Hubs and I are big fans of yard sales, swap meets, and flea markets. We love the idea of finding great things at a small prices. One of our favorite places to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon is Jamaica Ave, a shopping area in Jamaica, Queens. It’s kinda like Canal Street with a Caribbean slant. Also, it’s not a tourist trap so everything isn’t plastered in tacky New York themed garbage. And the best spicy Jamaican beef patties I’ve ever tasted are always nearby.
Our favorite store to visit on Jamaica Ave is an electronics store. We’re video game junkies so we can always find something inside. I don’t know the name of the owner but he’s a Korean immigrant and his entire family works in the store. We always check this guy’s prices and inventory first because unlike the other merchants on the Ave, he’s got a great return policy and he’s been there all the years we’ve been visiting. Sometimes buying from the other shops feels like taking a gamble because I don’t always know they’ll be there next week or even care that whatever I bought was defective. That’s not ok with me if I’m spending a couple hundred bucks on something.
And he doesn’t haggle.
Jamaica Ave is all about haggling. It’s expected. The guys outside of the stores hawking products change prices as they gage your interest. Merchants change prices in the middle of transactions. But my favorite shop owner–whose name I don’t know– doesn’t do it. He puts the price on the item and that’s how much it costs. If you try to haggle, he raises the price. He says that if prices are negotiable, he’s going up, not down.
Hubs loves to haggle, so the first time we dealt with my favorite shop owner, Hubs was a little upset. He told the owner he wasn’t happy with this price. The man said in broken English, “Well maybe you save money for Happy Meal and try get happy then.” I laughed. Hubs didn’t think it was funny, but he understood he didn’t have a choice here. As someone who likes to know the bottom line, I love doing business with this guy because it’s pretty straight forward.
You are not a victim.
I’m not sure why so many freelancers see themselves as victims. It may be because we’re usually working alone and some of us still see ourselves as individuals as opposed to businesses. But businesses is just what we are. And businesses aren’t victims.
Look at this way: If you walked into a car dealership and offer the salesman $5 for a car, he can either tell you to go kick rocks or give you the car. If he gives you the car, you wouldn’t feel bad. You’d tell all your friends and they’d try to get a $5 car, too. (Let’s not even talk about how terrible a $5 car is going to run. I’ll let you make your own assumptions there.)
Let’s take this over to Target next. Target is selling $2 televisions. Do you stand in front of the display telling everyone not to take advantage of Target? Or do you go buy 20 of them and tell all your friends? Exactly.
With the exception of the size of this business, none of these scenarios are any different than a cheap client trying to get work from a freelancer. The car dealership, Target, and the freelancer all have to make business decisions based on their individual needs, including pricing. If they make bad decisions, that on them–not the consumer.
Please don’t misunderstand me–I’m not about judging other freelancers’ rates or business practices. I think that one of many pros of freelancing is that we get to decide what works for us. You get to do whatever you think works and that’s OK. I love that I steer my own ship and make my own way. But if I get to make my own way, I also get to take responsibility for my decisions, too.
Sometimes I get worried about my business because I see others around me running their businesses like yard sales. How can I compete if I’m not willing to go lower and lower like the freelancer next door? Maybe I should take this low offer. What if they walk away because of the price? What if I can’t find any more work because I keep saying no to these things?
But then I remember my favorite shop owner and how he’s been in same spot making a living while all the other shops around him have a revolving door of businesses. And then I just say “No.”