Evading Repulsiveness

A knowledge worker is an independent manufacturer of intellectual assets

I read an ebook-length document over the weekend on productizing services. It asserts that the powers-that-be have:

“…stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.”

This hits home to me because I view many of you as “poets”, figuratively, in that you possess verbal powers of imagination and expression. That quality is required of us as independent business owners, whether of a company of one (“which doesn’t mean you’re literally a 1-person business”) or a company of 100.

At a minimum, for example, every one of you should be able to write decent web copy for your home page and your about page, including your own bio. And most of you can. 

Many of you are also persons of science, especially those of you in software making or consulting. But even if your business is to one side of technology – creative, professional services – we all have to achieve some mastery of technology.

Open Source entrepreneur Dries Buytaert recently wrote that after 20 years, he still writes CSS code. (CSS helps make web content look better.) This from a guy who soon after writing that blog post sold his startup for 1 billion

You don’t necessarily have to learn CSS (like Ben Franklin did, kind of), but like a  digital-age Renaissance polyglot, you need a broad skillset. One of the core skills is learning to exchange value for money without reducing yourself to a wage earner. In other words, how not to bill hourly. So that you’re not a commodity.

In the same document cited above, I found what we might call the Hourly Billing Repulsiveness principle:

as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases

But also, more importantly:

the cost of production of a workman is restricted almost entirely to the means of subsistence that he requires for his maintenance

The market wants to pay you just enough to keep you alive, so you can keep producing.

Counterpoint: realistically good people want to pay more. And an expert can make a good living billing hourly for services – or selling services hourly on top of product fees. Many of us have seen this happen.

Even so, can you make what you’re worth? Unlikely – a knowledge worker’s abilities and expertise multiply at least 10x between the age of 25 and 45. But how many go from charging $60/hr to $/600hr?

In the next episode, I’ll reveal the book and its authors! In the meantime, any guesses?

Have a wonderful week ahead,