured wood for, wait for it 5,000/-. I didn’t think the artist there got paid his worth for his painting, not even close. The wall mural is a one off business  and the hotel has only one lobby. They might call him after 3 years for a retouch if he is lucky. The other artist with the photo frames, he can sell them in multiples, everyday of the week and still not run out of market.

It got me thinking, why would he take so little for so much and why would someone else get so much for so little.

Fear, rationalization, low self esteem are some of the reasons why a lot of us creatives are not paid what we deserve. Poor negotiation skills and lack of information come into play too. However, not all people are worth the money they ask for. If you think you should be paid more than you are currently getting then read on.

If you suspect that you are not getting paid what you are worth, I have some tips for you that will help increase your earnings. Take note that by aiming higher, you will lose some of your current clients.

Here are some of the things that you should do:

  1. Up your negotiation skills

A lot of creative entrepreneurs are good at what they do, but terrible when it comes to negotiations. This is the primary skill that you require to increase your pay. Are you a skillful negotiator? When you negotiate, you must be confident, exude positive body language and not emotional at all. You must be aware of common negotiation tricks the other party could use and get ready to counter. Most importantly, you must be in control of the conversation, if not the power shifts to the other party. Which is how people get the short end of the stick.

  1. Focus on Value Created

Do not answer “how much” questions from a client with a number. Do not base the value of your product/service on your bills or needs. Think. How much is it worth to the client? If the figure is 10 million, you will calmly charge that amount notwithstanding your rent in Donholm. There are factors that matter too, for example delivery time, return on investment besides the price. Understand all the factors before putting a price tag to your service or product.

  1. Do not blink first

If you blink you lose. If you quote 10 million and the potential client laughs at you, remember the one that blinks first loses. You might blink and say “Ok, how about 1.5 million”. If that happens, you are leaving with 250k in a 3 post dated cheques. You lose.

  1. Keep it Short

Do not accept endless haggling over the price. If anything, have a final offer in mind and get the client there as quickly as possible. If you are in 7th email or 10th phone call and still no agreement on the price, you might be doing it wrong.

  1. Brass Balls

You must be able to drive a hard bargain when the need arises and refuse to sell for less. It is not an easy thing to do, so do not lose sleep about the lost sale a better opportunity awaits.

For more on brass balls refer to Alec Baldwin in




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