By B.L. Ochman
My guess is that this post will resonate with anyone whose creative work has ever been under-valued by a client. And I believe that’s just about all of us.
Time, money, and The Picasso Principle
Like anyone who covers technology and Internet trends, I’ve received some pitches from hell. The other day, I got what is perhaps the most delusional pitch ever.
It said, in part, “in 2008 application [sic] had 40,000,000 visits in two months – until 2011 it had 70,000,000 visits in total (application is available only for 2 months each year) – application had 5,380,272 visits in one day (24.12.2008) – application made $73,000 in two months – it took two and a half weeks to produce, plus four hours of refactoring – development costs = $0 – advertisement costs = $0.”
“There is no such thing as “development costs = $0, advertising costs =$0,” I responded.
Time is money.
The pitch I got said: “it took two and a half weeks to produce, plus four hours of refactoring” Even at breakneck speed, two and a half weeks of a developer’s time is money.
I don’t care if the developer was trying to come up with the idea or it hit him in the shower. He or she still devoted time to it.
I don’t know about you, but I get ideas for writing, solutions to problems, and new approaches I’d like to try at work even when I’m not working. Something someone says spurs an idea; I suddenly realize the solution to a problem I wasn’t consciously thinking about while I’m walking in the park: I thumb through email, or visit social media sites to catch up on news while I’m watching TV or sitting on a bus.
If you are self-employed and you think your time is worth nothing, I can only pity your lack of understanding of basic economics.
Unless you occupy your parents’ or a generous friend’s couch, you will have to pay for rent, phone, electricity, an Internet connection, food, taxes on the zillions of dollars you’ve made with your $0 cost app, and, we’d hope, medical insurance. If you’re not paying those bills, somebody is, and that still doesn’t make the cost $0.
If you work for a company and your employer thinks your time is worth nothing, you have a whole other set of problems.
Employers seem to think that work developed in-house has no cost. But that simply isn’t true. If they’ve hired someone with no education, and no track record, it is unlikely that they have a particularly valuable employee. And, if they pay them, provide health insurance, vacation, and a computer, they certainly DO have expenses.
The Picasso Principle: Creativity costs money.
This story, which has come to be known as The Picasso Principle sums it up:
A woman asked Picasso to sketch something on a piece of paper. He does, and says, “That will cost you $10,000.” Astounded, she said “You took just five minutes to do the sketch,” she said. Isn’t $10,000 a lot for five minutes work?
And he responded, “The sketch may have taken me five minutes, but the learning took me 30 years.”
Education costs money
A bachelor’s degree takes most people four years to earn. If we think of a work week as 40 hours, that’s an investment of 50 x 40 x 4 = 8,000 hours. Knock off 30% for vacations, that’s 5,600 hours. And that just brings you to the point where you can begin putting in the time to become a master at what you do.
Hosting and Servers cost money: and expenses can run into thousands of dollars for a wildly successful viral campaign.
The pitcher noted “The first problem popped out in one week. Server couldn’t manage the burden, PHP code and database were overloaded.” And then, doh, they had to pay for bigger servers.
There is no such thing as an overnight success
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the “10,000 hours” concept. Numerous studies have shown that in order to become an expert at something, you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice (i.e., practice in which someone or something is critiquing your work and giving you feedback to improve).
The number comes from a 1993 study of elite violinists by Dr. Anders Ericsson, in which Ericsson found that by the time the top musicians were 20 years old, they’d practiced a lifetime total of about 10,000 hours.
Gladwell says that Bill Gates, for example, had access to state-of-the-art computer labs early in life, allowing him to get his 10,000 hours of computer education. As a result, by time he got to college, he had reached a point in his education that his contemporaries couldn’t reach for another 10 years.
Of course there are exceptions, but, as Psychology Today pointed out “The 10,000 hours is your ticket to being able to compete, and after that expertise is accumulated, luck and circumstance play a part.”
BL – once again you hit the exact right notes. Now I’m off to create a “viral campaign” .. another poplular fallacy.
Moreover, creative thinking and skill application have opportunity costs. In-house development may seem like a zilch to employers but employees could have used their time for other activities or freelance projects.
Whoops, should have read MicroSourcing’s comment before adding my own. I could have devoted my time in writing my comment to something else… :)
Even if you are independently wealthy and live in a socialist paradise where your health care and food and everything else is paid for, there is always an opportunity cost. Time that I spend on project X is time that I am *not* spending on project Y. What if project Y could provide greater returns than the “no cost” project X?