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$250 An Hour? For What? Who Knows?

Some communication tasks are highly valuable. For those you really need to pay what they're worth. 
Take branding for example. Many people pass themselves off as brand strategists, brand gurus, brand visionaries, brand designers, brand ideationists, brand creatives, brand disruptors, brand innovators, and on and on. 
Most of them are not good at what they do. Because although they understand the techniques of branding, they don't really care about you or the success of your business. To them it's just a project, you're just a number and they will die-stamp your little logo with the same methodology they apply to every other project.
If you look really closely, you will often find that they apply the same look and feel and approach to many different projects, regardless of the type of company it is and regardless of the unique challenges faced by the client in their own little world.
So when you find a brand person that really gets it, that takes the time to listen and to learn and who genuinely offers you an insight that can change your business for the better, the significantly better, you would be wise to pay them whatever they ask. Especially if you get along with them, if you can finish each other's sentences without pausing.
The financial rationale is that your future rewards will inevitably exponentially exceed the amount you invest in any level of consultation.
Same goes for a designer. You can go onto any online marketplace and find someone to do a logo cheaply. But there are a few, very few people out there who innately and intuitively understand design and who can apply rational thinking and highly evolved technical skill to deploy same. 
When you find that person, pay them whatever they ask and never let them go.
Wash, rinse and repeat for a good writer who can understand and capture your voice and deploy it across many media.
But there are lots of other things you really don't need to pay a ton of money for. Generally they tend to be services provided by those who make a living from poor organizational dynamics. These merchants benefit from making people feel better, while offering little more than garden-variety common sense, dressed in expensive, custom-tailored designer fabric. 
How to know when to pay? Briefly, the provider:
  • Has specialized skill that is difficult to duplicate.
  • Is experienced.
  • Charges a markup over industry average, but not an exorbitant one.
  • Demonstrates that they care about your success and the success of the business.
  • Has significant skill at bringing otherwise uncooperative parties together.
How to know when to avoid? The provider:
  • Mystifies their methodology, e.g. claiming it is incredibly unique and therefore impossible to explain well.
  • Lacks references who can be independently verified.
  • Applies a similar solution regardless of the client's unique situation.
  • Doesn't seem to listen and/or to be excited at your unique problem.
  • Reassures you that no matter what you need, they can handle it, even if they can't demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge, skills or experience to do so.
Lots of times, organizational dynamics push us into making unwise financial decisions, and that's an inevitable part of professional life no matter what you do to mitigate the risk.
One tactic that can help reduce your exposure is to turn to a trusted third party or parties - people who have no skin in the game but who do actually care about you, your organization and its success, and who are qualified to opine.
Talk to them about what your situation is, and ask them for sincere, objective advice.
What to do with the money you've saved? 
That's a decision worth savoring.
Photo by roternagellack via Flickr Creative Commons. All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my agency or the federal government as a whole.

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