How Do You Value Your Work?

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?

A nun takes a moment to pray in the Holy Church of the Seplechure. Her work has value far beyond any instruments of gauging worth.

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.

Esita pauses in her walkway of her home ot put her shoes on before leaving to hand pick grass in the rice fields of rural Nepal. Since her husband was shot by Nepalese Army soldiers, she tries to make enough money to feed her children through the winter. Her efforts are not enough and her children have to live with relatives in the winter when the food runs out.

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?

A horse trainer talks with my client from a commercial project. She's an equestrian wonder and an amazingly interesting woman.

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?

Will your work start a movement? Will your work build a small army of people who believe in your mission- in your motivations for producing? Will your work be life-altering for just one person?

And will that be enough for you- if all else fails?


  1. Pat says

    Great topic for contemplation! From personal experience, I’ve encountered many who’ve placed their greed for money as a sort of trump card over any sense of helping from the heart. There is a healthy balance where fair price makes everyone happy! : ) The question we should ask ourselves is….what can my product or service do for others? It is up to each of us providing widgets in the marketplace to draw this out for potential customers. The inspiration gained from your deep resonating comments often creates this visual for me of a Salvador Dali painting….Geopoliticus Child. Each and every person has talents which can translate into something of value in the eyes of others willing to pay a fair price. Crystal….your writing style is a catalyst for common folks to do some deep soul searching, to belive in themselves and to “Go for the gusto or stay the hell home!” We all can break out of the egg and bring our own goodness into society….we just have to get off our asses and move!
    ps one of my dad’s favorite little jokes: What’s the longest stretch in history? When Moses tied his ass (donkey) to a tree and walked ten miles! Bless you, sista, for putting in the extra miles and sharing in such a fashion as to inspire so many of us. You are admired by many!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Pat for the kind words! There is definitely a balance in pricing and avoiding the folks in the world whose quantifications of value are based on greed can be a challenge! Especially in this day and age!

  2. says

    I think it’s always been a challenge for artists—not only to have others appreciate the value of their work but, more importantly, to fully understand the value themselves. The world judges success in monetary increments. And, yes…ya gotta pay the bills. But, what they don’t see is the experience that the artist had while working through the creative process. There’s always a back story that the artist may choose to try to convey in the work. Sometimes that experience is the real, personal value that the artist has in their work. And they may choose to share that with others or not.

    And, for the record, I think that listening to Jem while creating ANYTHING makes it more valuable.

    • says

      Very true, Kevin! The story does carry so much weight behind the value of the art. I find it fascinating that we can now share the story as much as the actual art using new media. The madness and chaos behind the art- sometimes its more interesting than the art itself!

  3. says

    Being that I am not an independent artist/entrepreneur at the moment (atm), I can’t add much value to your post! However, I can take much away, as usual. Thanks again for putting your thoughts and advice out there.

    P.S. Jem’s music played over and over on my headphones in 2005 while I filled nearly 2 full books of poetry. Love her! She is amazing. And, we will be amazing too!

    • says

      Anytime, glad you could get some info from the article. And don’t worry- since your eyes are open- your journey down the path will be much easier. I’ll also have more articles and some AE guides out into the world by the time you make the leap!! Woo-hoo! Can’t wait to see where your adventure takes you!!

  4. says

    Thanks for this. I was just writing a post about value (not up yet) in terms of prioritizing paid work vs. barter/trade work, and trying to look at value in terms other than money. Looking at our work or creative output in terms of how it touches others is really important, so thanks for the reminder.

    • says

      No problem! Glad the article resonated with you! Balancing the monetized work and the creative art for the sake of itself or the “greater good” is always a challenge, one that fluctuates with each project and phase in our careers! Let me know when your article goes up, would love to read it! Take care!

  5. says

    I love that you wrote this.
    It absolutely opens up the question of why we create in the first place, which is really (no offense to Chris & his two important q’s, for nothing is mutally excluded here!) the most important question in the universe.
    Personally, there doesn’t go a day (sometimes not a single Hour) that my ultimate goals float around in my head. Maybe this is unusual and a tad mad :)

    • says

      So glad you enjoyed it, Tessa! Letting those ultimate goals bounce freely in your head on a daily basis is a fabulous thing! Part of the fire behind the creativity! Every artist has a different muse driving their creations, I’m always amazed to hear and see them talk about their muse.

      Keep kickin’ ass, Tessa!