Stop Giving Your Talent Away; Ask for What You Deserve
Phoebe Anna Traquair has been called the first significant professional woman artist in modern Scotland. One of her works – which took nine years to complete – has been compared to the Sistine Chapel. If you search her art on the Internet, as I did, you will undoubtedly be staggered by what this woman accomplished in her career. But did she get paid for all this? I really can’t tell. In the article I read her first two commissions were said to be unpaid, except to cover the cost of the paint.
Here’s what the article, however, did say: “By the end of her life, Phoebe was a first-rate muralist, illuminator, embroiderer, easel painter, jeweler, and enameller. She had also successfully raised three children while at the same time letting nothing stand in the way of fulfilling her artistic aspirations.”
Something about the way that last sentence was written irritated me. Mostly because I was reading this article on a storm day when schools were closed and my kids were throwing paint of their own in the next room. Like most every other working parent who was enduring another snow day interruption, I was trying to get a little work done while keeping the kids entertained. I suspect Ms. Traquair, who lived in the mid to late 1800’s with her professor husband, also had her fair share of frustrations while trying to carve out space for her own career aspirations.
But the bigger question I have is this: Why didn’t she get paid for those first two commissions? I have to wonder if she even asked. The article writes that she began working seriously at embroidery along with watercolors because it allowed her the time to also ‘fulfill the duties of wife and mother’. Well fine, it’s a different era, but the woman’s work has been compared to the Sistine Chapel. I’m curious if the reason she may have undervalued her work was because she was just happy to have the flexibility to ‘fit it all in’.
How many of you — and I’m talking to the men too — are afraid that if you ask for more pay or a bigger title or a window, or whatever it is you desire, that you will have to give up some of the flexibility and goodwill you’ve built up that allows you to do things like work from home on a storm day? If so then my guess is that you are undervaluing your contribution.
What’s holding you back? For some of you it might be coming up with the right words, for others it could be your own mindset that needs preparation, and still others, a lengthier ‘campaign’ that lays the groundwork for the ask. If you feel unprepared in this area, it’s one example where an executive coach could help you get from A to B.
Stop giving your talent away and ask for what you deserve. You’ll always be able to figure out how to meld it all into a lovely mural or tapestry. And that just makes a more interesting and fulfilling picture.
Wishing you much success,