A few days ago, one of my favorite motivators and creative, Violeta Nedkova posted a quote on Twitter. It was a quote I had never heard before and one that instantly hit me.

“Be a voice, not an echo.” – Albert Einstein

So, obviously I retweeted the quote with the caveat that I understood the irony of that act, but over the last couple of days I’ve thought more and more about what that quote means to me. While I don’t want to be an echo, I do want to share what it means to me to be the voice.

I Don’t Care How Much You Charge

As a freelancer, I get asked constantly about my rates. I’ve written about it before an I’ll write about it again I’m sure, but I always find myself trying to explain to people that it depends on a lot of variables. If you’re not producing a product or a non-customizable service, I believe that a lot goes into pricing. One of the things that always strikes me as funny is when people say, “I can get that for a better price somewhere else.” I vaguely understand and appreciate the desire to get the best possible deal. We do it all the time with grocery chains and internet providers. We tell them that their competitor has a better price and that if they don’t beat it, we’ll walk away. If someone asks if I can do better on my price, I absolutely consider it. I consider a lot of aspects. But in the end, I have a price and when someone says, “person X will do this for this many dollars less,” my answer these days is, “ok. Buy it from them”.

I’m not going to compete based on price. That’s an echo. I’m going to compete on the service I provide. I’m going to compete on the support I provide. I’m going to compete by partnering with the client rather than opposing them. I’m going to compete on all the things that make up my voice, not the echo. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to set outrageous prices just for the sake of setting prices. When I first started building websites, I didn’t know what to charge so I asked someone I knew in the field. His answer was, “never charge less than X, ever”. When I asked, “what if it only takes me X amount of time and is an easy job?” I was met with the exact same answer. While he wasn’t wrong, I certainly don’t believe he was right. Arbitrary numbers don’t make sense to me. Figure out what you and your time and your effort and your soul and your passion are worth. Tell that number to your customer. If they don’t like that number, feel free to walk away.

That’s Not How Dave Did It

Dave’s not here, man. I will not step into a situation where I’m simply asked to recreate the actions and tasks carried out by someone else. I’m confident in my abilities and in situations where I’m not confident, I’m smart enough to walk away. I’m not here to be an echo of your work or anyone else’s work. I’m here to put MY stamp, MY voice on the project. Now, there are situations where I reign that in. When I’m writing for a brand, I don’t get to say, “screw you Nike, I’m gonna write how I write.” No. My job, in that situation, is to represent a brand. But “this is how we’ve always done things” doesn’t fly with me. If those ways worked, Dave would still be here and you wouldn’t be asking me for help.

Hello, I’m an Opinion. Let’s Be Friends

You don’t have to agree with everything that everyone says or does, even people that you respect. And here’s the REAL rub, if they’re worth it they’ll respect you a lot more if you don’t. If you respect someone, respect them enough to be honest with them. You can friends and colleagues with someone who doesn’t share your opinions. Seriously, it’s ok. Online, I often disagree with people that I know and love and respect and will engage them in highly volatile conversations about those topics. Those conversations range from religion to politics to business to ethics. We might vehemently disagree but I don’t disagree with THEM. I disagree with their OPINION, on that ONE topic.

Being honest and authentic is about saying how you feel, not repeating whatever your most influential Twitter followers say. Also, understand that it’s actually ok to see an opinion that you disagree with and just continue living your life without engaging at all. Silence is occasionally an option. And realize that sometimes when people ask you a question, they’re actually, occasionally, on the real real real real, ACTUALLY curious about your answer. Not everything is a sarcastic setup. It’s often very difficult to distinguish tone online. Feel free to ask people what they mean. Try to do it nicely. And understand that sharing their opinion on Twitter does not necessitate that they respond.

Do You

Be yourself. Stop trying to be your heroes. My heroes are great. They’re incredible athletes, and wonderful singers and incredible authors, and thought leaders, and political giants, and my mom, and my wife. They’re great. But I’m not going to BE any of them. I can learn from them. I can grow with their help and guidance but in the end, I’m going to be ME. I’m not going to be an echo.

I’ll close with a thought because in a post about being original why not start with a quote and end with a quote. Never take yourself too seriously.

“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson