Death by exposure: the true killer of businesses
We’ve all been there – email after email from profitable businesses and multi-million dollar companies asking us for something or to do something or to 'collaborate' and then the little disclaimer that comes after the big sell: ‘this opportunity is not paid’, ‘we’re looking for those happy to volunteer their time.’
You would be surprised how many opportunities are not paid and how many female business owners are working themselves to the bone for sweet, sweet nothing of the quantifiable variety - particularly as personal brands.
Now, before we get deep into the complex problems that surround this phenomenon called ‘death by exposure’ in business, let’s preface this conversation with the fact that, of course, not all valuable opportunities are paid and not all exposure is worthless. To apply blanket statements to all scenarios would be foolish, because it’s truly about what is most valuable to you at a certain point in time. For example, if you are after your first experience with speaking opportunities, the opportunity to speak, practice and build your profile as a speaker would undoubtedly be valuable to you, even if not paid. Of course, if you are a small business who is after more awareness marketing to build your brand and profile, exposure is valuable to you. It makes sense. Where the value exchange is truly beneficial is when it is mutually so: that exposure means just as much to you as what you’ve given in return. That's true collaboration.
The trouble with this is the sheer volume of requests that women field where they are asked to work for free where there is little, quantifiable benefit to them. Particularly if the other party is making money from your complimentary IP. Justifications for this include exposure, but also ‘building your network,’ ‘strengthening relationships’ or that there is ‘no budget allocated to pay.’ The critical point that is missed in all of this is that it’s perfectly possible to gain exposure, build your network and have meaningful relationships whilst getting paid for what you do. These benefits don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Asking to be paid for what you do doesn't mean that you don't value the opportunities coming your way or aren't grateful for them. It also doesn't mean that you can't help out your fellow business owners or choose to be generous for opportunities that you're taking up for the love of it or for charities or causes. What it all boils down to in the end is that business does not exist if it isn’t making money and it’s okay to make money as a woman in business. There's a difference between scamming and fraud and making money with integrity. This brings us to our second misconception, that if you're passionate about what you do, you can't ask to be paid for it. Of course, you’re passionate about what you do and of course, you’re passionate about business, but that passion is not a tradable commodity; you can’t pay your mortgage with it or take it to the supermarket to exchange for groceries. Passion is not enough alone to build a profitable business.
There’s two parts to the solution here – valuing our own worth in business and valuing the worth of others. Part of valuing your worth is understanding it, being clear on where the value lies and setting standards with it. This is something that many women in business struggle to determine, particularly as a personal brand. Something as simple as having a rate card prepared and available when someone contacts you can be effective. Having a clear policy on what opportunities you are happy to volunteer for and those you expect payment for is also a good idea.
When the shoe is on the other foot and you’re contacting others to collaborate, ask yourself what the possible benefits are to them and ensure you have a budget that accommodates paying them what they are worth if the benefit is more weighted to you than them. It’s only fair to do so.
The consequences of death by exposure is lots of failed businesses and burnt out women in business. Instead let’s empower ourselves and other women – change starts with each of us, today.
If you're struggling to understand how to price yourself as a personal brand, please feel free to get in touch. This is discussed further in the e-book, The Clever Little Book of Biz. More information can be found below.
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