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Wellbeing / Business values

How your work impacts your self-worth

For those of us who love what we do, our sense of self-worth and work can become intimately intertwined.

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When you care deeply about excellence, it is hard to distinguish between doing a great/worthwhile job and being a great/worthwhile person.  

Consider the following: The client is always right. We never turn down work. We must do anything to make every client happy. These assumptions are biased towards the other, at the expense of our selves. They do not allow for the vast differences in our personalities, beliefs and understandings. These are commonly the cause of disputes.

Business is personal, something that much current business wisdom denies. When jobs don’t go as well as we’d like, it can damage our self-worth and with the attendant flow-on effects, the quality of our lives.

Here are three rules I try and work by:

1. I compete on value, not price

For every job, I charge what I believe to be a fair amount for my experience, time, effort, insights and attention. I see the payment of my fees as the acknowledgement of and respect for the value I bring to a business.

I once had a potential client who expected me to help them develop a vision for their business, create a brand, write a communications plan, develop a custom look-and-feel website and provide training for the same price as they would pay a web-only designer to implement a website using off-the-shelf templates.

When I turned down the work, they could not understand why I was charging so much “for a website”. They clearly did not value the strategy and planning work that they sought me out for.

Some clients simply see only the concrete deliverables – a logo, a website, a cake. They do not see, and therefore cannot value, the less tangible such as experience, foresight and planning.

2. I go for happy projects

A few years ago, I said no to a big project. An existing client had invited me and two other associates to respond to a tender. Having relied on us to deliver mission critical work for them for many years, they wanted us to bid for this new project.

"I like the saying “follow your bliss”. I am learning to trust my feelings."

Unfortunately, the person in charge of the tender did not. He made assumptions about our incompetence from day one; telling us how quickly technology changes, and that we should learn about things called “content management systems”. The tender document was obviously written to favour certain multinational advertising agencies.

When we raised questions about flaws in the project strategy – questions that would have saved them time and money – the only response was “you need to play by the rules and stop asking questions”.

Working under such a cloud of clear disrespect would have been demeaning to my self-worth. The results would have suffered. So we abandoned the tender response process altogether.

I like the saying “follow your bliss”. I am learning to trust my feelings.

3. Personal attacks are unacceptable

Disagreements are part and parcel of working with others – thankfully most of the time they lead to stronger relationships and better results.

Sometimes, however, they can turn nasty and cross into personal attacks. This can range from direct verbal abuse to endless noxious barbed emails.

I have always taken a “work with; not for” approach. I focus on delivering excellence, and not on pleasing the client or anyone else for the sake of doing so.

We can and must choose to value ourselves. If we don’t value ourselves, how can we then expect others to?

We cannot possibly be our best when we are unvalued, disrespected or psychologically insecure. Our work will suffer and so will our self-worth. It is lose-lose all the way.

What lessons have you learnt about valuing yourself within your business?

Zern Liew

helps his clients build beautiful businesses by practically innovating across their Branding, Communications, Processes and Systems.

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