A letter to young designers

I’m fresh off* a client meeting that I’m going to go ahead and declare the most ridiculous meeting I’ll have in my career. I’m honestly quite outraged at the moment, and I’m writing about it because I feel like you have to know this. You—a young freelance designer, possibly still insecure about your work, probably unsure of your abilities, and likely to be willing to settle for less than you deserve.

I’m writing to you because I don’t want what just happened to me to happen to you. I don’t want you to have to sit through a meeting with a client approaching you for your services and have to negotiate—to be questioned and to have to explain why your work costs the way it does. I don’t want you to set a price and be told that that is too much; to be told that your work—regardless of what it is, how “easy” it’s supposed to be (look, the fact that it’s easy to you is precisely the reason you should be charging higher)—is not worth that amount.

I don’t want anyone making you think that your work is worthless. That the four, five, maybe even six years you spent in college learning and honing your skills and developing your eye for design were pointless. That all the bad grades and the criticisms that your rose above and learned from to become the skilled designer you are today were for naught.

I don’t want anyone to degrade you. Your work. Your dignity.

If you find yourself dealing with a client who makes you feel like this, like shit, I want you to know that you have a choice. I urge you to do what I should’ve done from the start: reject them. Tell yourself that no, this isn’t happening because you’re pricing yourself too much (here I priced myself WAY below industry standard—forgive me this one time, fellow designers—and this still happened), it’s happening because the person you’re dealing with doesn’t find your work valuable.

I don’t want you to compromise your dignity for the sake of a few thousand bucks. I don’t want you to be made to feel as if you’re wrongfully taking their money (“mukhang pera”)—you are not, you are doing your job—or that you’re taking advantage of them. I don’t want you to feel like you’re being taken advantage of. I don’t want you to be told, “kami nalang gagawa, madali lang naman to eh,” and have to frankly blurt out how you “feel like you just slapped me in the face.”

I was just in this dreadful situation, so trust me when I tell you that it sucks. Trust me when I tell you that dealing with anyone who treats you like this will do nothing but create doubts in your head, doubts that are lies. Trust me when I say the money is nowhere near as important as your dignity (your health and your blood pressure, too). Nothing is.

If you’re as unfortunate as me and you find yourself sitting across this person, finding yourself negotiating to the point of degradation: I urge you to run. To say no. Tell them to find someone else. Set them on a wild-goose chase (but remember it will only be a wild-goose chase IF we all work together and price ourselves right, which at this point I hope you’re starting to realize there is a need for). Or better yet, if they think it’s so easy, tell them to go do it their freaking selves.

If your client cannot respect your work, screw them. Have some self-respect. You should not have to state what should be goddamn obvious and enumerate how your price is indicative of your education, your equipment, your skills. Remember the work you’ve done to get here, how much your parents have invested in you, HOW GOOD YOU REALLY ARE (because you  are, even when you’re unsure of it, I assure you), and respect that.

You’re allowed to the occasional moments of insecurity, of doubt. But never settle for less than you deserve. Because the years you spent in college? All the sleepless nights you spent working on your plates, developing your skills, your knowledge, your eye? All the money that went to your education, whether that’s the country’s top university or a public school?

That’s worth a fucking lot. 

So when the time comes that you meet a person who doesn’t want to invest in you, who tries to negotiate with you (as if you’re selling a piece of clothing in a freaking thrift shop!), who wants to take advantage of your youth and tries to make a fool out of you, and who just has absolutely no respect for the work you do, do yourself a favor: just… don’t. Don’t let anyone make you think you can’t price yourself this much. Don’t allow anyone but you to dictate your worth. Stick to your price and do the entire industry a favor for it. Don’t let anyone make you think you’re worth less than you are.

Never, ever, ever settle for less than you deserve.


An occasionally insecure, sometimes self-doubting designer who has finally learned she ain’t got no time for this shit

* Not fresh anymore now—I angrily typed this in the wee hours of the day after that meeting, and held off on publishing until I cooled off, see if I’d still feel the same outrage. Months later and I still feel my anger is completely valid.

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