Does the value of your work lie in the cost of production? Or does the value rest with the physical price of technical or tangible production costs necessary to produce your work?
Or does the true worth live in the intangible value? Is it the connection or impact that your work has on others- is that the true value of your work? And if so, how do you find the balance of work that pays the bills and has a high value to the person who hired you with the need to produce work that may not pay your bills, but has a higher intangible value for a larger number of people?
Are these factors that we should actually write into our business plans and mission statements when we embark on the path of entrepreneurship. Or do these inherent values with no easily identifiable price tag just become the unspoken value that grows with time or develops as your work evolves?
Last night, I had the wonderful opportunity to document the AONC Unconventional Book Tour and I was blown away by the people I met and their own individual acts of non-conformity- applied through entrepreneurship and unique lifestyle choices. (More to come on that later.)
But as Chris was wrapping up the talking portion of his evening and shifting gears into book signing and socializing, he made the statement that he is paid in emails. He loves to hear from people impacted by his work or that connected in some fashion with his writing.
And this morning, while sipping my espresso and processing all the amazing conversations I had last night and contemplating next phase of my journey, I decided to watch my documentary slide-show from my portfolio for a little more clarification of the next direction and where all my paths should ultimately lead. (I was also listening to Jem’s “Its Amazing” and figured I’d journey through my own work for a second and soak up the lyrics).
And as I look at these images- for the thousandth time- I am instantly transported to the moment of their creation. In my mind, I see the before and after of each interaction that took place prior to and after each moment frozen in time. I know the narrative behind each one. And to me, the value is the experience. My work’s value to me is how and why the image was captured and the personal connection that occurred with the subject.
But what is the value of that image to someone who knows nothing about that image or the subject or the way it was produced? How does a stranger connect with this image and how does it move them?
A dear friend of my family, someone I grew up with, has been battling cancer for many years and doing a fabulous job of it. And she’s always connected with my work. I think, in some way, she sees my parents in my style of writing and photography. And she asked for a copy of this one image, one of my favorites from my time in Nepal. I think, on some level, she can see the struggle in this woman’s solitary battle with life and she can relate in a manner that I can’t even fathom. She has the image hanging over her bed at her vacation home- where she spends much her time- so it’s the last thing she sees at night and the first thing she sees in the morning. And I’m continually amazed that an image can touch someone on such a deep level- particularly one that I created.
To her, that image has a value I can not put a price tag on. To her, the image resonates on a level that transcends monetary value or tangible costs of production.
And as my blog continues to grow and develop, I receive more emails and correspondence with people who connect with my writing or images in ways that are of value to them in a manner I could not begin to comprehend. One word, one article, one chance encounter that is written about shifts a person’s reality and allows them to reach beyond their comfort zone and walk towards a goal they never would have believed possible, had they not resonated with someone else’s similar journey.
If you’re producing amazing work and you wander what it’s value may be, take a minute to really reflect on the conversations that have evolved around your work. Look at the people who have, maybe just in passing, said “your work moved me. It made me think differently or it spoke to me.” Or someone who engaged with your work and just said, “wow, I had no idea that existed.”
Your work is your legacy. Your impact on the people who interact with it is something that can’t truly be gauged but can be priceless. Your eloquent words of encouragement or your description of a business train-wreck you created or your honest appraisal of your own journey and subsequent writings to help others embark on their own life’s path has a value that can not be quantified. The ROI on your investment can’t be stated- but it can be priceless.
If you are thinking of starting your own endeavor, business or journey towards producing powerful artwork and are going through the process of writing business plans, finding investors or just doing your SWOT analysis, take a moment to contemplate the intangible value of your work. What would be the email that a reader or customer might send you after engaging with your product or service that would make every sacrifice and cost worth the effort? Would your work help someone embark on an unconventional journey that they might not have traveled on if your work didn’t give them a source of support?
When you’re staring at an empty bank account or a broken business partnership or another missed wedding or family gathering and question why you gave that up to keep walking down your path- will the intangible value of your work be enough to keep you moving forward?
Will your work save a village? Show a child that something other than their own reality is possible for their future? Will your work help a client better tell their story to their own customers? Will your work have the possibility of a life beyond your own daily sphere of interaction?
And will that be enough for you- if all else fails?