Raising Rates, Weeding Clients, and Internet Coincidences

So, as y’all know if you’ve ever spoken to me in meat space, I am super in to Jen Dziura‘s life/career advice columns up on The Gloss and The Grindstone. The column is both titled and concerns being Bullish, and it is wonderful because it contains lines like:

“I will help you pick a new business right now. Take something exciting that you do actually like, and that many other people also like. Now think of something very scary, difficult, or boring. Merge those things; make your enthusiasm for the fun thing bleed into the scary, difficult, or boring thing; help scared, frustrated, and bored people; become a millionaire.”

— “How to be a Productivity Unicorn

I think pretty much everyone should read her.

Anyway, because her column is targeted primarily at women in the early stages of their careers, she has a particular focus that I like a lot–work-life balance. (Also, “Maybe Work-Life Balance Means You Should Work MORE” is a great column title.) The general idea is that women tend to accept salaries (or ask for rates, if they’re free-lancing) that allow them to get by.

But, this bare-minimum approach puts you in a bad place when you have a crappy client who you just want to get rid of or–more optimistically–have human children with whom you would like to spend time, particularly when they’re doing the whole “mewling infant” thing. Her idea is that part of the reason that men tend to be better at avoiding this (including negotiating first salaries, which women don’t do by and large) is that men are trained to expect that they need to earn for more than just themselves.

The solution? When you get more business than you can handle, start raising your rates. Keep doing that until you’re working with the number of people that you’d like. Because your rates are higher, you have a buffer to drop horrible clients or–if you have a child, someone in your life is sick, or you’re injured–you can cut your commitments in half and still be okay.

This isn’t rocket science, and there’s nothing about it that makes it woman-specific. This was driven home to me today when I saw a blog post by Russ Abbot of Ink & Dagger Tattoo that basically laid out explicitly that he was starting to do that because his client list had gotten too large for him to handle comfortably (particularly given that his wife was pregnant when he made the policy change and he presumably would like to parent his own mewling infant).

His policy is pretty hilariously blunt–his minimum is $600, and he won’t take tattoos that he doesn’t find personally interesting. To wit:

Personally, I really dig history; especially American history. Sorry, I’m an American, so I love to do tattoos that portray people, objects, and stories from the world as I know it. That’s not the only thing I like. I’m also into portraits, animals, flowers, the circus, magic, folklore, and ornamental design. I’m not a very spiritual person and I have strong personal opinions about religion in general, so you may want to avoid approaching me with religious themes. Whoever you choose to do your tattoo, please try to match your idea with the personality and style of the artist.

People forget that tattoo artists (and, in his case, shop owners) are small businesspeople. Abbot’s following Dziura’s advice for entrepreneurs–raising prices, and whittling customers away that he doesn’t want to deal with. He’s gotten to this point by working very hard, very well, and for a very long time.

The corners of the internet that I hang out in are frequently pretty isolated from each other, and so it’s fun to see them on the same path, even if (presumably) unintentionally.

On a related note, how much do I like Javier Rivera‘s bird art? So much.

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