Is It Right to Charge for What I Do?

Photo credit:  Tori Paquette

Photo credit: Tori Paquette

Here’s a fun tidbit about what I do for a living—from small business photography, to web design, to online strategy at large.

I’m not the best.

Actually, I’m not even close. There are hundreds of photographers, and maybe even thousands, working in my same geographic range between Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine, who fall all across the spectrum of talent and ability. And I—I fall somewhere in the middle.

Maybe this isn’t a secret. Maybe everyone who has ever used my services kind-of knows I’m not the best, and we unspokenly agree not to mention it.

Maybe there are people out there who look at what I do and think, “How does she have the courage to charge for that? I’m just as good as she is and I would never charge.”

But I know something that is much more valuable than being the Top Dog in the various industries I touch in doing what I do.

You don’t have to do a perfect job. You’ve just got to get it done.

Effectively is better, obviously. But I can do an effective job. I don’t have to be perfect to be effective. I know the basic—and even some of the more advanced—tenets of building a website. I know how to create a clean design, identify the goal, and set up straight-forward navigation. When it comes to photography, I know how to compose an image and find the light. Am I going to win prizes for anything I create as my talents stand right now? Probably not. But that’s not the point.

The point is helping. The point is believing in my ability to help. The point is putting that capacity to help on the table, where others can decide whether they want to reach for it or not. I charge what I know I’m worth so that I can do things like feed myself and keep my lights on, and so I don’t have to work for The Man. 

But that’s the second half of the secret: Everyone is doing that.

All creatives and business people and creative business people are on a lifelong journey of learning and growing and getting better. It’s just that some of us recognize that there’s a threshold where the demand for what we do outweighs our time to do it for free… and our bills have to get paid, so—why not?

I’m not the right web designer or photographer or strategist for everybody, and I’m honest about that. I’m candid on every page of my own website that I want to work with small, local businesses that can’t figure out what this damn Facebook thing is supposed to do for them, and startups that can’t afford a $10,000 website but want something that looks pretty close. I want to work with people who believe in something they create or some solution they offer, and not people who are just trying to hit their million-dollar idea. And I don’t have to be the best to serve those people. I just have to do an effective job, and I have to care.

I prefer to be up-front about the fact that I’m not perfect, by the way. It takes some of the pressure off. It makes it easier to say “no” when someone comes along and wants to hire me but I don’t think it’s a good fit. I get to be frank with myself and everybody else about what kinds of projects I can do well, and what kinds don’t fit into my wheelhouse.

But I’ve also surprised myself with the range of people that I can help. It turns out that I know more than I think I do. It turns out that there are more people than I ever could have imagined who can use my help—more people than I thought who don’t know what I know, who are frustrated is areas where I can bring relief. There is a huge population of people who want what I can do, who don’t care that I’m not perfect, who are tickled with delight when they see what I create or do for them that is so close to their dream that suddenly what matters is that they used to think their dream was impossible, and now they believe in it more than ever.

I’m never going to be perfect. But I’m not keeping my dreams on a shelf in a closet at the back of my house. I’m chasing after them. And I’m helping other people do that, too. I think that counts for something.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments over on Instagram. My handle is @alexisthegreek. Drop your line below the latest photo, or leave it in the comments here. I can’t wait to hear what you think.


What do you think? Leave a comment over on Instagram @alexisthegreek! As always, if this information was helpful, share it with a fellow business person and stop by my tip jar to let me know you appreciated it. And if there's a topic you'd like me to cover in a future blog post, let me know by emailing hello@alexisthegreek.com.

Alexis Paquette

Hi! My name is Alexis. I’m a web designer and photographer for creative professionals. While I’m based in New England, I travel and I accept work from all over the world from both small and international brands!