So just what do you mean by “a quote”?

Phone rings.
Hello Cindi, I would like you to quote on….

…. and then at some point we have to have that awkward conversation where I explain why a quote has a fee attached…

Unfortunately many people aren’t away that every single enquiry takes time to develop a solution for. So its hard to take, when organisations and businesses have called asking us for quotes or answers without awareness or consideration for our time, where the knowledge is ‘taken’ and not acknowledged or paid for. What is worse is when its used to put a project out to tender, especially when that builds on our own IP and research.

Assumptions that a quote can be done at no cost is affecting many industries and in particular the arts, digital media and software development. Within this sector, every project involves having to come up with entirely original, creative solutions. The assumption that a quote can be done instantly is a completely erroneous idea that devalues knowledge and creativity.

Considering the process may involve consulting with many team members, testing equipment, reviewing specifications, also research into local contexts (eg site, situation, audience) a quote might take several hours, or days. Unlike an off the shelf product (like a door, a shed, or a car) which already exists as a quote and can be mailed off for free, original solutions quotes may cost the equivalent of $500 to $5000 in labour, to deliver. Expand this issue and consider it applied to every small to medium creative enterprise…. in fact unpaid quotes and tenders are killing most small creative businesses slowly (or quickly) if they do not have a solution to recover this cost.

This is an issue for so many people in the Creative industries, that I felt it was important to state the case. If you need a specialist, don’t expect to get a quote for free. And all creative sector folks from visual artists, street artists, writers, software designers, and so on… need to be able to assert the right to be paid for time.

I have seen many freelancers struggle with the burden of time and effort to provide quotes and answer questions. I highly recommend to freelancers to have a procedure for project building, to ensure that you aren’t put in a position of spending hours of unpaid work on competitive quotes and tenders.

In my case, and for illuminart my team, we put in place a ‘consulting policy’ so that we only provide an hour of unpaid time to provide a quote or support a proposal. We explain up front that beyond this point we expect to be paid for our time – especially if there is research or work building on our IP.

I believe an hours unpaid work is fair enough to at least have time to discuss a project and develop a relationship. After this it becomes a situation in which we (those with knowledge and original ideas) may well be ‘giving away’ our time for no return, and being increasingly vulnerable to financial loss.

The impact of unpaid tenders and quotes across the entire sector of arts and creative industries runs to millions (if not billions) of dollars in unpaid gifted time and knowledge, usually by the smallest businesses and enterprises.

Hence I am often put in positions of having awkward conversations with folks when none of us like talking about money and the value of time, to explain the reasons why we only provide an hour of quoting time for free.

I wanted to write about this particularly because women are so often expected to be helpful and supportive of others, and we do this. But we are part of an ecology of respect and in business, our time and knowledge are what we use to earn our income. Knowledge and IP has a value and women who have developed IP must not freely give it away.

I encourage all artists and consultants to ensure that your hours of advice, consultation and management are as valued as all the products you build.