Have you ever been asked to work for no/less money? How did you respond and how did you feel afterwards?
The Un-Wedding posted this on Instagram today, and it chimed with some recent conversations with fellow designer-dressmakers who have been asked for discounts, or even to work free in exchange for “exposure”.
I’m either not famous enough or too scary looking to have ever been asked to work for nothing by an influencer or celebrity, and the vast majority of people do recognise the value of what I do. (Actually, one influencer didn’t even tell me about her YouTube channel until after she’d booked me).
Who even does that?
However, on the odd occasion I’ve been asked for a discount, it’s been for wedding dress alterations. This tends to be the last thing to be paid for when planning a wedding, because alterations typically happen as close to the big day as possible so your body is the size and shape it will be on the day.
I’ve become a lot stricter – nay, assertive – about discounts, because every single time I’ve agreed, I’ve resented the customer, hated the work, and gnashed my teeth with every stitch. I’m not out to rip anyone off or obsessed with making as much money as possible; I’d have stayed in corporate PR if I were.
I usually do put in a lot more work than agreed for the sheer fun of it, and on the odd occasion I’ve even waived my fee entirely just because I wanted to.
Top ‘reasons’ people have expected a discount
Below are the reasons I’ve been given for why I should agree to a discount and my response to each:
1. “We’ve overspent on everything else and run out of money.” (Three instances of this)
Think back to before you booked a single thing. Would you have called me – a stranger – and asked me to buy, say, your cake, or pay for the extra flower arches? Because that’s effectively what you’re asking me to do now.
2. “The alterations are costing more than half what I paid for the dress!”
Your dress was an absolute steal but is three sizes too big for you, eight inches too long and will need to have most of the lace removed, replaced and re-beaded by hand.
3. “If I pay that much, I will cry.” (Actually the same person as 2, above)
The work you need will take me around three days in my busiest month of the year when im already starting work at 5.30am and finishing around midnight, and if two of those days are unpaid, I will show you bloody crying.
4. Calling me after the fitting: “Can we round it down to £xxx if I give you cash?”
Err, oh. OK. I was caught off, in a flap and acquiesced. But why should cash necessitate a discount? It actually creates work for me because I have to make a trip to a real-life bank to pay it in. Plus I’m far too socialist to not declare any income on my tax return.
This particular person had also given me an unwashed dress to take in that she had worn clubbing and needed for her hen do (lots of fiddly work to the underarm section) and was condescending to her lovely sister in every appointment.
She also spent one fitting on the phone boasting about how much money she’d got another supplier to come down by. I agreed to the discount but hers was the only name I’ve ever made a mental note of to never work for again.
Same same but different
There are some inquiries that might sound or feel like asking for a discount but aren’t, so please don’t feel afraid to ask (and vendors, please don’t feel offended of you encounter them). Asking for a starting price or rough estimate isn’t rude and neither is surprise when finding out the cost.
Not many people have ever bought anything wedding-related before they plan their own so it’s not reasonable to expect anyone to know what things cost.
Manners for makers
A discount means a compromise on fabrics, my time or both, and you can’t do that with couture. Moreover, I’m not willing to do any of those and still put my name to the result.
Even MORE-over, asking for a discount is rude. Either you value my work or you don’t.
Aah, that was cathartic. Therapy I didn’t know I needed.